David Bowie wasn’t just an artist; he was an icon, says a University of King’s College professor.
“It was when he discovered how to be a star by being someone else that he was really able to become the Ziggy Stardust we know and love,” says Elizabeth Edwards.
Edwards taught a third-year contemporary studies course called “Bowie: Idol” last fall. It covered the life, work and myth of David Bowie. She’s been following his career now for almost 50 years.
“I’m surprised; I go to the grocery store and still listen to the same soundtrack of my youth,” said the professor. “Who’d have thought that rock and roll would endure in this way?”
Monday, Bowie’s publicist announced that the pop icon died in his home Sunday, surrounded by family after an 18-month-long battle with liver cancer. He was 69 years old.
Beyond his generation
Edwards says her love affair with David Bowie began in 1972 when a boyfriend gave her a copy of Bowie’s Hunky Dory album.
“I recognized immediately that we were soulmates,” said Edwards of Bowie — not the boyfriend.
She continued to check in with Bowie’s career over the decades, seeing him live for the first time in England during his 1995 Outside Tour.
“By this time it was kind of a family event because I was going with my daughter who was then old enough,” said Edwards. Her daughter was 14 at the time.
Almost a decade later, the two saw Bowie live again in Montreal for his 2003 Reality Tour.
“We’ve checked in at different ages and levels,” Edwards said. “He’s continued to hear what’s going on now and to produce works that are still appealing to young people.”
But Edwards says it’s not just his openness and collaborative nature that gives him such a wide appeal.
“I think it’s more than that. I think he’s just very, very good,” she said.
That talent has given him influence beyond the entertainment sphere.
Edwards said, “You began to see that there was this sort of total artistry there that could use serious study.”
An artist beyond the grave
The song, “Lazarus,” on Bowie’s 25th and final album, ‘?’ (Blackstar), speaks to his artistic dedication.
Released mere days before his life ended, it’s opening lyrics are “Look up here, I’m in Heaven!”
Monday, producer Tony Visconti confirmed that “Lazarus” was a final message to Bowie’s fans in anticipation of his death.
As one of those fans, Edwards says she’s happy to have the new album to study. But the feeling is bittersweet.
“I should have realized that he was ill and this was a real statement on leaving his life,” she said. “I feel like I’ve lost a personal friend. It’s very sad to think he won’t be here.”