I’ve seen a wide spectrum of responses to David Bowie’s passing on my social media newsfeed:
- ‘Let’s Dance’ is on the radio and I’m sitting in traffic crying and dancing!
- Utterly heartbroken…
- He made it cool to love all in equal measure.
- I’m going to go ahead and admit it. I don’t know who the heck David Bowie was.
If you would have asked me when I was 15, I would have sworn that I was born in the wrong decade when it came to music. I was listening to The Stones and Janis Joplin on vinyl, visions of Woodstock dancing in my head. 15 year old me definitely would have had David Bowie on my favorites playlist (even though playlists weren’t a thing in the 90’s), but in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that outside of his greatest hits album, I never considered myself to be a diehard Bowie fan. (I remember being sort of creeped out by The Goblin King on several occasions…) In perusing the tributes to his life and his art, I can’t help but be inspired by this man in ways that never would have occurred to 15 year old me.
He went against the norm.
Some would argue he was ahead of his time. Others would argue that he was completely mad. No matter your opinion on the issue, you have to admit that this was a man that broke the mold. He stayed true to his art and true to himself, no matter what the rest of the world was doing. While 15 year old me was way too terrified to do anything that wasn’t considered ‘cool,’ as a student affairs professional working with young adults who are struggling to fit in, I now very much appreciate people who use their fame for good instead of evil, showing their young fans that it’s okay to be true to who you are and to stop worrying so much about who the proverbial ‘they’ want you to be.
He was an advocate for social justice.
In the early 1980’s, David Bowie openly criticized MTV for not playing music videos by black artists. He used his platform as a musical icon to advocate for other musicians who weren’t getting the recognition they deserved simply because of the color of their skin. He also married Iman, a Somali supermodel, in a time when it was still relatively uncommon to be married to someone of a different race. They shared 20 plus happy years together before his untimely passing last week.
He was kind.
One of my favorite tributes was by television host Conan O’Brien. Conan describes Bowie as way more than a musician and performer. He said Bowie was not just a phenomenal musician, but “an incredibly nice person.” How often do we hear celebrities get commended for kindness? If that were the case, TMZ would be a completely different show. One that I might actually watch.
These are all things we work on with our students each and every day. So whether or not you’re a fan of David Bowie, I’d like to make the argument that you don’t have to be a super fan to appreciate the ways in which this man helped to make the world a little bit better for us all.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Maryann Krieglstein on Social Justice & White Privilege