A Small Glimpse into Bowie’s Legacy

8 Jan

major tomLike an asteroid crashing to Earth, David Bowie’s impact was immense. He was an inimitable artist and a true spaceman from the future, whose powerful lust for life set fire to the music, film and fashion industries. His eccentric lifestyle and his creative output served as inspiration for millions.

With his death a month ago, it’s an appropriate time to acknowledge all the ways his genius remains reflected in the work of artists living and working now. Where can we see traces of Bowie today?


It was Bowie’s music which first catapulted him to fame. He dipped his stylish toes in almost every genre, experimenting at an early age with the saxophone before moving on to pop and ‘glam’ sounds. As his career progressed, he would move to work with artists as diverse as John Lennon, Klaus Nomi, Trent Reznor and Giorgio Moroder, all the while pushing himself towards continual reinvention.

ziggyToday’s artists who live to provoke – Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, even Kanye West – have credited him as one of their most important inspirations. As an avant-garde musical artist who managed to break through to the mainstream, his influence is unparalleled. Who else could ever rival his theatricality onstage, or repeat the impact of his look, his costumes?

Madonna, another impactful performer, was personally devastated and noted that a David Bowie concert was the first show she ever went to. The singer took to Twitter to say, “This great artist changed my life!” She wasn’t alone, as Bowie tributes from musicians will likely continue throughout the year in all manner of incarnations.


In contemporary cinema Bowie’s performances still stand strong. During his life, both the music videos and films he worked on were natural extensions of his other artistic ventures. Whether playing a vampire cellist or prisoner of war, a Goblin King or Pontius Pilate, Bowie’s own eccentricities brought a certain cult quality to mainstream movies.

Tilda Swinton, androgynously sexy in her own way, has been called Bowie’s ‘doppelganger’ over the years (the two did star in a music video together), and embodies similar shape-shifting personae in her work.

crucifixBowie’s tastes for out-there trends and contemporary art, as well as cultural elements and characteristics that would help define him as “alien” or otherworldly, enabled his transcendence of creative boundaries. Today his films are typically defined as cult classics – click here for local listings – but this does little to reflect the variance and intelligence found in his film work. In roles where he plays himself, such as Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo Bowie’s presence serves to bring a certain atmosphere to the picture. He is art intellectualized, but not coldly so, since as the artifice of himself, he opens up a world of new possibilities.

This year’s Berlin Film Festival will be paying tribute to Bowie’s creativity across disciplines, showing Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth to commemorate both his legacy and time spent in the city.


David Bowie was confident in anything he did, but especially so in his fashion and costume choices. Despite being thin and white himself, he was larger-than-life in the way he presented the characters he chose to inhabit. He pioneered the look of “glam rock” with his flamboyant, Japanese-inspired ensembles and makeup, pushing gender-bending boundaries. His fearlessness and androgyny were extremely inspiring, especially in a time where being overtly feminine, for a male, was not a good thing. His “out-there”, “be yourself” vibes connected with men and women of the era who looked to him for ideas as to how to transform their own appearances to better fit who they were on the inside.

red shirtUpon his passing, hundreds of “fashion world” elites took to social media to comment on the influence Bowie had personally on their lives and art. Nowadays, looking at runway trends, his gender fluidity has clearly led to a sea change not only in clothing and style but in the way everyday people are allowed to express themselves.

In the end, David Bowie’s bold and eclectic style paved the way for artists and fans, inspiring them to be themselves and look beyond the norm to the stars. As the saying goes: shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars, perhaps next to Mr. David Bowie himself.


Beth_KellyBeth Michelle is a Chicago-based blogger with a nasty film addiction. Her primary interests include pulp cinema, fashion photography and vintage Japanese film cameras.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: