Yesterday, January 8, marked 72 years since David Bowie was born. Tomorrow, January 10, will mark 3 years since he died.
In between those two dates, he lived dozens of lives.
He was Ziggy Stardust, a rock star from another planet with a message of hope for the young people of earth.
He was the Thin White Duke, a restrained, buttoned-up character who flirted with fascism and madness.
He was Major Tom, an astronaut stranded in outer space.
He was Aladdin Sane, an updated iteration of Ziggy Stardust.
Bowie created dozens of characters, and dozens of backstories and worlds for them to inhabit. Even David Bowie himself – his real name was David Robert Jones – was a bit of a persona created to house all of those characters.
It takes moxie to be so thoroughly inventive and groundbreaking over decades, and David Bowie had it. Here’s how:
Moxie has to start somewhere.
While much of Bowie’s creativity was built around music, it was but one tool in his creative arsenal. From a young age, it was clear that Bowie had a gift for moving in a way that commanded attention. His education in public schools in London, England fostered his creativity, and he studied art, music and design.
Bowie began playing in bands at 15, in the midst of the golden age of rock and roll music. He recorded with several bands and solo through his late teens, but his art took a dramatic turn in his early 20s when he met dancer Lindsay Kemp and enrolled in movement and theatre classes under his tutelage. Kemp inspired Bowie to begin creating personae to present to the world. It changed the arc of Bowie’s art and life.
Would the world have David Bowie had it not been for his early educational experiences, and his later education under Lindsay Kemp? Perhaps. Maybe Bowie’s creativity would have burst forth some other way. But the importance of education and mentoring can’t be denied. Moxie is shaped and developed by influences along the way.
Who mentored you, and who are you mentoring?
Moxie loves deeply.
Bowie met supermodel Iman in 1980, and the two fell madly in love, as rock stars and supermodels often do.
“You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is,” Bowie quipped.
But their 26-year marriage wasn’t the union of a rock star and a super model. Their relationship was delightfully conventional, with Iman cooking dinner for them every evening and David enjoying the sanctuary of the home life they created together.
“I fell in love with David Jones. I did not fall in love with David Bowie. Bowie is just a persona. He’s a singer, an entertainer. David Jones is a man I met,” said Imam.
Imam mourns the loss of her husband still, and after three years still says she is not interested in remarrying. He was the great love of her life. She regularly posts about him on social media, especially around special days like anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.
On Tuesday, his birthday, she posted this tribute on Instagram: “My memory loves you. It asks about you all the time.”
Even for the vast majority of us who are not glamorous rock stars, it’s tough to find someone who loves you exactly as you are. Bowie found that in Iman, and offered it in return. It’s inspiring to see such genuine love and commitment.
Moxie can’t be stopped, even by death.
Bowie fought liver cancer for eighteen months before he succumbed two days after his birthday on January 10, 2016. He kept his diagnosis quiet, and had just released his final album, Blackstar, just days before.
The album was met with critical acclaim. The song lyrics are haunted by references to dying, death and afterlife. Many see it as Bowie’s way of saying goodbye to fans, but on his own terms.
Most recently, developers have released an app that allows fans to immerse themselves in the creative process that offered up Bowie’s most well-known personas. The app extends a wildly popular exhibit that drew millions of visitors, and offers viewers the opportunity to check out 360 degree views of his elaborate costumes, and explore other notes and artifacts. Even years after his death, Bowie and the worlds he created continue to fascinate and inspire.
Ziggy Stardust was interesting, the Thin White Duke was a little creepy, and David Bowie was endlessly fascinating, but if I had the chance, I’d most want to talk with David Paul Jones.
What would you ask him?