David Bowie was more than a rock star, a glam-rock performance artist, a fashion icon, more than one the greatest artists of all time; He was a global-cultural movement, an otherworldly planetary force, sliding seamlessly into the soul’s of one generation after the other during his 50-year career, easily becoming the continuous background soundtrack for millions of lives.
His life—the question of who he really was—was surrounded by an ever-curious wonderment from his fans: Was he an alien lost on earth? Why did he have one permanently dilated eye?
“Life on Mars” video
Was he a man, or a woman—or both at the same time? His lyrics were often about space travel and futurism, coupled with imagery drawn from ancient civilizations, while presenting himself as an unidentifiable gender.
David Bowie Aladdin Sane 1973 Album Cover Photograph
When he was born, the first words from his mother’s mid-wife were, “This child has been on earth before.”
He was an old soul, indeed. Discovering Buddhism as a teenager, he once contemplated becoming a Buddhist monk. Bowie told writer Mick Brown. “…so much of what first appealed to me about Buddhism has stayed with me. The idea of transience, and that there is nothing to hold on to pragmatically; that we do at some point or another have to let go of that which we consider most dear to us, because it’s a very short life.
‘The lesson that I’ve probably learnt more than anything else is that my fulfilment comes from that kind of spiritual investigation. And that doesn’t mean I want to find a religion to latch on to. It means trying to find the inner-life of the things that interest me…’
From the beginning of his career, Bowie was always 10 or 20 years ahead of his time, but he was also a self-taught intellectual who could hold court with any expert or professor on many subjects.
His death brought an amount of heavy grief from cross-sections of several generations from all over the world that was not quite expected, but that often happens with the loss of a person, so unique and so fearless to live a life with boundless curiosity, unwavering bravery to truly be themselves, to live outside of societal expectation, to publicly challenge racism — calling out MTV in a live interview for not showing black artists — the kind of person who chooses to ride the proverbial fast-moving Chariot of Life, trying to control the reins while barreling around sharp curves and through steep drops, rather than sitting safely, watching vicariously from the sidelines.
‘And I think I have done just about everything that it’s possible to do – except really dangerous things, like being an explorer. But anything that Western culture has to offer – I’ve put myself through most of it.’ — 1996
In his older years, Bowie’s image was urbane, handsome and debonair, becoming one of the two members of the original, glamorous “power couple” with his supermodel wife of 24 years, Iman.
New York, 1990 / Ron Galella/WireImage
David Bowie and Iman for Tommy Hilfiger
2011, Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for DKMS
Alas, the sunset was different Tonight.
It was delicately beautiful. I called out to my boyfriend to come see it and he said, “Wow, what a great send off.”
The lyrics to his song “Lazarus”—from the album that was released two days before his death—open up with the words, “Look up here. I’m in heaven.”