The death of David Bowie in 2016 left a void in the music scene. While many millennials may not have heard of Bowie, his influence and contributions to the music scene are far beyond other rock stars. While many late rock stars deserve accolades for their influence and impact, no one was as formidable as David Bowie. Upon his passing, many contemporary greats from Kanye West to Madonna praised Bowie for being a huge influence on their works. In this post, we look at Bowie, the most influential rock star who changed music, fashion and tech.
For fans of Bowie, who can forget how essential he was to glam rock? Glam rock practically ensured his long-time career when he made “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin Sane”. It was Bowie’s glam rock in both music and fashion style that most glam rockers are remembered as rockers. Otherwise, glam rock might have gone down the path of a curious subgenre with outrageous fashion. Bowie’s two glam rock albums transcended the genre itself and became rock classics.
Bowie did not only excel in glam rock. He was just as successful with folk rock. “Space Oddity”, and “The Man Who Sold The World” sealed his impact and elevated his reputation as a folk singer-songwriter.
The prolific musician did not stop at glam rock or folk. He also gave electronic music its first major rock world crossover with “Low” and to a lesser extent “Lodger”. While Bowie didn’t invent anything new. Classically trained composers were already experimenting with electronic music as far back as the 1950s. What Bowie did was take the icy and arty electronic works of Kraftwerk and give them a new level of sonic cohesiveness. “Low” is a pioneering classic and is one of Bowie’s greatest artistic achievements. It wasn’t until Radiohead’s “Kid A” that electronic and rock would meet and move forward in a mature fashion.
Fashion and music are intrinsically linked in the world of David Bowie. His style ranged from the eccentric and ethereal to androgynous and fearless. He switched up his looks to match his various alter-egos. Bowie’s fashion choices have also influenced the runway. Several fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Jonathan Saunders, have channelled Bowie’s energy into their creations. Lady Gaga, known for her memorable high fashion statement and influenced pop culture history paid tribute to Bowie’s style on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards.
He saw music as a narrative and the invention of characters was a part of his music. For instance, Bowie immersed himself as a visitor from Earth’s planetary neighbour in his concept album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” His song “Starman” from the album later appeared in the film “The Martian”. However, Bowie lamented what he saw as theatre was seen by the audience as him going through personal changes.
Even before streaming became the key platform for musicians to showcase their works, Bowie had already embraced technology and used it to distribute his work. In 1996, he sold 3000 copies of his song “Telling Lies” via the Internet. He was considered the first major artist to sell his work online.
He did not stop selling his songs online. He even launched his own Internet service which he called BowieNet. On BowieNet, fans could receive free exclusive content and interact directly with him through a chatroom. BowieNet was an Internet service provider similar to AOL. Before live streaming of concerts, Bowie aired a cybercast of his Earthling concert in 1997.
Although Bowie is no longer here to see his influences in the realms of music, fashion and tech, many crediting his work have acknowledged his impact. No doubt we are all living in the future envisioned by Bowie all along.