David Bowie’s impact on pop culture



By Zane Fletcher

I have always considered myself one of the lucky few whose parents stressed the importance of musical education. Growing up, my education consisted of two key periods – first, Sunday morning breakfast, and second, the short drive with my father to school every morning.

As a young, impressionable person, the music my parents played factored heavily into what I still listen to today – perhaps none more so than David Bowie. I remember adoring The Beatles, rejecting The Doors, loving The Clash, despising the Rolling Stones (though I have since found my peace with both The Doors and the Stones)… but what hooked me the most was the gritty guitar riff of “Ziggy Stardust” off Bowie’s 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”

While many, especially Americans, pigeon-hole Bowie into the glam rock genre, Bowie’s importance to music transcends genre. It is difficult to put into words what he did for the music of his generation and those of the future, and I recognize that it is impossible to say something about the man that has not already been said in a hundred different ways. However, it is important to try nonetheless.

David Bowie was never one to follow the norm. His style, his music, his stage persona – everything Bowie did was in contrast with what one might expect. This willingness to break from the standard was promulgated in the indie culture of rock and roll throughout the nineties and into today.

Without Bowie, perhaps the world never understand Nirvana. Maybe the Arctic Monkeys wouldn’t have become what they are. His biggest gift to music was outside of the art itself – it was making it acceptable to not be what everyone else was.

After Bowie’s death, I called my mom because I truly didn’t know who else to talk to. She reiterated a lot of what I said, mentioning his impact on art as an institution even more so than music. But perhaps the most impactful conversation I had was with last semester’s Gateway Arts and Entertainment editor Derek Munyon. We spoke about the death of Michael Jackson, and how many people have found success copying Jackson’s formula.

Yet for all Bowie did for music, nobody has succeeded using his formula. As Munyon put it, “how can you copy a chameleon?”

Bowie’s legend is one that will live on through his music, his acting and his art. He is a musician that rebuked the “musician” label, and through that, created a legacy that impacts the field to this day. He touched the lives of so many people through his music and his lyrics, and because of that, he will be forever remembered. Rest in peace David Bowie, you leper messiah, you.