David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie, has passed on.
An artistic giant who was always willing to "turn and face the strange," Bowie knew how to bend the boundaries of rock with radical personal make-overs—becoming the androgynous space traveler, the "white soul" singer, the electronica adventurer, and much more.
But the core identity of this shift-shaping alien was, in my opinion (reflecting my own bias), Bowie the simple rock rebel (if simple could ever be applied to Bowie). Rock & roll doesn't get much better than this...
Bowie's innovativeness wasn’t limited to music, art, or fashion. He was also an internet pioneer, launching Bowienet, his OWN internet service provider in 1998 after being the first rock star to release an online-only track, “Telling Lies,” in 1996. Not to mention that he opened his own online bank in 2000!
Bowie's inventiveness even extended to the financial. He created an asset-backed security—a bundle of his recordings and copyrights—for which Prudential Insurance Company of America paid Bowie $55 million in 1997, in exchange for a 7.9 percent return over 10 years. These Bowie bonds, as reported by The New York Times, “were among the first in what would became a wave of esoteric asset-backed securities deals based on intellectual property.” What risky creative activity wasn’t this restless soul involved in, before moving onto something ELSE?
There was one underlying message that Bowie imparted to his audience, according to the Boston Globe: “Change and individuality are primal to living.” His genre and gender switching were both part of this. The latter was especially daring, given the fact that in early 1974, when Bowie released “Rebel Rebel,” homosexuality was STILL considered a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association! (Incredibly, there are American politicians who until very recently thought that being gay was a mental disorder that should be fixed.)
Business lessons? This dude carried the news on innovation, reinvention—and style. If you're afraid of any one of those, what are you doing in business? (For an earlier post on the importance of style and aesthetics, check here.)
So now the rebel rebel has moved on again, seemingly to a more permanent state (though I have some doubts about that). Following his own advice from “Space Oddity,” he knew it was “time to leave the capsule.”
Here’s David Bowie's final video—based on the title cut of his brand new album, Blackstar.