David Bowie is an iconoclast in the truest sense of the word. His legacy transcends space and time.
When David Jones, the emerging visionary exploded like a supernova onto the music scene in the 70s, he mesmerised music-lovers with his striking and transformational aesthetic and lyrical tales of star men and space boys, heroes and suffragettes.
When news broke that The Starman had passed away on 10 January 2016, the world mourned the loss of “one of modern culture’s last true Renaissance men – a man who dedicated himself to self-fashioning a whole and indivisible artistic legacy as a tribute to a life lived in service of the muse. Unafraid to experiment, fearlessly literary… Bowie’s life stands as a testament to a man who refused to let himself be buffeted about by the winds of anything but his own inspiration” wrote The National Review.
Even The Duke’s death was a meticulously crafted and curated work of art, exemplified by the release of Blackstar and the revealing music video for the opening track Lazarus.
As with the passing of any icon with legions of adoring fans and followers, covers and musical tributes skyrocket to the top of the charts and become the must-see event in cities across the globe to commemorate and celebrate an artist of such pop cultural majesty.
Artists have been covering David Bowie long before he left this world. From the likes of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s gritty interpretation of The Man Who Sold The World on MTV Unplugged:
Beck’s stunning and no-holds-barred rendition of Sound & Vision:
Through to Sarah Blasko’s haunting Heroes performed live on Triple J’s Like A Version just days after Bowie died in 2016:
With the great covers and musical tributes come the not so great covers and tributes. And whether the covers are good, bad or ugly, they beg the question – why cover the inimitable David Bowie in the first place?
Bowie’s artistic panache and integrity spanned the realms of music, fashion, Broadway, theatre, film, television, comedy, drama, technology and even finance. With each alter ego he created (from Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom, even Jareth The Goblin King and finally Lazarus) every facet of his characters were constructed from the inside out, with a motive and a message.
Transcendence and inclusiveness were at the heart of Bowie’s musical and creative output. His alter egos, characters and stories are centred on lone rangers, misfits, aliens, eccentrics and nomads who became the poster children for rebelling against societal norms and the exploration of otherworldliness. He built trust and faith amongst his fans and audiences that elevated him to an ambassador-like cult status for individuals and groups who felt they didn’t belong.
Every song in Bowie’s musical catalogue takes listeners on a journey through space, time, sight and sound. And on stage and screen he didn’t simply act the character, he was the character. Bowie’s commitment to his craft and the stories he chose to tell magnified the influence his iconic alter egos exacted on the pop culture world and beyond. And although many of Bowie’s stories and characters travel in spaceships, traverse time and fraternise with aliens, they are human and relatable at their core.
“I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring" said Bowie when describing his next creative pursuit. It was his unwavering dedication to constant change, growth and discovery as a musician, as an artist and as a human being that kept audiences captivated by what was coming next and keep them coming back for more.
These are four aspirational characteristics that connect and resonate with artists of all ages and genres. As a pop-cultural product, David Bowie is ubiquitous. As an artist, his legacy will reign for light years to come, not only because of his creative and musical ingenuity, but because of the way in which artists continue to be inspired, influenced and interpret the Star Man’s music and make it their own.