10 David Bowie-inspired artists helping keep his legacy alive
On Jan. 10, 2016, the music community took a hit that we weren’t expecting and never could have prepared ourselves for. Just two days earlier on his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his album Blackstar, but the glam-rock musician knew a secret about that record that the world wasn’t aware of yet: It would be his last. Blackstar was Bowie’s final gift to the world, and he made it as such.
Suffering a private battle of liver cancer, Bowie wrote his final masterpiece as a man contemplating his own mortality. While Bowie is gone, he’s certainly not forgotten as he continues to inspire decades of artists before and after death.
Head below for 10 artists who have spoken openly about Bowie’s impact.
1. Kurt Cobain
Years after his passing, some of Kurt Cobain’s journal etchings were published as a book. Among the scribbled pages was a list that the Nirvana frontman deemed the 50 best albums, including Bowie’s 1970 release, The Man Who Sold The World. The highlight wasn’t surprising to fans of the band’s iconic MTV Unplugged set as they played the title track. A live album of the gig, MTV Unplugged In New York, marked the first record released from the grunge kings following Cobain’s death. It went on to be their most successful posthumous release, as it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified 5x multi-platinum. Even though Nirvana played lesser-known tracks on the MTV stage, it’s still considered one of the greatest albums of all time.
2. Robert Smith
The Cure frontman Robert Smith has regularly recalled Bowie’s influence on him. Describing him as “the first artist that [he] felt was [his]” after discovering his music as a child, Smith revealed Ziggy Stardust was the first vinyl he ever bought. Like many, Bowie drew Smith in with his wide array of personalities. “I always loved how he did things as much as what he did,” he explains. “I love that idea of being an outsider and creating characters.” The Cure later paid tribute to Bowie classic “Young Americans,” which was released among the mass amount of B-sides and remixes on Join The Dots: B-Sides & Rarities as a box set in January 2004.
3. Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan took Bowie’s impact to the next level by getting to perform “All The Young Dudes” with the vocalist at his own rock star-studded birthday party, David Bowie and Friends: A Very Special Birthday Concert. Smashing Pumpkins later recorded a live album following the release of their eighth album, Oceania, in 2012, which included a cover of Bowie’s hit “Space Oddity.” The inspiration didn’t stop after Bowie’s passing as Corgan penned “Zowie” about the rocker for his 2017 solo LP, Ogilala. “It was written around the time that David had passed, and I was thinking about him a lot,” Corgan tells Rolling Stone. “I was lucky that I got to work with him a little bit. I was really struck by his passing. You almost have to take a step back and be like, ‘OK, that’s the end of a journey. What does it mean? How do we evaluate this artist now that there’s no more?’ It sort of closes the circle.”
4. Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson channeled his influence by delivering an eerie take on “Golden Years.” Found on the 1998 Dead Man On Campus soundtrack, Manson’s signature vocals pair incredibly with the haunting, classic Bowie sound. The shock rocker opened up on how Bowie’s music “changed [his] life forever” following the vocalist’s passing in 2016. “Every song of his was a way for me to communicate to others,” he told Rolling Stone. “It was a sedative. An arousal. A love letter I could never have written.”
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ take on “Suffragette City” was originally released as a B-side for their single “Aeroplane.” Theirs is a live version that was recorded in Holland in October 1995. It was later released on 2012’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Covers EP, which the band put together as a nod to a handful of their influences before their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction that same year.
6. Gerard Way
Gerard Way has spoken openly about Bowie’s effect on him over the years, recalling how Labyrinth is “kind of like a security blanket for [him].” The My Chemical Romance frontman famously forged one half of the Bowie collaboration that we didn't know we needed opposite the Used frontman Bert McCracken. Found as a bonus track on the rereleased version of the Used’s sophomore album, In Love And Death, the vocalists blended their harmonies together perfectly, just how Freddie Mercury and Bowie approached the track, causing us to fall in love with it all those years ago. Then, just days before the MCR reunion, Way joined Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue on his Carry The Fire Podcast, where he discussed the “safety” of playing a character on The Black Parade and how “heroes” such as Bowie inspired it.
7. Lady Gaga
Following his death, the Grammys saw Lady Gaga take the stage in a packed tribute to the beyond-inspiring musician. Her performance spanned Bowie’s catalog, including “Ziggy Stardust,” “Heroes,” “Changes” and “Rebel Rebel,” just to name a few. Having first discovered the artist at age 19, Gaga (who inked a Ziggy Stardust portrait on her side) said, “I feel like my whole career is a tribute to David Bowie.”
YUNGBLUD’s stage persona certainly captures the theatrics of a young Bowie, and with good reason. The musician recently opened up about the late vocalist’s effect on his forthcoming sophomore album, calling it a “nod.” One track in particular, “Mars” is inspired by “Life On Mars?” and a conversation he had with a transgender fan. “He told me about his story, about how nobody understood him,” YUNGBLUD says. “It clicked with me because it reminded me of ‘Life On Mars?’ by David Bowie, so I’m paying homage to that.”
9. Patrick Stump
The Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump sat down with AltPress shortly after Bowie’s passing to discuss his admiration. Stump stated that he thought Bowie would die “in a laser bath on Mars” or “nose-first into a literal mountain of cocaine” rather than in a “normal” way.
Poppy has hypnotized the world with her incomparable personas, transitioning from the early robotic aesthetic to total metal domination. The artist discussed how I Disagree track “Concrete” captured “killing off an older version of yourself.” When asked if this relates to that transition in personas, Poppy explained how Bowie’s varying eras are a big inspiration to her. “I always bring up David Bowie when people talk about personas because I think he was a master and [a] huge inspiration to me,” Poppy tells AltPress. “For every record that he released or era, David Bowie had a very distinct look, feel and vibe. Ziggy Stardust is a lot different from Diamond Dogs. Even [on] the last record, Blackstar, his death was art, so that’s very inspiring to me.”