It was with great sadness this morning that I found out about David Bowie’s death through a push notification on my phone from the Guardian app. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sad about a famous musician dying before- perhaps because his artistry was so moving and immersive, maybe it was in seeing the cross generational reactions including everyone from rock dads to pop stars to electronic and dance music heads chime in with their favourite Bowie tracks, interviews and images on social media- I can’t say for sure.
There is definitely a lot to be learned from Bowie’s legacy artistically, personally and maybe even spiritually but we can also learn a lot when we assess David Bowie as a brand. The lazy option in doing this would be to characterise each incarnation of the icon in his artistic journey from psychedelic folk singer through to hard rock, art rock, glam rock, soul, funk, experimental, new wave, pop, industrial, drum n bass and then back to art rock using a plethora of different characters including Major Tom, Ziggy Startdust, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke as being rebrand after rebrand. The fact however is that David Bowie, through all of his reinventions, musical and visual experiments, interests and pursuits was an incredibly consistent brand. Reinvention and that constant need to explore, experiment and take risks, along with high-artistry and carefully-crafted cultural experiences, is the cornerstone of the Bowie brand. It’s difficult to reduce this electrifying personality to a mere brand and an extended discussion of rockstars as brands so I’ll leave it here for now but R.I.P. all the same to an artist whose work has defined the last 50 years and whose legacy will inspire the next.