David Bowie and Duran Duran are the only two artists I have been listening to virtually my entire life, and somewhere in an unpacked moving box in our basement sits my tape copy of the former’s Let’s Dance album that I got in kindergarten.
Although I do not care for everything Bowie released, I greatly respected his ability to oscillate between styles so drastically that I was left enjoying only parts of his catalog, as opposed to those of artists whose sound is so consistent that I can accurately base my impression of their body of work on a single song.
His versatility, I expected, would form the basis of the numerous tributes that poured in via social media yesterday as the shocking news of his illness and death became public. While some of them certainly did, several centered around the profound impact Bowie had on many individuals and our culture as a whole in terms of empowerment, self-acceptance, and tolerance for diversity and differences.
Nobody said it better than Richey Rose, a guitarist living in New York City, in the following tribute he posted yesterday:
“I had my Bowie phase a little over 10 years ago, when I was a sophomore in college. I had just gotten my first record player and found Hunky Dory at Pop’s (best used record store in my hometown of Lexington, KY). Of course I’d always known Bowie, especially because I’d just gone through a massive Velvets/Warhol/60’s & 70’s NYC discovery the year before… but that record was my first effort into becoming properly acquainted with him as an artist. Needless to say it opened Pandora’s box. I became obsessed and fully engrossed in everything he’d done. A friend gifted me an original pressing of Ziggy and I promptly wore it out; teaching myself all the guitar parts along the way. YouTube was just starting and there were interviews, videos, concert footage – it was my own personal archive into David’s creations and contributions to the world. I was beyond inspired. I’d always been self-conscious about being too skinny, too ‘pretty’ if you will, and had grown up being mercilessly teased because of it. Bowie was literally the first artist/person/thing to make me feel strong and powerful because of my body instead of feeling the total opposite, which I’d done for so many years before. I thought he was a total fucking badass; I thought he was God. Reading everyone’s stories today I realize that Bowie touched EVERY one of us on so many different levels… but not just musically. Sure his records taught me an invaluable amount about songwriting, melody, production, etc. but furthermore Bowie inspired and forever changed my perspective on life. For that I am eternally indebted and grateful. There’s certainly a bit of Bowie inside us all… RIP.“
The bold face used above was my own doing in order to emphasize the passage that I expect most universally resonates and relates to our work as dietitians. Joanne and I do a great deal of activism in the size acceptance movement because on a daily basis we see the consequences of people living under the oppression of weight stigma: eating disorders, shoddy medical care, failing weight-loss pursuits, bullying, weight cycling, disordered eating, and other conditions, approaches, and consequences that only serve to worsen health, not improve it.
In an era when another celebrity gained our trust only to abuse it and built us up until it was personally and financially advantageous to tear us down, Bowie’s lessons of acceptance and being true to ourselves juxtapose in even greater contrast and feel that much more important to reinforce. No matter which Bowie era is your favorite, whether you are a Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans, Scary Monsters, Modern Love, Heart’s Filthy Lesson, Reality, or Lazarus fan, or even if none of those are your cup of tea, we can all recognize that he impacted our world in a way that extended well beyond his music.