David Bowie was the ultimate creative. He devoted his entire life to his art. To creating not just great music, but gorgeous, life changing songs. Not just to performing, but to creating iconic personas that challenged our ideas and made us view and explore the world in new ways.
Today, the world learned that David Bowie passed away after an 18 month battle with cancer. None of us knew. He spent the final months of his life as he spent the rest: living and creating art, carefully calculated to turn his passing into the final act in a lifetime of artistic pursuit.
Here are a few things we can learn from the man who fell to earth.
Don’t be Afraid to Push Boundaries
Bowie’s art was always about pushing boundaries. He preferred to operate on the fringe and somehow he managed to make it not only accessible but fashionable. He revolutionized fashion in the 1970’s with his embrace of androgynous style. He recorded songs in many different genres and with many different personas. His projects always explored the idea of not belonging. Of living on the edge, on the fringe. He challenged the ideas of what it means to be human, a man or a woman, an artist. He sought out tension, and it is where his art was created and thrived. That tension he found along the fringe is where he found his creativity. Don’t be afraid to push your ideas to the edge and beyond.
Reinvent Yourself – But Always Stay True
Ever mysterious, Bowie often took on personas or entirely reinvented himself, his music, and his art. Over the course of his career, he would become an androgynous glam rock alien (Ziggy Stardust), an impeccably dressed master of funk (the Thin White Duke), an art rocker with a love of drugs (The Berlin years), a new wave artist, a hard rocker, and even a jazz enthusiast. He’s been quoted quite often saying that he always felt uncomfortable performing on stage and that having a persona made him feel more comfortable. But that when the personas started to get in the way of his work, he walked away from them. And the recurring theme through all his reinventions has always been to explore the idea of being on the outside – on the fringe – being an outsider. He always stayed true to that and spent a lifetime exploring what it meant.
Find Inspiration Wherever You Are
Bowie always found inspiration where he was. In an interview with Jeremy Paxman in 2000, he said “I’ve always been a very curious and enthusiastic person. The hub of my creativity comes from what I do and where I go.”
And his death was no different. Instead of retreating, he chose to turn his departure into his final piece of art. He took all the emotions that come with facing one’s own mortality and death and turned that into a gorgeous album, ★, and a hauntingly beautiful video, Lazarus. He found inspiration and he used it to push the envelope once again. He owned his final act, and he chose to continue to make art with it. In the end, he left us with a bittersweet but beautiful farewell gift.
R.I.P. David Bowie. Thank you for the amazing beautiful, curiously strange, and always artistic life you shared with us.