My plan this Monday morning was to write a blog post about David Bowie’s amazing album Blackstar that came out on Friday, and specifically how the packaging and marketing was so incredibly well done. Instead I was woken at 2:09 this morning by a text from a friend telling me that Bowie had died. As someone who has been a huge (and I do mean huge) Bowie fan for going on four decades to say that I am a bit overwhelmed by this news would be an understatement. As I sat in bed listening to WXPN play nothing but Bowie all morning, following Twitter responses and responding to friends’ posts, emails and texts to me I realized I still wanted to write about him but not just about his final album.
Bowie was an incredibly talented and resourceful artist. He was also an incredibly talented and resourceful marketer and businessperson. As Forbes magazine said today, “…That desire to always do something new was, he once said, the result of an ‘attention deficit disorder’ and it made him not just one of the most gifted musicians of the last 50 years but also one of its most prescient businessman.
Because he was not just ahead of the curve musically. He started his own internet service provider, Bowie.net, which subsequently became davidbowie.com, launched his own radio station and, in 1999, even his own bank. In 1997 he pioneered an entirely new investment vehicle when he created Bowie Bonds, asset-backed securities of current and future revenues of his catalogue of more than 300 songs and 27 albums. The collection was worth $55m and investors received interest of 7.9% when his music was, for instance, bought by companies such as Microsoft to be used in advertisements.” Read the entire article here.
He was a relentless creator. Recently a site went up that you probably saw in your social media streams called “What did David Bowie do at your age?” where you can put in your age and see what Bowie was doing at the same time in his life. Silly social media gambit but also interesting to see what he was doing at the same at any point in your life. (At my age he refused to only play his old music on MTV Unplugged so they pulled the plug on his performance. I like how he refused to just feed the masses what MTV thought they wanted.)
But perhaps nothing sums up that relentlessness than what he accomplished in the final months of his life. Despite news reports that he was battling cancer for the last 18 months he was co-creator of an Off Broadway play (Lazarus) recorded and released Blackstar (to resoundingly positive reviews) and made a few truly amazing and haunting videos to accompany the album. If only we all had a small portion of that creativity and energy to bring to our own work.
Many people have been posting tributes to Bowie since the news of his death. His longtime collaborator Tony Visconti who worked closely on his last album posted what I think sums up what all of his fans are feeling, “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
And crying I am. Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. May your art and creativity live on forever.