Pop star, rock star, artist, actor, icon. David Bowie has passed away two days after his 69th birthday, following an 18 month fight with cancer. The world’s entire social media output currently reads as a global epitaph for the great man, and rightly so. It was only a few days ago that Bowie released his now final album, Blackstar, and his long-time producer Tony Visconti has explained on his Facebook page that it was always intended as Bowie’s swansong and as a final gift to his fans. And now it really is.
“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way,” said Visconti. “His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.”
He added: “I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
Acres of print will not only be devoted to David Bowie’s music career but his work as an actor, particularly in genre pieces, and his influence cannot be underestimated. In 1976 he starred for director Nicolas Roeg as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. A visiting extraterrestrial, Newton uses his advanced technological skills to generate the billions of dollars needed to build a return spacecraft capable of transporting our planet’s water back to his own arid and dying world. It was an instant cult classic with huge influences that continue to this day.
The Hunger (1983) sees Bowie as John Blaylock, lover of vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) who believes he too is immortal before realizing too late that Miriam has merely been using him. Tony Scott’s film instantly set the visual template for much of the 80s film and pop video output.
Perhaps his most memorable role came in Labyrinth (1986), Jim Henson’s fantasy classic. As Jareth the Goblin King, he again played on his strangeness and somewhat staccato dialogue reading to delivery a truly memorable performance (huge codpiece included), with the film becoming a childhood touchstone for many.
His last, high profile Hollywood appearance was in The Prestige (2006), Christopher Nolan’s twisty-turny tale of rival 19th century stage magicians. His take on the real-life Nikola Tesla was the perfect meeting of character and performer.
Bowie’s final on-screen performance was, oddly enough, as himself in 2009’s Bandslam, in which an aspiring band manager writes emails to his hero Bowie, who eventually responds as only he can.
Bowie’s screen influence will go beyond his own roles. Look at Starman (1984), John Carpenter’s sci-fi movie that bears strong similarities with The Man Who Fell to Earth, and takes it’s title directly from Bowie’s 1972 single. His 1971 and 1980 hits also gave titles to hit BBC hit time-travel series Life on Mars (2006) and it’s follow-up Ashes to Ashes (2008). His music has been used in countless TV shows and movies and will no doubt continue to do so. Most recently, what else could Ridley Scott have used in last year’s The Martian but “Starman”?
As the master of reinvention, had cancer not claimed the former Thin White Duke there would doubtless have been much more creativity to come. But for now, take comfort from a perfect tweet posted by Dean Podestá (@JeSuisDean) when Blackstar was released just two days ago: “If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”
Bowie is survived by his wife Iman, and his two children Duncan and Alexandria Jones.
Category: Nerd Culture