David Bowie: A Rumpus Roundup


Musical and creative icon David Bowie died Sunday night, succumbing to cancer at the age of sixty-nine.

Bowie and his persona Ziggy Stardust produced more than two dozen studio albums—transcending rock stardom by scoring films and television shows, writing off-Broadway musicals, lending his voice to animated characters, and collaborating with other creative masterminds like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

He began his musical career in the early 1960s, but it was the 1969 single “Space Oddity” that first topped UK charts. The 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars saw both the creation of what would become his androgynous alien rock star persona and the foundation of the glam rock that would follow.

He spent the next three decades recording albums and awing audiences and fans. His 1987 Berlin concert helped bring down the Berlin Wall. An avid supporter of innovation and technology, Bowie even set up his own Internet service, BowieNet. He also made innovations in finance, selling off Bowie Bonds against his future earnings. Following the 2003 album Reality, he receded from the public eye.

In 2013, Bowie released a “comeback” album, The Next Dayonce more remaking himself after a ten-year hiatus. That year also saw Bowie release a list of his 100 favorite books, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded a cover of “Space Oddity” during his time in the International Space Station.

This past September, Bowie announced an upcoming album, Blackstar, to be released on his 69th birthday, January 8th, 2016. Blackstar has received positive reviews, with the Mirror calling it the “most extraordinary” album in his career. The Wall Street Journal explained that with the album, “the delicious conceit of David Bowie conspiring with modern jazz artists is fulfilled beautifully.”

Two days later, David Bowie passed away.

As Hilton Als explains at the New Yorker, “This was not supposed to happen. Ever.” The legendary alien was not supposed to die, but rather keep on giving to us, his audience, his host planet, forever.

Celebrities such as Iggy Pop, Cher, and Madonna did what ordinary Internet citizens have been doing, taking to social media to express their grief and sadness. Even the Vatican eulogized the singer. Strangely, his first wife, Angie Bowie, currently a contestant on the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother, did not know of his death for a day. When she was finally informed, she chose to remain in the house.

The Guardian has a roundup of some of the best quotes from interviews, including, “I’m a writer… I really wouldn’t like to make singing a full-time occupation.” And he did write, like his reflections on living in New York City.

Bowie influenced a great number of other artists. He has been the subject of whole volumes of scholarly books, including one by the philosopher Simon Critchley. Ultimately Bowie’s creativity has influenced Western culture for several decades.

Londoners are leaving flowers and tributes to Bowie in Brixton, South London, his birthplace. In New York, flowers have begun piling up outside his Soho apartment. In Berlin, flowers have appeared outside of his former building in the Schoeneberg district.

Blackstar is now set to take the number one spot on the UK Billboard charts and is rising rapidly on iTunes. He has taken over the number one and two spots on the Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 chart.

A memorial concert has already been planned at Carnegie Hall.

And finally, illustrator Helen Green’s created Time May Change Me, a retrospective of the many looks of Bowie in a single, beautiful GIF.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →