David Bowie, who died on Sunday aged 69 following an 18-month secret battle with cancer, leaves behind a lasting legacy.
Never one to conform, he inspired a generation of artists with his ground-breaking performance style and lyricism.
While tributes pour in from the music industry and his birthplace of Brixton reportedly prepares for a celebratory party to honour his life, it’s important to remember the lessons we can learn from the man who sold over 140 million records throughout his 40-year career.
Here are five life lessons David Bowie taught us:
Don’t be afraid to be individual
A master of reinvention, Bowie certainly wasn’t afraid to express himself. From the ruby-red locks and skin-tight Lycra of Ziggy Stardust to the bold lightning bolt of Aladdin Sane, all of Bowie’s respective alter egos were united by their individuality and eccentricity. In the words of Bowie himself, “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, “F**k that. I want to be a superhuman.” Paying tribute to the rock superstar, Caitlyn Moran’s essay ‘10 Things Every Girl Should Know’, lists Bowie at number nine. Singing his praises, she refers to him as “a gay, ginger, bonk-eyed, snaggle-toothed freak”.
Caitlin Moran showing us all what we can learn from David Bowie. A true legend who inspired a generation, 1947-2016. pic.twitter.com/3eed7b5pvi— URN (@urn1350) January 11, 2016
Keep people on their toes
Impossible to predict or pigeonhole, the pioneering musician was in a continual state of change. With every new album came a new alter ego, each one even harder to predict than the last. From Major Tom to Ziggy stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke and last but not least, Elephant Man, the superstar always kept his fans guessing. In his own words, “I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.”
Choose your own agenda
Rather than following the rules, Bowie metaphorically ripped up the rulebook into a thousand pieces. As he explained to The Word in 2003, “All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.” What better example of this than when he defied all expectations and turned down a Knighthood from our very own Queen in 2003. Unlike Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Elton John or Sir Paul McCartney, Bowie was adamant he did not want to become Sir David.
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie in 1960s
Davy Jones; life before David Bowie
David Bowie in 1964
David Bowie 'In Mime' at the Middle Earth Club, London, 1968
David Bowie in 1969
David Bowie performing his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1973
David Bowie in 1973
David Bowie, with his wife Angela (Angie) and his son Zowie, after receiving an award for his latest record "Ziggy stardust" in Amsterdam, 1974
David Bowie in the 1970s
David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, confirmed his death on Twitter
David Bowie in the 1980s
David Bowie gives a press conference presenting the Japanese movie 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence' directed by Nagisa Oshima, during the 36th International Film Festival in Cannes, 1983
David Bowie performs on stage during a concert in La Courneuve, 1987
David Bowie during his concert in West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany, 1987
David Bowie shakes hands with Princess Diana, 1993
David Bowie autographs copies of his newest album 'Outside' at the grand opening of a Herald Square music store 26 September 1995 in New York
David Bowie performs at the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens during a rock festival, 1996
David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman smile as they pose for photos after Bowie received a star on the world famous Walk of Fame 12 February in Hollywood, 1997
David Bowie getting ready to perform 'Earthling' at the Phoenix Music Festival in 1997
David Bowie on stage performing during the Tibet House Benefit Concert in New York City, 2001
David Bowie Meltdown concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London, June 2002
David Bowie performing during his concert at the Stravinski hall stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, 2002
David Bowie in 'Last Call with Carson Daly' TV programme taping in New York, 2003
David Bowie walks with his with wife Iman and daughter Alexandria (2) in New York, 2003
David Bowie performs on stage on the third and final day of 'The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival 2004' at Seaclose Park, in Newport, UK
David Bowie poses with a pig, 2004
David Bowie and Kate Moss at the 2005 CFDA Awards dinner party at the New York Public Library in New York City, 2005
David Bowie and model Iman arrive to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, 2008
David Bowie anf Tilda Swinton at the MoMA's 6th Annual Film Benefit in New York, 2013
Flowers are left below a mural of David Bowie on the wall of a Morley's store in Brixton on 11 January 2016
Bowie surprised everyone when he decided to collaborate with Chic’s Nile Rodgers on his fifteenth studio album Let’s Dance. Although Tony Visconti, who produced Space Oddity, had set time aside to work on the album, Bowie changed his mind at the last minute. It was nearly 20 years until the two men worked together again as the decision had injured their relationship. Released in 1983, 'Let’s Dance' ended up selling seven million records worldwide, becoming one of his best-selling tracks and reaching number 1 in the US. Even Bowie himself was surprised at its success, proving that it’s always worth taking a risk.
Preserve your privacy
In classic Bowie fashion, even his death took the world by surprise. Keeping his cancer a secret for 18 months, the rock superstar battled with the deeply personal struggle alone. This decision is reflective of Bowie’s lifelong desire for privacy. While we might have known Bowie’s various personas, when it comes to the real identity of David Jones, the world was a good deal less knowledgeable. Bowie might have been open about his sexual orientation but it was always through the medium of one of his alter egos. Talking about his own exhibition, David Bowie Is in Chicago last year, the singer very eloquently explained, “I actually found it easier to be someone else than to be myself”.
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