It’s 2014 and we celebrate David Bowie’s 50 years of career as a solo artist. The London boy born 67 years ago turned into a music tycoon, arousing media and fans all around the world, and today he’s still producing interesting music. But why he’s so important in music industry? What makes him a “kingpin” in popular culture?
In order to answer these questions, I think we should look at him as a “bridge”. Bowie’s career, especially his activity during the 70s, is a winding link between pop music and avant-garde. Renowned albums such as LOW and “HEORES” switched our ears from mainstream music to independent, radical productions. Thanks to Bowie and his multiple connections to other artists, a naïve listener like me started to love the greatest musicians and bands of the 20th Century, such as Brian Eno, King Crimson, Kraftwerk and Neu!. Thanks to Bowie’s suggestions during one of his funny interviews, I discovered indie bands like The Flaming Lips, thanks to his rock albums and lyrics from the early 70s I decided to learn more not only about artists like Bob Dylan, but also about writers like William Borroughs. Again, thanks to Bowie and his plethora of references I enjoyed Kubrick, Orwell and Fellini and I looked at them from a different perspective. Of course other artists, even greater than Bowie, dealt with art, literature, avant-garde, indie music, but the bridge that he threw between masses and culture, between high and low made him unique. If Andy Wharoland Brian Eno took low culture and turned it into Art, David Bowie did the opposite.
Even today, he constantly accustoms people to high culture in interesting ways, without trivializing contents like many other singers do. Furthermore, David Bowie is famous all around the world and his celebrity as a solo artist can be compared only to icons like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Madonna. Such a famous artist can tease people’s minds with productions spanning from glam rock, to cyber-punk, pop music, theatre, cinema and so on in a world where masses are often manipulated by media. That’s why I really think that Bowie moved culture. His many characters and his talent started trends, anticipated ideas, while he’s the first global icon who defied and crossed identity, gender, sexuality, art, “death” and “resurrection”, always in constant change.
After his unexpected return in 2013, many others (Cher and Beyonce only to mention a few) tried to repeat a surprise comeback, but the self-proclaimed Thin White Duke is always ahead, and that’s not only because he’s a great artist, but also because he’s a great “scholar” who loves Art in all its forms and knows media and popular culture like his own pockets. The London boy might be a dwarf if compared to the giants of the ‘60s and 70s, but jumping on their shoulders he can look even farther.