– noun, the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements.
– a song, recorded by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on the 1975 album ‘Young Americans’
We crave fame, like moths to a flame, the idea of being recognised for our achievements on a national or global scale is something we’ve thought about more than once. Whether it’s being an actor, or painter, or a musician, we’ve all day-dreamed about it.
David Bowie has always been an icon for me, I remember listening to Best of Bowie in my mum’s old car, I must have been only about 3 or 4 at the time but it’s something I remember vividly.
But what is iconic about him? The fashion? The music? The personality?
Maybe it’s one of them, or them all together. His multiple style changes throughout the years, along with his changing personas, is something to be admired. In my opinion, the flexibility in his personality and his ability to act is truly unmatched by anyone else.
However, the music industry and most creative industries are harsh environments. The struggles artists face developmentally, due to intense pressures to keep changing and keep getting better take their toll.
The Young Americans album was the first album where Bowie performed as “Himself,” but it wasn’t him.
There’s a lyric in fame where he was trying to tell us that.
“Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane,”
This idea of burning your change, that you have to be someone specific and stick to it wasn’t Bowie, but the ever-changing and developing nature of him was.
After Young Americans, Bowie’s new-found ‘fame’ was burning him. The character he introduced us to next was The Thin White Duke, where he tore away the cosmic glamour of Major Tom and the colourful psychedelic nature of Ziggy Stardust we had known before. Now they were replaced with the grey and bland nature of how Bowie was feeling, a metaphor for how he felt at the time
Bowie threw out the demonic character shortly after his recovery, alienating himself from it as even he said that it wasn’t him, but the fame he had gained.
I think that’s why Bowie is an icon to me, the way he could express himself through his style and music whilst fighting against his own struggles is something to be admired, and the way he could admit when he was in a bad place and accept the consequences for that.
This comes back to the fame most of us have craved has come and gone over time, but once it’s given to someone, we see the damage it does to them. The music industry is especially bad for treating artists horridly, they’ll have adoring fans one minute and the next, be wishing for it all to go away.
But as Bowie himself once said;
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow.