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Remembering David Bowie as a Cultural Icon–And a Father

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By now, you’ve heard the news. David Bowie has died. That sentence seems strange to write. So many of us feel sad today, mourning this loss as if he were a member of our own families. And in some way, David Bowie was. He taught us that it’s OK to be weird, a little different–to live to the beat of your own drum.

Regardless of whether or not you liked his music, his influence is undeniable. From Ziggy Stardust to “Labyrinth” to Aladdin Sane, David Bowie reincarnated himself over and over again, like a flamboyant phoenix rising from the ashes. Because of this, he almost made us believe he was truly immortal. In some ways, of course, he is immortal through his art. The man, however, is not. Which is a very scary and real reminder that none of us are.

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Besides being one of those rare cultural icons that truly changed the way people think, David Bowie was also a father and family man–a role often ignored throughout his media successes. If anything, his ability to be both artist and devoted dad is not just another line in a biography, but something to aspire to.

In the book, “In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work,” author Anthony DeCurtis asked Bowie in 2005 what he saw himself doing in the next few years, to which Bowie had a remarkable answer, explaining how fatherhood was a priority:

“My priority is that I’ve stabilized my life to an extent now over these past 10 years. That feels healthy and comfortable for me. I’m very at ease, and I like it. I never thought I would be such a family-oriented guy; I didn’t think that was part of my makeup. But somebody said that as you get older, you become the person you always should have been, and I feel that’s happening to me. I’m rather surprised at who I am, because I’m actually like my dad!

All those old chestnuts? They’re all true. That’s the shock: All cliches are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God…If there’s a 50% chance there isn’t one and a 50% chance there is, why not just believe in Him? 

So I’d like to think that in 10, 20 years time, I’ve been able to maintain a responsible and secure harbor for my child to grow up in, and that I can still retain the closeness that I have with my son from my first marriage. And that I’m good to my friends and I’m good to the new members of my family that didn’t top themselves. And that I can keep that kind of stability. That for me is my priority.”

Regardless of position, fame, or wealth, Bowie’s answer allows us all to realize that love makes us all the same–at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to love and be loved? Bowie was a father to Duncan Jones, the musician’s son from an earlier marriage, and daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones with wife Iman.

His son, who directed the film “Moon,” shared some kind words about his father today, and what growing up with a famous musician dad was like:

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“I could hear the noise up front but I’d spend most of my time hanging out with the roadies and playing with them. You know those big crash cases that they put the equipment in? Big, thick metal boxes with foam padding, well, I’d stand inside one of them and get the roadies to push me around like I was in a go-kart.

In many ways it was an incredible childhood. We traveled all over the world, we got to do some amazing things. He gave me the time and the support to find my feet and the confidence to do what I do.”

Today I’ll be sure to play “Space Oddity” on repeat, feeling like the awkward, bespectacled 12-year-old I was when I first discovered Bowie and started writing my first poems. I partially have David Bowie to thank for helping me find my voice at an age where I felt invisible and confused. I’m sure many of us do.

What’s your favorite David Bowie song? Share in the comments below.

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