David Bowie: A Creative Life Remembered
Yesterday, we lost one of our most influential musical legends with the passing of David Bowie, who, at the age of 69 years succumbed to cancer, as reported on his social media accounts. On Facebook, the statement noted, "David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief."
He did not go quietly, and has received a plethora of accolades from publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Guardian and the L.A. Times for his most recent album, "Blackstar," described as his first jazz collection.
While we have yet to savor his latest work, here, we take a look back at how his creative spirit and music inspired many worlds, including advertising.
As a creative muse to many industries, in 2013, David Bowie was the subject of an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the U.K., inspiring this stunning image from Craig & Karl for Vogue U.K.'s "The Culture Edit" blog.
That same year, Mr. Bowie appeared in one of his weirdest, and finest videos, for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," directed by Floria Sigismondi via Black Dog Films. In it, he appears alongside actress Tilda Swinson as one-half of a suburban couple, but things take a very strange turn when a "celebrity" duo enters their lives. Mr. Bowie said the clip depicted "a 21st century moment in its convergence of age, gender and the normal/celebrity divide."
In 2013 he also appeared in a lush film for Louis Vuitton, directed by Romain Gavras as part of the brand's "L'Invitation Au Voyage" series. It's a blast back to 18-century Venice, where Bowie plays the harpsichord in a room full of dandies as he serenades the film's heroine, Arizona Muse. The spot features a remix of a song from his album "The Next Day," "I'd Rather Be High." Earlier in his career he appeared in ads for brands including Pepsi (with Tina Turner) and Vittel.
David Bowie's final video, Lazarus, was just released three days ago – and in hindsight, is a clear indication to his fans that he does not have long to live. In it, he's seen lying on what seems to be a hospital bed with his eyes bandaged over, and then is seen to be floating above it. Producer Tony Visconti has now released a statement saying it was deliberately created and timed as a "parting gift" for his fans. It seems even in death, he was still creative.
Bowie was an early proponent of the music video long before it was an established art form. Iconic videos include "Ashes to Ashes," in which he's dressed as a creepy version of Pierrot and performs a funeral march for Major Tom.
In "Life on Mars?," his blue eye makeup and matching jacket against a white background gives him a distinctly alien quality.
The ad world paid tribute to Mr. Bowie today with John Hegarty posting via BBH on social media, "The Man Who Fell to Earth has finally gone home." Mr. Bowie's creativity often inspired creativity in others, and this tweet featured a GIF by British artist Helen Green, in which she charts Mr. Bowie's changing style from the beginning of his career to the end.
His music as well served as the foundation of several campaigns. One of the most notable efforts of recent years was the Lincoln "Hello Again" campaign out of Hudson Rouge, for which Beck, along with director Chris Milk, reimagined Bowie's track "Sound and Vision" in a 360-degree orchestral event that later became a virtual reality experience.
Bowie's tunes even made train commuters look "heroic" in this 2007 ad for Swedish Railways, created out of King and directed by Jesper Ericstam.
A Janelle Monae cover of Bowie's "Heroes" also served as the uplifting backdrop of Pepsi's World Cup 2014 campaign, which at the time was the brand's biggest-ever global effort.
And of course there was "Lust for Life." Iggy Pop is best known as the track's frontman, having written the lyrics and performed the track, but Bowie is credited as composer. The tune was long the soundtrack for many of Royal Caribbean's ads via Arnold Worldwide. Many at the time, however, criticized the incongruous choice of using a song celebrating drug culture to promote a cruise line.
Another Iggy Pop collaboration, "Success," also made officer workers look pretty badass, in this 2006 Cadillac ad out of Modernista.
Audi's 2004 ad "Progressions" out of McKinney & Silver mashed up two Bowie tracks, "Rebel Rebel" and "Never Gonna Get Old," to create an entirely new message. The spot was so successful it sparked a contest in which Teams Audi and Bowie challenged fans to mash up more of his tunes, giving one lucky a winner a TT coupe (with remix rights going to Bowie).