A Millennial Reaction to The Passing of an Icon: “Ziggy Stardust”

Friday, January 15, 2016

  • Arranged images courtesy of the V&A "David Bowie is..." Exhibit. Photo courtesy of JL Cotter

    Arranged images courtesy of the V&A "David Bowie is..." Exhibit. Photo courtesy of JL Cotter

I’d have to say to this day, when I catch a friend staring off into space, one of my favourite lines at that opportune time is “Ground control to Major Tom?”. I have some important people to thank for my comedic timing of course, first off Mr. David Bowie himself, and secondly my elder role models.

We 20-somethings have developed quite a stereotype in the eyes of the older generation. We invented the ‘hipster’ right? Wrong. Our older role models did, vicariously through us. I’d be willing to bet that your older role model would much rather be sitting in the back of their buddies pickup, blaring “Changes” and sipping on some of life’s more interesting nectars, as opposed to answering that 50th email of the morning at their desk void of music... and fun. It was a changing of the guard, if you will.

We unfortunately grew up in a lackluster music scene; there is a good percentage of us that have heard “you were born in the wrong generation”. Luckily for the music and fashion world, this wasn’t the case for David Robert Jones, born Jan 8th (happy belated Bowie!) 1947 in Brixton, England. Influenced by the light tones of the newly created ‘pop’ sound (Shout out to the Beatles) and by the mysterious feel of early jazz in England, 1966 brought about the loss of David Robert Jones and gave life to the long haired, starry eyed David Bowie.

The 1970s started the childhood of the newly created persona. His first taste of real success came with 1969’s “Space Odyssey”  which he conveniently released five days before the Apollo 11 space mission, peaking at no.5 in the UK top charts. Shortly after self titled “David Bowie” 1969, “The Man Who Sold The World” 1970, and “Hunky Dory” 1971, were released without much of a splash, 1972’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” catapulted him to the forefront of mainstream media, and to the top of the pop charts once again, peaking at no. 5 in the UK.

This mainstream success in the UK allowed Bowie to expand his fame into the US, and in 1972 he started the “Ziggy” Tour, which would be the equivalent of a Lady Gaga concert today. His pale skin and bright costumes took over the US, all embedded into a raunchy rock and roll, guitar/vocal driven musical feel.  The next couple decades would be filled with a plethora of albums like “Aladdin Sane” 1973, “Station to Station” 1976, and “Heroes” 1977, “Let’s Dance” 1983, just to name a bias select few. All furthering Bowies strangle hold on the pop scene. He was always one step ahead.

Not only did Bowie own the music scene throughout his career, collaborating with other icons like Iggy Pop, Queen, Pete Townsend, Dave Grohl, and the Arcade Fire, but he also had a knack for being truly cutting edge; the pioneer. In 1996 “Telling Lies” was the first ever downloaded song from the Internet. Which as we know now, has changed music distribution. 1996 continued to be a huge year for Bowie, with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

His love life was as much a work of art as was the rest of his life. During his peak of fame in the drug filled 70’s he was married to Angela Barnett, to which he had a son Duncan. Bowie of course, is known primarily for his music, but he was an advocate for a much bigger movement, declaring himself “Gay” in a magazine interview, only to 4 years later revise the statement to “Bisexual”, in a time where homosexuality was not accepted widely. He was a massive figure for the movement from old societal norms, and a true champion for gay rights activism. He did however settle down, eventually marrying Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid in 1992, leading to a daughter, Lexi. In an interview in the early 2000’s Iman was quoted as saying “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.”

The 2000’s brought about a quieter time in the life of Bowie. Much older now, and having already dominated the music industry for 30 years, he was honoured with the 2006 Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Battling health problems onward, we were blessed with his last artistic venture just days before his loss to an 18 month battle with cancer. “Blackstar” was released on his birthday: January 8, 2016. To the first listeners of the album, it was dark, and had many undertones of morality with the first lyric line of ‘Lazarus’ being “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”

David Bowie will forever be a figure in our lives, and I know I’ll be forcing my kids to listen to “Let’s Dance” and “Changes”, hopefully creating a new generation of musically savvy individuals who won’t forget how one person can encompass a genre, or even create their own. Take this second to call that older role model, and just thank them. Without that person you wouldn’t know who Ziggy Stardust was, and you’d never ever stutter on the word ‘changes’. I know without that influence, I wouldn’t be sitting here in my Pink Floyd pajamas editing this.

So here’s our goodbye to the iconic David Bowie; our goodbye to a man who championed a movement of uniqueness for so many. 

- Nick Marinac

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