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David Bowie’s lasting legacy: ‘Turn and face the strange’

Here at the MACPA and the BLI, we talk all the time about change and transformation.

Compared with David Bowie, we’re amateurs.

This guy reinvented himself every time he entered the recording studio. He mastered rock, pop, R&B, glam, alternative, jazz, disco, hip-hop, and even (with the help of Bing Crosby) holiday music. His latest album, released just two days before his gut-wrenching death from cancer, is said to be his best album in more than 30 years.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here,” he once said, “but I promise it won’t be boring.”

That’s the essence of transformation: Don’t ever rest on your laurels. Keep looking for that competitive edge. At his commercial peak in the mid-1980s, Bowie took the most un-commercial of steps by shunning the safe route, firing his band, and trying something completely different.

And I haven’t even mentioned his acting career yet.

Bowie even left his mark on the business world. In 1997, he became the first recording artist to explore Wall Street’s interest in his music when he sold $55 million in bonds to investors. These “Bowie bonds,” as they became known, were tied to future earnings of music he recorded before 1990.

“Bowie’s bonds were as groundbreaking as his music,” Rob Ford, a London-based money manager at TwentyFour Asset Management, told Bloomberg. “Not only were they followed by a number of other artists, but they set the template for deals backed by a whole range of assets.”

It’s yet another example of a revolutionary artist who anticipated change and transformed himself at every turn.

In a world as chaotic as this one, we all could learn a thing or two from David Bowie.

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