Remembering David Bowie: The Artist, The Actor, The Legend

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 at 9:01 PM
Remembering David Bowie: The Artist, The Actor, The Legend by Britton Rozzelle

The world celebrated as we entered a new year. 2016 was fresh for the taking and full of opportunity. Artists would spend this year creating, doctors would spend this year helping the ill, and students would be working hard to reach their goals.

Eight days after we rang in the New Year, legendary pop star David Bowie’s latest album, “Blackstar,” was released. The album was met with rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Like most of his work, this collection of songs felt timeless and powerful.

On Jan. 10, 2016, David Robert Jones, the bombastic and creative David Bowie, passed away.

I spent the weekend listening to “Blackstar,” analyzing every word and beat. It was playing in the car when I went to visit family, along with the rest of his discography. His music defined that weekend, from the inspiring tones of “Jump They Say,” to the darkly rhythmic hit “Let’s Dance.” The morning of the tenth, I heard the news of his passing, much like the rest of the world, and at the time I didn’t quite know what to make of it. At first, I assumed it had been a hoax, like the ones that claim Betty White is no longer with us on a seemingly weekly basis. I assumed, quite frankly, that the man who had portrayed the Goblin King in “The Labyrinth” was in some way immortal. I assumed his talent would just always be around to influence the music industry, time and time again.

Throughout the day, artists and musicians posted their feelings on social media outlets, while friends and family members shared their favorite songs or sentiments about what he meant to them. There was a beautiful variety of art and music being made. There were images of people adopting the lightningbolt worn by his character, Aladdin Sane.

Artists were creating tributes, and a concert was planned to celebrate his life and accomplishments. It seemed that while the world was mourning the loss of this creative powerhouse, they were celebrating his life and his final gift to the world — “Blackstar” — which has since become his first number one album in the United States.

Throughout his career, Bowie collaborated with legends of the music industry like Mick Jagger, Queen, and Brian Eno, creating incredible songs that maintain relevance and power today.

The Artist

Over the course of 44 years and 27 studio albums, whether he was identifying himself as the alien that wanted to rock the world, Ziggy Stardust, or the mysterious Thin White Duke, Bowie managed to both adapt to the times and influence them. He possessed the ability to be both entirely otherworldly, and magnetically interesting. He was the eccentric idol that the outcasts, misfits, and artists could identify with, all the while being a worldwide superstar performing in some of the largest festivals and venues in countries across the globe.

The Actor

“I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir,” Bowie said, to Rex Reed in the book “Valentines & Vitriol,” and in a way he was entirely right. David Bowie was a talented actor who got his start in theater before receiving attention as a musician. After many roles, he eventually portrayed the Goblin King, Jareth, in Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth”, a fantastically creative film that increased his range of recognition even further, and still maintains popularity today despite being released in 1986.

In addition to the classic film, Bowie has appeared (as himself) in films like “Zoolander,” and the television program “Extras,” as well as lending his talent to voice characters in animated movies in the mid 2000s.

The Legend

The lyrics for “Lazarus,” from the album “Blackstar,” mentions how “everybody knows me now,” and frankly, it’s true. David Bowie has been a household name for years, and now more than ever, his influence can be spotted in all parts of the world.

His mere presence in the media and the world of pop culture has inspired artists of all kinds — from writers to visual artists and young actors.

His creativity shines through all forms of media, with callbacks to his album covers in art exhibits, and to video games, with the presence of a group called “Diamond Dogs,” in the 2015 video game “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” a reference to his 1974 album.

The song “Heroes” alone has been used in countless films and television programs, such as “Life on Mars,” which received its title from the song of the same name.

David Bowie was an artist, an actor, a husband, a father, and while he regularly claimed in interviews that he had “absolutely no idea” what he was doing most of the time, he possessed an undeniable uniqueness the likes of which no one will ever be able to compare to or replace. While some of his ideas and works were met with controversy, he presented the world with his talent throughout his whole life.

As such, his influence on music and pop culture will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.

The work of David Bowie has always influenced me, and I hope that even though he is no longer with us, his work will continue to inspire young artists throughout the world: those people who have been said no to, or who don’t think they are creative enough. If anything, David Bowie has shown the world that you can be someone different, or at least outside the traditional realm of what is popular or current at the time, but still be adored, influential, and respected.

With his work, I believe that Bowie challenged each and every one of us to be unique, individual, and creative. I know it’s possible, and while there certainly will never be another David Bowie, we can always look back on the art he has shared with us, and remember his work and what he stood for as an artist and human being.

So, thank you, from all of us humans, for giving us your incredible gift of sound and vision.

Britton Rozzelle is The Arts Editor for The Spectator and he can be reached at

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