The 10th of January marked the end of an era for many, as our hearts sank deep in sorrow. Hardly a week into 2016 and the another hero was wrongfully snatched away from us. The media exploded with empathetic tributes and attempts to relive the artist’s cultural revolution. Hundreds gathered in Brixton to celebrate the singer’s life. Fans circled his flat in New York with candles and flowers to pay their respects. You could hear his voice echoing through the streets, as all the pubs and bars seemed to simultaneously commemorate the loss of another beautiful being.
But why is it that someone’s death can affect a nation so much? How can one person cause such an emotional uproar, as people decide to grieve in union? Hundreds of people die every day, but the majority of us carry on with our lives, unmoved. How can one person influence a generation so much that his loss can cause a collective pain?
David Bowie was much more than just a pretty voice. His personality and songs stood for more than just musical creativity. Like many great artists before him (and after), Bowie had something meaningful to say, and people were willing to listen to him. He was the first ‘weird’ artist for many, as his flamboyant clothing and eccentric ways helped him stand out. He never pretended to be anything but himself. He was the icon of a generation. Sexually liberating, he helped many people feel comfortable in their own skin, as they realised it was okay to be different. He challenged the social norms, rebelling against conformist ideologies as he was brave enough to announce his ever-changing sexual preferences, marking him as a saviour in many people’s eyes. His lyrics and ideologies helped push-start the rise of the LGBT+ community, as they felt like they had someone, a very high-profile someone, on their side. It seemed like everything he did was a work of art. Even on his death bed, Bowie decided to use his final days and turn it into something beautiful, as he filmed his music video for Lazarus. He was a wonderful man, and will always be remembered so.
It was easy to fall in love with Bowie, and it is also easy to realise how much of an impact he had on a generation. But it seemed like the general public were not the only ones who were inspired by Bowie’s work: artists such as Lady Gaga, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and Kesha all confessed to Bowie being one of their major creative influences. But how can someone’s work touch the hearts of so many people?
Music has always been the silent revolutionary; influencing people’s thoughts and bringing us together as a community. It has helped bring the power back to the people, and with every great musical revolution, there have been great singers and songwriters to back it up. From the Jazz era in the early 60s, to the rise of Rap and Hip Hop, musicians have liberalised our beliefs and shaped our culture to what it is today. The age of rock, with musicians such as The Beatles and The Who, was one of the first shifts in society, as younger generations used this music to shape their morals and beliefs. In the USA singers such as Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry helped desegregate a nation; as white, middle class teenagers started having black idols and understanding the hardships that they had to go through. Bands such as Led Zeppelin advertised sexual freedom and liberation, as younger people started viewing sex differently and it started becoming less of a taboo. The Beatles, by using and writing about psychedelic experiences and exploring ones mind, helped introduce a drug culture that is still very much around today. For better or words, these musicians were fearless, and served as perfect icons for the frustrated and controlling society that was around at the time. They were the much needed rebels. Each decade had their own idol; a person that gave society hope.
Musical idols are not the only people to have inspired a change in society. Street artists, such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey, have raised political questions with their controversial art. With the help of the media, their work has been able to touch thousands all over the world, informing people about the political injustices through art. Banksy paints about capitalism and how it is affecting the world. The greed of politicians and war. Controversial statements such as the painting of two policemen kissing. Being anonymous allows Banksy to have as much freedom of speech as he wants; a thing that people strive for nowadays in order to ascertain their freedom and rights.
By being anonymous he also allows himself to never be silenced, as there is no one able to shut him down. His anonymity is a statement of its own, as he’s suggesting that the world we live in would not allow a political artist to grow without censoring or controlling his work. People are intrigued by his mystery and boldness, as the rise in graffiti art in Bristol can show for this. People are beginning to make a stand through their own art. It is, much like music, the silent revolutionary.
So was it fame that helped these artists influence a generation, or did their influential work make them famous? One can argue this question to an extent, however the latter doesn’t take away the fact that these people helped shape a nation throughout time. Their controversial statements created uprisings and cultural revolutions. Overtime these icons, like Bowie, may sadly pass away and leave our world grief-stricken and heartbroken. After all, they are only human. However, the mark they left on past generations will never be erased. Their words will go on and their memory will last a lifetime.