Planet Earth is a lot bluer without David Bowie, the greatest rock star who ever fell to this or any other world.<3
These Are the Must-Read David Bowie Tributes
David Bowie was a pop-music visionary who changed culture in specific ways:
“We Always Knew Who David Bowie Really Was,” Judy Berman, Flavorwire
A personal remembrance that cuts through the clichés to illustrate Bowie’s massive influence. “I think David Bowie was an artist who could construct identities and embody them so convincingly, then deconstruct them and move on so quickly, because he knew that makeup and costumes and backstories and sexual proclivities were above all a tantalizing way to put across ideas that are more difficult to convey through pop music than through perhaps any other artistic medium.”
“Thanks, Starman: Why David Bowie Was the Greatest Rock Star Ever,” Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone
Sheffield summed up what so many of us thought after Bowie’s death — “Somehow I really thought he’d outlive us all. After all, he’d outlived so many David Bowies before” — but then cherry-picked highlights (and even lowlights) of his musical career to zero in on what made him great: “He assured his fans we didn’t have to give up on life, didn’t have to play it safe, didn’t have to fall into a rut — and he proved it was possible in his own music.”
“Rebel Rebel: The Fantastic Voyage of David Bowie,” Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic
“He openly stole from his inspirations while he also possessed a gift for show. He intuited innovation and turned it into theater, his hybrids often ushering the underground into the mainstream. Perhaps Marc Bolan was the first alien to play glam, and certainly Kraftwerk honed the teutonic rhythms of Krautrock prior to Low, but to generations of listeners, it seemed as if David Bowie invented these styles outright. Such was the power of his sound and vision: even when his antecedents were apparent, Bowie made music that felt startlingly original and entirely personal.”
“Let’s Dance: David Bowie’s Everlasting Influence on Pop Music,” Maura Johnston, Noisey
Bowie’s sonic blueprint hovers over today’s pop music in often unexpected, abstract ways, simply because it’s so pervasive, as Johnston points out: “Removing David Bowie from the last half-century of pop would result in its edges being less pointed, its colors being less vibrant, its playfulness being reined in sharply; talking about how Bowie influenced it is like talking about how oxygen affects the breathing process.”
“David Bowie and the Return of the Music Video,” Matthew Trammell, The New Yorker
“David Bowie’s androgynous appearance, his interstellar motifs, and his mind-bending visuals set standards that an unsuspecting public didn’t notice were being set. He pulled audiences across genres toward him, at a time when music was pushed out to targeted demographics in stratified categories that now seem antiquated.”
“Brother from Another Planet: Bowie and Black Music,” Greg Tate, MTV News
“David Bowie ranks as high in our electric church’s Afrofuturist pantheon of demiurges as Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, and Miles Davis. That’s for his outrageous aristocratic style, not-just-skin-deep soul, badass brinksmanship, and all-around Alter-Negrocity. Not to mention the Starman’s own sui generis take on The Funk. Bowie remains that rarity — a white rock artist whose appropriations of black kulcha never felt like a rip-off but more like a sharing of radical and bumptious ideations between like-minded freaks.”
“‘Plastic Soul’: David Bowie’s Legacy and Impact on Black Artists,” Mashaun D. Simon, NBC News
DJs and collaborator Ava Cherry, among others, recall how Bowie championed a young Luther Vandross, hung out with Prince, and called out MTV for not playing enough videos by black artists.
… an experimenter with a complicated sexual history:
“In Memory Of My Great Gay Saint, David Bowie,” Alex Frank, Pitchfork
“His body was so thin and lithe that he bore the elegance of a female swan. He never even needed to actually be gay — to have sex with men — to be gay. He was one of us whether he ever really was one of us. Bowie’s gender and sexuality were probably more outerspace alien than anything found within the narrow confines that we’ve created here on Earth — and we loved him.”
… someone who inspired raw personal reflections:
“Grieving David Bowie, a True Rock Star in Life and in Death,” Lindsay Zoladz, Vulture
“I lost someone close to me in his early 20s, the kind of person who acted when others hesitated, who traveled to the places he dreamed about, who did instead of didn’t,” writes our staff critic. “Maybe I’m crazy or sentimental, but in recent years, I’ve come to suspect that he knew. Like some kind of angel or devil had materialized at some point and whispered in his ear exactly how much time he’d get, and he took this information as a blessing rather than a curse. He got to work. At the risk of sounding crazy or sentimental all over again, I found myself feeling this morning like David Bowie knew, too.”
“Reflections of a Bowie Girl,” Ann Powers, NPR Music
Powers traces her personal journey as a “Bowie girl,” reflecting on how her personal relationship with his music grew and changed over the years — and how his influence morphed along with it.
… a generous collaborator:
“Iggy Pop on David Bowie: ‘He Resurrected Me’,” Jon Pareles, the New York Times
“The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation — simple as that. A lot of people were curious about me, but only he was the one who had enough truly in common with me, and who actually really liked what I did and could get on board with it, and who also had decent enough intentions to help me out. He did a good thing. He resurrected me.”
David Bowie Guitarist Carlos Alomar: ‘He Was So Damn Curious,'” Alomar as told to Kory Grow, Rolling Stone
“He was very easy to connect with. He was happy. He and I shared one gigantic, human thing: We are so damn curious. I wanted to know about everything from his Spiders From Mars; he wanted to know everything about what working with James Brown was like. I wanted to know what the hell is up with all that orange hair and all that glam-rock stuff; he wants to know about the Chitlin’ Circuit. He listened to jazz; I played jazz. It was a meeting of the minds.”
… a sci-fi hero:
“Why David Bowie Was a Geek Icon,” Abraham Riesman, Vulture
“David Bowie was nerddom’s impeccably styled patron saint. In the coming days and weeks, he’ll be compared to other departed musical megaliths, from Lou Reed to Otis Redding to John Lennon. And, yes, he was as sonically influential as all of them. But would Reed have dressed up as an effete Goblin King in Labyrinth? Would Redding have ever starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth? Would Lennon, donned in drag, have played anthemic story-songs about being a gender-fluid extraterrestrial? Only Bowie was crazy enough.”
“Anthems For The Moon: David Bowie’s Sci-Fi Explorations,” Jason Heller, Pitchfork
A detailed analysis of Bowie’s fascination with (and absorption of) sci-fi, with a special emphasis on the books and movies which informed his earliest work.
… someone whose death transformed his art:
“‘Look up, I’m in heaven’: Bowie’s haunting farewell Blackstar is a triumph,” Caryn Rose, Salon
A stunning, eloquent musical analysis and examination of Blackstar and its promotional rollout, and how it seemed to portend Bowie’s death.
“David Bowie and the sad, inspiring history of making art while dying,” Geoff Edgers, the Washington Post
Edgers connects the dots between art, writing, and music created by people aware of their own mortality, and how their different approaches inform our own perspective.