If you were to look at David Bowie’s eyes, you might think they are two different colors. However, this is not the case. When David was just a teenager, he and his friend got into a physical fight over a girl, and his friend punched him in the eye. This blow dislodged something, causing Bowie’s pupil to permanently dilate. This made it appear as though this eye was dark, while the other was his natural shade of blue. He could have gotten this fixed, but he chose not to because he liked the way it looked. It was this attitude of embracing unconventionality which eventually helped him ascend to prominence. Whether through his fashion, sexuality, or music, David Bowie has built a reputation as one of the most influential and innovative cultural icons over the past 40 years.
It was in the early 1970's when David Bowie created the character Ziggy Stardust, and began dressing in the flamboyant way for which he is now known. Ziggy was an alien rock-star from Mars, and David attempted to dress accordingly. His hair was dyed bright red and cut in the style of a mullet, he wore makeup and nail polish, shaved off his eyebrows completely and wore strange outfits created by a Japanese designer. He often cited his influences as being Japanese Kabuki Theater and mimes, though he also frequently spoke of how he collected influences from everyone he met.
In the 1960’s, other rock-stars such as Mick Jagger may have hinted at androgyny, but it wasn’t until David Bowie that it was so openly embraced. His hair, clothes and makeup were unmistakably effeminate, which could not go without repercussions at the time. The older generations in Britain were outraged when his teenage fans began to emulate his outrageous visage, and he was even the subject of violent threats. Once, in an extreme case, he was held at gunpoint for wearing a dress while on tour in Texas. But now, no one bats an eyelash when a male rock-star dons makeup or women’s clothes. Throughout the 70’s up until modern day, from gothic bands to the hair-metal bands of the 80’s, male androgyny in the music world has virtually become a tradition, and flamboyant costumes can still be seen on musicians such as Lady Gaga.
But Bowie’s breakthroughs did not stop at his androgynous fashions. In the early 1970’s he stated in a magazine interview that he was gay; something which had never been admitted to by such a popular musician. He has now restated that he is actually heterosexual, however the effect that it had was still just as great as it would have been if it were true. Because of him, men like Freddie Mercury or Boy George could more easily admit to their homosexuality.
Perhaps David Bowie’s greatest contribution to the world, however, has been his music. Before his popularity as a recording musician himself, he wrote songs for other bands such as Mott the Hoople. He produced albums for Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, two of his biggest inspirations, and worked with one of the world’s most popular records producers, Brian Eno. From his melodic, catchy pop songs such as "Rebel Rebel" to his sorrowful ballads like "Space Oddity", his music is said to have been an influence on countless musicians. From the punk bands who came just years following his original success, to modern pop-stars, he is one of the most highly credited influences on musicians to date. He was also one of the first mainstream musicians to experiment with the newly discovered electronic musical genre. Additionally, in the 90’s, David was one of the first musical artists to use the internet to advertise his music, and even recorded music to be used in a video game.
Whatever the situation may be, David Bowie always seems to be on the cutting edge. His music has been hailed by critics and fans alike, his fashions from 40 years ago still imitated in present day, and his fearlessness when it came to his sexual orientation still an inspiration to many. It is my assumption that his influence will not stop here, but will continue on for generations to come.
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