The forward-thinking artist pushed boundaries with his nontraditional interpretations of fashion, personas and sexuality.
Songwriter, musician and actor David Bowie, known to the world as a forward-thinking artist who pushed boundaries with his nontraditional interpretations of fashion, personas and sexuality, died on Sunday (Jan. 10) at the age of 69.
His androgynous appearance was an iconic element of his image, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. His alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, helped to create one of the biggest cult followings in pop culture at the time.
Texas Tech University has three experts who are available to talk about Bowie's life and legacy.
Assistant Professor,(806) 834-3937 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amelia Talley, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, teaches undergraduate courses in social psychology and graduate courses in stereotyping and prejudice, attitudes and attitude change. Her research expertise is in sexual identity.
- Bowie was one of the original musicians to push gender roles and boundaries, similar to what people today probably see in Lada Gaga.
- Society always has those who are willing to push boundaries that we are all socialized to adhere to, but the lives and experiences of such individuals are not always championed nor shared for the greater good. For example, before Bowie, it was Oscar Wilde.
- Bowie's legacy centers around the idea that we should all be given freedom to be who we are and have the prerogative to change our minds. He modeled this by sharing his “truths” or what he believed to be true about himself, reinventing himself and his music, and inspiring others to find their own path.
- “Obviously, having such people in the public spotlight can allow fans of them and their work to question and consider how gender performance affects how others see us and the role of gender stereotypes and expectations in our own lives and experiences.”
- “I think David Bowie's charisma, sensationalism and musical talent obviously made the news more intriguing for readers. The time Bowie thrived as a musician saw many cultural sub-groups exploring more liberal lifestyles and sexuality in general, which is maybe why Bowie and his music made such an impact with that generation. The staying power of his music throughout the decades is more of a testament to his musical talents.”
- “When one considers that gender is something society dictates and prescribes certain behaviors or traits, people may choose to play with these distinctions between what it means to be ‘feminine' or ‘masculine.' The most iconic example I can think of is simply Bowie's wearing make-up. But you can also see how he often exaggerated or sexualized boundaries, perhaps to mock their arbitrariness or even to bring light to their absurdities.”
- “I think Bowie's fans were more open to exploring their own definitions of gender and what their experience with sexuality was. Again, I think this also was facilitated by the larger social climate (e.g., the feminist revolution). Simply knowing others share your perspective or experience (or knowing that others have different perspectives and experiences) can be validating and allow for more comfort or freedom in exploring various ways to be.”
- “I do believe it is important for people to see performances of those who go against the grain. Again, we see this historically with films like ‘Clockwork Orange,' and novels like ‘1984' and ‘Fahrenheit 451.' It is the oldest story around – imagine if Eve had chosen not to eat the forbidden fruit to ‘know more' in the Garden of Eden. Such personalities in popular culture allow everyone more dialogue, more self-insight, more validation, more expression. All of these are valuable things to contribute to in my opinion.”
Professor of Practice, email@example.com
Roger Landes is a professor of practice in the School of Music. He is the founding director of the Balkan Ensemble and has taught the popular History of Rock ‘n' Roll class since 2009. He studies American and European traditional music, American popular music and folk music revival. Prior to teaching, Landes had a 30-year career as a touring performer, recording artist, bandleader and producer in the field of Irish traditional music, co-founding the critically acclaimed American Celtic band Scartaglen in 1982. He also has a solo CD, “Dragon Reels,” released in 1997 and has contributed to other recordings and soundtracks.
- “David Bowie was a cultural icon, an artist first and a musician second. A brilliant singer and songwriter, he was known for his uncanny ability to convincingly change styles, chameleon-like, and seeming to turn on a dime.”
- “For Bowie presentation was as important as content. He realized his work had to be performable and that he would have to present it live for it to work, and this lent a very strong element of acting to his performances. He took this further than any previous rock 'n' roll artist had, creating Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, which made a connection between his music and science fiction.”
- “In the first phase of his career Bowie used his bisexuality as part of his métier, cross-dressing, wearing makeup and generally blurring gender distinctions in ways that were seen as shocking and confrontational, particularly in the United States.”
- “Bowie was a musical innovator who was not content to rest on his laurels or repeat any successful formula more than once. His Berlin Trilogy albums, ‘Low,' ‘Heroes' and ‘Lodger', (1977-79), recorded in West Berlin and on which he collaborated with ambient music maverick Brian Eno, were a major departure for a Western artist and adopted a mysterious ‘from behind the Iron Curtain' vibe in many ways.”
- “His later periods also were experimental as he embraced various trends in popular music, taking recent developments and bending them to his own unique artistic vision. His last album, ‘Blackstar,' was released on Jan. 8, just two days before his death from cancer, which he had been fighting for 18 months. His family and musical collaborators have confirmed that the release was carefully timed to coincide with his passing, a final act in a life that in many ways was itself a public performance.”
Humanities and Pop Culture Librarian, (806) 834-5126 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Weiner is a pop culture guru and humanities and popular culture librarian at Texas Tech University. He personally saw David Bowie perform in Dallas in 1995.
- David Bowie exemplified the meaning of the word “artist” in the true sense of the word. He always reinvented himself and he never stood on his laurels.
- He didn't care what the critics thought. If he made a bad album it didn't matter, because he would always come out with a good one.
- Bowie transcended all the styles and the trends: Glam, Punk, Techo, Industrial, Metal, Pop, Disco and everything else.
- David Bowie dictated fashion that others followed.
- “I saw David Bowie with Nine Inch Nails in 1995 in Dallas. Trent Reznor came out and played ‘Scary Monsters' with him and it was mind blowing: the energy, and the pacing.”
- “Nobody could ever know the ‘real' David Bowie as there was not just ‘one' Bowie, but many. It's all there in his music, his films, his whole body of work. It's a shame because he apparently just released his best album in years.”
- “David Bowie was style personified, but he also was from outer space.”
- “My favorite song is ‘Heroes.' That song has such emotion, truth and beauty. It touches the core of one's soul and has a good message for everyone: ‘We can be heroes just for one day.'”