The internet has been mourning and remembering David Bowie ever since news of his passing broke a week ago. Amidst all the sharing of classic Bowie tunes, astonishment at his latest video being a farewell (a performer to the end), personal tributes (like the one FTB’s Cat McCarthy did) anecdotes, musical tributes, Labyrinth nostalgia and his latest album going to number one in the US (something no Bowie album had done before) something caught my attention.
It was a video of a 1999 interview with Bowie by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. The conversation turned to the Internet, still a relatively new phenomenon at the time. This was when AOL still shipped CDs and many people still thought it was a fad or simply an emerging platform with which to get pretty much the same content.
Bowie had a different idea. He thought the Internet would fundamentally change the relationship between performer and audience. Over 16 years later, it’s clear he was right.
David Bowie’s enormous talent and creativity were a huge part of his success. His willingness to set trends instead of following them, all the while constantly reinventing his public persona, made it possible for him to have a cultural impact for decades. This much is widely known.
There was, however, a somewhat less known key to his prolonged influence. It was his mind. In particular, his ability to understand our culture on a fundamental level and see just where it was headed. If you want proof, just watch this video: