As Stevie Wonder so aptly put it in his 1976 tribute to the 20th-century pioneers of sound, “Sir Duke”: “Music is a world within itself / With a language we all understand / With an equal opportunity / For all to sing, dance and clap their hands.”
Sir David Robert Jones, aka “Ziggy Stardust”, aka “The Thin White Duke”, but most commonly known around the world as David Bowie, fully understood and embodied the language of this universality, and connected with audiences around the world, no matter what genre he chose to explore. Some of his greatest commercial success came from his exploration of R&B music (“Young Americans”, “Fame”, “Golden Years”, “Under Pressure,” “Let’s Dance”), but his musical life was one of constant change and innovation, which made this unique singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor a prominent, global figure in popular music for over four decades.
According to the New York Times, Bowie’s last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He had also collaborated on an Off Broadway musical, “Lazarus,” which was a surreal sequel to the 1976 film that featured his definitive screen role, “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His music was always a mutable blend — rock, cabaret, jazz and what he called “plastic soul” — but it was suffused with genuine soul. Bowie, in turn, influenced many of today’s prominent R&B, soul, pop/rock and hip-hop artists, (remember Queen Latifah’s collab on the “Fame ’90” redux?) many of whom are already honoring him:
Bowie is to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.
Bowie lost his 18-month battle with cancer on Sunday night, and is survived by his son, director Duncan Jones, wife Iman and their daughter Alexandria.
To read more about Bowie, his life and career, click here. To see him perform live in 1974 on “The Dick Cavett Show” with Luther Vandross on background vocals, check out the video below:
article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)