January 11, 2016

Why Bowie mattered (or should matter) to every creative.

Artists, musicians, actors, authors and athletes are for the most part, if we don’t know them personally, strangers to us.

But for our favorite ones, they are strangers whom we have a deep emotional bond for any number of personal reasons throughout the course of our life. Perhaps no death of an iconic celebrity has touched me more than the recent passing of David Bowie. This hit me on a whole different level simply because for me, no person better represented creativity in it’s pure essence than him. His contributions to the music, art and fashion world, and to our culture in general speak for themselves. But I think the thing I liked most about him was the grace, ease and really transitional beauty he conducted his entire life and career. He was forever evolving, and changing. Isn’t that what a great communicator should do?

You want to talk branding, this guy was the master. From Major Tom to Ziggy to the Thin White Duke to his Black Star exit, there wasn’t a static moment ever in his creative expression. I’m fairly sure he was probably content with his fame and his legacy, but till the end he was always searching for more. The mark of a true lifelong creative. He also had a great sense of humor and humility. Something all creatives should take a measure of, and learn from. I love the story Ricky Gervais, a good friend of his in Bowie’s later years tells. Gervais for David’s 63rd birthday emailed him with a simple greeting, “Now that you’re 63 shouldn’t you finally be getting a proper job?” Bowie’s quick email response, “I have one. Rock god.”

On a personal level, one of my creative rituals for years before beginning any project has always been to immediately go play two of my favorite Bowie songs. There are so many to pick from his catalog that it’s really absurd, but my favorite Bowie album has always been “Low.” His insanely brilliant collaboration with Brian Eno. For me it starts with track one, “The Speed of Life.” A two minute, 48-second instrumental of what I can only best describe as pure euphoric bliss. Then I go to track four, “Sound and Vision.”

“I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision. Drifting into my solitude, over my head... Don’t you wonder sometimes...about sound and vision.”

I welcome any of you out there to try this two-song exercise. It is sure to enliven the blank piece of paper staring at you on the onset of a new project.

Or the next time you are in a rush or late for a meeting or a deadline. Try “Panic in Detroit” from the Aladdin Sane album. Trust me, your anxiety will quickly lift.

Or my all-time favorite, Moonage Daydream.

“I’m an alligator. I’m a momma-poppa coming for you.”

How about in his song, Queen Bitch. Check out these lyrics when describing the said, Queen Bitch:

“She’s so swishy in her satin and tat, In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat.”

OK for starters, what the hell is a “bipperty-bopperty hat?” Answer is, who cares. It’s positively brilliant and visually descriptive. I don’t have to see it in person. I feel it. I embrace it. That’s what a great creative does whether it’s in a song, in a book or an ad or a package design. They rope you in immediately. I believe today we creatives often use the very over-used phrase of “brand storytelling.” Bowie was on to that years ago.

Nope. They just don’t write lyrics or make music like he did anymore. Sounds like a old cliche, but Bowie was just one of a kind, the likes of which will never be seen again. A great line following his death was tweeted by a fan who said, “Whenever you’re sad just remember that the earth is believed to be 4.5 billion years old and you were actually fortunate enough to live at the same time David Bowie did.” Spot on and well said.

I can go on and on about Bowie, his music and his impact. But I just have a little request for all you creatives out there, young and old. If you never experienced Bowie or his music, do yourself the ultimate favor and check it out. The whole catalog. Immediately if not sooner.

He will liberate you in the most beautiful and spine-tingling ways. Now go create something f*@king awesome in his honor!