It’s difficult to believe that David Bowie passed away because it’s difficult to believe that he was a mortal man. Throughout his astonishing music career, he shape-shifted unpredictably. The one thing that remained a constant during Bowie’s many phases – he was always relevant.
We’d like to leave you with David Bowie Forever, a Pandora Mixtape that we curated in tribute to his music. It was lovingly built with our favorite Bowie hits and covers by artists he inspired.
During the early-to-mid ‘60s, David Robert Jones was a sharp dressed mod who played rave-up R&B and beat music. Then when The Monkees barged the pop scene, Jones changed his surname to Bowie so as to avoid any confusion with the singer of “Daydream Believer.”
The late ‘60s found Bowie first flirting with alter egos. Male model Lindsay Kemp inspired Bowie’s short-lived “mime phase” before entering the ‘70s as the flamboyant androgen.
As his ephemeral singer-songwriter style evolved into hip-shaking rock ‘n’ roll (thanks in part to the late, great guitarist Mick Ronson), Bowie effortlessly segued from foppish dandy to kabuki space-alien Ziggy Stardust to glitter rock star deity Aladdin Sane. By the late ‘70s he ditched the glam trappings and reinvented himself again as the Thin White Duke, creating the white soul sound that birthed Young Americans and Station to Station.
Right before the ‘80s, Bowie’s recordings in Berlin reflected the climate of the Cold War with ample help from Brian Eno’s chilling synthesizer accompaniment and Robert Fripp’s atmospheric guitar treatments. During the dawn of the ‘80s, Bowie was getting lumped in with the new romantic movement, though Let’s Dance was far too sophisticated to be painted into any one subcultural corner. Of course his silver screen persona as Jareth the Goblin King from the fantasy film Labyrinth seemed like an amalgam of Bowie’s more colorful characters.
Bowie’s role in Tin Machine was less rock star oriented. Here he chose to blend in with a harder rocking band as their equal – their frontman. This would be eclipsed by a return to the rock star realm in Outside and Earthling, two albums that embraced the ‘90s penchant for industrial production and drum ‘n’ bass textures.
When he grew out his hair during the early 2000s, Bowie stood as the elder statesman before 2013’s The Next Day presented a distilled tangle of all his personas – this was the Bowie that many came to know as Meta Bowie.
Although he reinvented himself more times than Bob Dylan, Bowie never affected another person’s tone. No matter the era, no matter the costume, no matter the musical subgenre, Bowie always sang in his own inimitable voice.
“Lazarus,” the third single from his final album, 2016’s Blackstar, now reveals itself to have been a self-written epitaph, leaving us with these lyrics:
Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now.
— David Bowie