The Art of Reinvention and the Legacy of David BowiePosted by Maite Baron
The Art of Reinvention and the Legacy of David Bowie
David Bowie was a cultural icon. A unique talent. An individual who enhanced people’s lives by allowing them to experience something different and unexpected.
His ability to transform himself into startlingly new and distinctive personas at different stages of his life and career was not simply exhibitionism. It was a way of tearing up the rule book, allowing David Robert Jones (as he was – he later changed his name so as not to be confused with Davy Jones of American pop group the Monkees) to view the world from just a few degrees “off centre”, taking his audience with him on a journey of discovery.
So his death earlier this year was a blow, both to his die-hard fans and those of us who have simply grown up with his songs.
But maybe the journey isn’t over yet. With a background in advertising and design, he understood the impact of brand and identity, and he will be forever associated with innovation, personality and style, leaving a legacy that transcends music, as a fearless trailblazer. Let’s see what we can learn looking back on his life, his songs and his albums, enjoying his music along the way.
1. Changes (1971). Life shouldn’t be static, the same every day. To be as fulfilled as you can be, you need to be in a state of constant evolution. That’s certainly how Bowie saw his world, by being prepared to respond to whatever came along.
2. Golden Years (1975). Live life to the full by finding something that you love and keep on doing it. Bowie was working on his twenty-fifth and final album, Blackstar, very late on in life. In fact, it was released on his 69th birthday, only two days before he died.
3. Sound and Vision (1977). Keep educating yourself, by any means available. Bowie was an avid reader who could get through three or four books a week. When shooting the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth in Mexico, he took 400 books with him on set. Through his reading and interest in many different art forms, Bowie was constantly feeding his imagination, and that fed into his songs.
4. Where Are We Now? (2013). Live your life in phases, exploring as many aspects as you can of your personality and skills. Bowie was many things: not just a singer and songwriter, but also a multi-instrumentalist, record producer, painter and actor. However, his ability to reinvent himself is most clearly seen in the creation and subsequent death of his on-stage personas, such as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke.
5. Fashion (1980). In a professional and business world that’s becoming ever more crowded, you need to stand out to succeed. That means paying attention to your personal style and branding, something Bowie knew how to do like no-one else, finding unique ways to reshape himself, inside and out. So he didn’t follow fashion (though he was a fashion icon) or let himself be packaged up by others. He pushed the boundaries through his creative difference. While you don’t need to be as extreme as Bowie, you can still learn the lesson and make sure you get noticed by expressing your individuality in as many different ways as possible.
6. Rebel, Rebel (1974). Do something different. Don’t just listen to his music and mourn his passing. Find the courage to look at things in a slightly different way, or take a slightly different approach, even if it puts you at odds with the world and with others. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Bowie was asked for his definition of misery, to which he replied, “Living in fear of expressing myself and doing what I was born to do, which like all other human beings is to be creative and to create.”
7. Life on Mars (1971). Try to stay ahead of the curve, just not so far that you appear disconnected from reality. It was his ability to keep a foothold in so many musical genres and periods that enabled Bowie to appeal to both young and old, so that as he became older he was never perceived as an ‘ageing rocker’. He was instead somehow out of time.
8. Heroes (1977). It’s one of Bowie’s signature tunes and, after Rebel Rebel, is said to be the most covered by other musicians. His performance of it in the summer of 1987 at the German Reichstag building in West Berlin is said to have been a political turning point, a catalyst for the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall some two years later. If you think about it, you are a hero in your own life, in so many different ways: you cope, you overcome, you help, you teach, you inspire, you achieve, you succeed.
In the same Vanity Fair interview, Bowie cited Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Most people die when they’re 25 but don’t get buried until they’re 75”, when explaining why everything you do that isn’t you is a mistake.
So make sure you aren’t a faceless nobody in your own story. Believe in yourself and create your own enduring legacy.
9. Ashes to Ashes (1980) David Bowie RIP.
Let me know what you think.
Which song resonates most with you and your current life? What does this tell you?
To Your Success & Fulfillment,