Since news of David Bowie’s death yesterday, many words have been written about the impact the singer/actor/poet/musician had on pop culture throughout four decades. But perhaps the most prophetic words were written by his wife, Iman Abdulmajid, just two days before her husband of 24 years died.
Born David Jones in London on 8 January 1947, Bowie has been described as a trailblazer, a visionary and an inspiration by people from a range of backgrounds.
The tributes for Bowie have been as diverse and varied as the man himself. From rock stars to church leaders, it seems the performer’s influence permeated every level of society.
His impact on Australian culture is evident by the tributes paid to him by Indigenous leaders. Many tributes have acknowledged his recognition of Indigenous culture in the film clip for his song ‘Let’s dance’, filmed in 1983 and featuring traditional indigenous dancers.
“Vale David Bowie. Thank you for supporting Aboriginal Australia and showing our people to the world.” #SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA.
At the time Bowie was asked his opinion on Australia and he spoke of the injustice faced by this country’s original inhabitants.
“As much as I love this country it’s probably one of the most racially intolerant in the world, well in line with South Africa,” he said.
While much has been written on Bowie’s professional journey, he was also a man challenged to find spiritual meaning.
Bowie’s interest in Buddhism began in 1967. He studied in London under the Tibetan Lama Chime Rinpoche. During a 2001 interview, Bowie claimed that “after a few months of study, he told me, ‘You don’t want to be Buddhist … You should follow music’.”
In a 2003 interview with beliefnet Bowie spoke openly of his continuing attempts to clarify his religious views. “Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what I was writing. Always. It’s because I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me. There’s that little bit that holds on.”
While Bowie might have been unsure of his spiritual beliefs, faith leaders from throughout the world have paid tribute to the man who redefined pop culture for more than 40 years.
“I’m very, very saddened to hear of his death,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the Anglican Communion, told the BBC. “I remember sitting listening to his songs endlessly … and always really relishing what he was, what he did, the impact he had.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s Council for Culture, paid tribute to the pop icon with Bowie’s own words from 1969’s ‘Space Oddity’:
“Ground Control to Major Tom
and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”
Perhaps it is again the words of Iman Abdulmajid that give us some insight into the spiritual life of her beloved husband on the day of his death, tweeting “The struggle is real, but so is God.”
During a 1992 tribute concert for Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury, Bowie said he could think of no better way to offer support to all those affected by AIDS/HIV than a simple prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.
Image by Grauhase via Flickr.