I woke today to the news that David Bowie had departed our mortal realm.
Many tributes and words of loss flooded my social media news feeds, and I too contributed with my own thoughts. But as I went about my day, lyrics of his started to pop into my mind, and I realised how much of an impact he had on my life—and the world itself.
What I found most inspiring about Bowie was his ability to live authentically. He didn’t let himself be trodden down by the way the world was. Instead, he fashioned a new world by embracing nonconformity and self-acceptance—blazing a trail that would allow many others to follow in his footsteps.
When a great musician like this passes on, we often look at the legacy they leave behind—not just through the body of their work and their presence, but through the little snippets of genius that struck a chord with us on a personal level, changing our perception of the world.
Bowie’s lyrics affected me in this way on many occasions. Here are few of his most famous lyrics that helped me to look at my world anew:
“Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.” ~ Space Oddity
As a child, Space Oddity inspired me to think about my place in the world. The idea of looking down on earth and seeing it as a complete whole—instead of separate continents and countries—is expansive to say the least. But it’s Bowie’s reflection of the state of the world that is truly inspiring—the lyric expresses the way we all feel as a collective (blue) and the way we each feel as individuals (disempowered to change things).
By bringing this concept to the attention of the masses, he sowed a seed of a new possibility for us and our planet.
“We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when / Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend / Which came as some surprise…” ~ The Man Who Sold The World
This lyric always had me thinking about who these two people were and how they had come to pass each other on the stair. But it wasn’t until years later, I saw that the real mystery is how they came to view their relationship between one another so differently.
The beauty of life is that we each see it through our own eyes, via our unique perspective that we each hold. In relationships, this can manifest as a difference in opinion of what a friendship is—people are often surprising us with compliments or showing warmer feelings towards us than we would expect. This lyric shows that often we’ve had a greater positive influence on others than we initially thought, and that it only takes a little bit of courage to speak out in order to deepen the connection with that person.
“We can be heroes, just for one day.” ~ Heroes
Simple, clear and honest. Bowie knew that all people are equal in their ability to achieve whatever they set out to. Again, this comes back to how we perceive the world and our place in it, Bowie showed me with this lyric, that even in times of strife and struggle, we can all have our moment of being the hero—to play out our own incredible love story, to win out against all the odds or set the example that others so desperately are looking for.
Even if you a hero—“just for one day”—you are still a hero.
“And every time I thought I’d got it made / It seemed the taste was not so sweet.” & “Don’t wanna be a richer man / Just gonna have to be a different man.” ~ Changes
The concept of this song is powerful when you incorporate and consider all of the lyrics, but these two above excerpts helped me to reflect on my own feelings of disappointment in the experience that having material things, objects and money wouldn’t fill the hole I felt within me. He manages to encapsulate the human condition to chase after things, in order to feel better about ourselves, in such an uncomplicated way that it almost seems easy to change yourself to feel good about life, whether you have it all or you have nothing.
Now I can see that the changed man would in fact be the richer man.
“There’s a Starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us but he thinks he’ll blow our minds.” ~ Starman
This is a solid favourite in our family—my nephews were singing it as soon as they learned to speak! With this short lyric, Bowie alludes to one of the greatest mysteries of all time—is there other life or other civilizations out in space that want to contact us?
It seems that his wild imagination believed—to a degree—that there could be, and I too allowed my imagination to embrace this idea.
Bowie encouraged us to reconsider whether the boundaries of our world are really where it all ends, or if there is far more to it. Whether we view it as a metaphor or as truth—in this way, the song Starman has been one of his most profound gifts.
I am grateful for the impact that David Bowie had on my life, even if I wasn’t around to catch him in his heyday! He’s shown us that the key to making waves with our art is tied to our capacity to be authentic.
He’s shown me that believing in a better world—a bigger world—is the first step to experiencing it.
Author: Fifi Scarlett Mills
Editors: Renée Picard & Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Wikimedia Commons