Most people know David Bowie for his genre-bending music and pushing gender and sexuality boundaries to their absolute limits—but he was more. Like his versatile, chameleonic persona, Bowie transformed the world of art, fashion, and even finance just as much as he changed the face of music forever. In honor of the legendary artist who died Sunday at the age of 69, here is a look at ways he changed the world more than just through his music.
Bowie wrote music for and influenced the sound of other musicians, not just himself.
A chance meeting between Iggy Pop and Bowie in 1972 led to Bowie helping produce Pop’s hit record Raw Power. The same week he met Pop, Bowie would meet one of his greatest influences, Lou Reed and work with him on his album, Transformer—serving as a producer on the classic song, “Walk on the Wild Side.” He would also go on to write, “All the Young Dudes” for Mott the Hoople, not only salvaging the band, but catapulting them into real stardom. The album, also named All the Young Dudes, went on to be one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
He wasn’t just Jareth in Labyrinth. Bowie was a critically-acclaimed stage actor and much more.
In 1979, Bowie took the title role of the Broadway theater production, The Elephant Man, a role he took on without use of stage makeup so that he had to rely simply on his performance. He would later go on to play Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, among a wide variety of roles. He also co-wrote the off-Broadway production, Lazarus which is currently running in New York till January 20.
He changed the way Wall Street makes money.
In 1997, Bowie issued his own bonds that he backed with his own creative work, namely almost 300 of his own recordings and copyrights. For these bonds he received a lump sum of money from investors, who in turn received an income stream from the future royalties of those works. This was the beginning of asset-backed securities dealings based on intellectual property, a recent example of which is the 2014 securitization of Miramax’s 700-film library.
Ziggy Stardust didn’t just give us glam rock and androgyny. He gave us style.
Bright colors. Sharp, sleek angles. Lady Gaga. The echoes of Ziggy Stardust are all over contemporary fashion. A recent Jean Paul Gaultier ready-to-wear show entitled “Rock Stars” featured a model decked out in a Ziggy-inspired catsuit as part of the runway offering. Even Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld acknowledges Bowie’s influence on the fashion world, telling The Associated Press that Bowie was an icon “…who will remain a reference.”
He didn’t just sing about “Heroes.” He worked to be one.
Bowie wasn’t just about making music and influencing the world aesthetically. He worked to make the world a better place through extensive involvement in charities. Bowie worked with and contributed to a variety of charities including Amnesty International, Red Cross, (RED), Keep A Child Alive, and War Child.
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Musician, producer, actor, investor, style icon, and supporter of good causes, David Bowie may have left a hole in the fabric of the world, but his contributions have more than just patched that gap. They’ve rewoven the very threads of our culture. The stars look very different today, indeed.
What will you miss most about David Bowie? Do you have a favorite album or song that resonates with you? Celebrate his life with us in the comments below.