Most of the world is familiar with David Bowie‘s musical legacy, but he also had a significant impact on art, pop culture, and science. The legend artfully enhanced everything he touched, and it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see the likes of his influence again. Here are some ways Bowie contributed his unique flair to the arts and sciences.
If he was nothing else, Bowie was a man who constantly re-invented himself. While other artists remained steady, he was always looking to experiment and change, especially when it came to his look, music videos, and the films in which he starred. If you’re unfamiliar with Bowie’s films, start by checking out The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983), or Labyrinth (1986) on platforms like Netflix and DTV, and prepare yourself for an absolute treat.
When Bowie set out to work on a project, it was guaranteed to be ambitious, alluring, and unconventional. The international icon’s personal image inspired countless artists, comic book writers, and fantasy works such as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and William Gibson’s Idoru.
The science community has always had a difficult time relating to and communicating with the masses. Bowie’s music and art often related to science in one form or another, and he gave himself the title “Starman”. Bowie’s first chart-topping song was 1969’s “Space Oddity”. The tune provided the perfect soundtrack to current events at the time, namely the launch of Apollo 11.
If it weren’t for Bowie playing the role of Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, an entire generation may not have seen that science can be fantastically beautiful and awe-inspiring. In 2006, when Bowie played Nikola Tesla in the film The Prestige, he gained praise from critics for exciting audiences and lending his undeniable charisma to the character.
Because of the way that Bowie made science more approachable for the everyday person, he’s been publicly mourned by members of the science community including astrophysicist and former Queen guitarist Brian May, a team of Belgian astronomers who dedicated a new constellation to the legend, and astronaut Chris Hadfield, who previously released a video of himself performing a cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station.
Gender bending and blurring of gender roles isn’t new today, but Bowie helped make it feel more normal. Decades ago, he introduced the world to a new side of androgynous fashion. Bowie exuded sex appeal, raw maleness, and refused to be stuck in one box, which forced people to think of their own perceptions of sexuality. Bowie was liberated in every sense of the word, and challenged society’s perceptions about gender norms. The man whose alter ego was Ziggy Stardust – a bisexual alien and glam rock star – let it be known that sexual exploration and sexual ambiguity weren’t to be shamed, but accepted.
Speaking of Bowie’s alter ego, his 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” has been hailed as one of the greatest releases of all time. Bowie’s immense musical talent combined with the album’s groundbreaking themes and widespread influence on society made it a classic.
Bowie was never afraid to strike out and take the road less traveled. He introduced us all to the marvelously uncanny and helped us embrace that which was different and unusual. For all that he did to encourage us to never settle for the ordinary, David Bowie will surely be missed.