David Bowie

From Seeds of the Word, the encyclopedia of the influence of the Gospel on culture
Revision as of 17:54, October 16, 2020 by Johnrdorazio (talk | contribs) (→‎Religion)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

David Bowie

Bowie smiling
Bowie in Tinley Park, Illinois, during the Heathen Tour, 2002
David Robert Jones

(1947-01-08)8 January 1947
Brixton, London, England
Died10 January 2016(2016-01-10) (aged 69)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1962–2016
Children2, including Duncan Jones
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • saxophone
  • harmonica
Associated acts

David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (/ˈbi/ BOH-ee),[1] was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry and is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He was acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at over 100 million records worldwide, made him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Rolling Stone placed him among its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and following his death in 2016, Bowie was dubbed "The Greatest Rock Star Ever" by the magazine.[2]


Over the years, Bowie made numerous references to religions and to his evolving spirituality. Beginning in 1967, he became interested in Buddhism and considered becoming a Buddhist monk.[3] After a few months' study at Tibet House in London, he was told by a Lama, "You don't want to be Buddhist. ... You should follow music."[4] By 1975, Bowie admitted, "I felt totally, absolutely alone. And I probably was alone because I pretty much had abandoned God."[5] In his will, Bowie stipulated that he be cremated and his ashes scattered in Bali "in accordance with the Buddhist rituals".[6]

After Bowie married Iman in a private ceremony in 1992, he said they knew that their "real marriage, sanctified by God, had to happen in a church in Florence".[7] Earlier that year, he knelt on stage at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and recited the Lord's Prayer before a television audience.[8] Four days later, Bowie and Iman were married in Switzerland. Intending to move to Los Angeles, they flew in to search for a suitable property, but found themselves confined to their hotel, under curfew: the 1992 Los Angeles riots began the day they arrived. They settled in New York instead.[9][a] In 1993, Bowie said he had an "undying" belief in the "unquestionable" existence of God.[5] In a separate 1993 interview, while describing the genesis of the music for his album Black Tie White Noise, he said " … it was important for me to find something [musically] that also had no sort of representation of institutionalized and organized religion, of which I'm not a believer, I must make that clear."[10] Interviewed in 2005, Bowie said whether God exists "is not a question that can be answered. ... I'm not quite an atheist and it worries me. There's that little bit that holds on: 'Well, I'm almost an atheist. Give me a couple of months. ... I've nearly got it right.'"[11]

"Questioning [his] spiritual life [was] always ... germane" to Bowie's songwriting.[11] The song "Station to Station" is "very much concerned with the Stations of the Cross"; the song also specifically references Kabbalah. Bowie called the album "extremely dark ... the nearest album to a magick treatise that I've written".[12][b] Earthling showed "the abiding need in me to vacillate between atheism or a kind of gnosticism ... What I need is to find a balance, spiritually, with the way I live and my demise."[14] Released shortly before his death, "Lazarus"—from his final album, Blackstar—began with the words, "Look up here, I'm in Heaven" while the rest of the album deals with other matters of mysticism and mortality.[15]

Spiritual references

Following the passing away of Davide Bowie on January 10th 2016, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, wrote a tribute, published by the The Tablet on January 13th 2016, in which he makes references to a number of songs by David Bowie which reveal his spiritual journey in life[16].

Station to Station

Station to Station is the 10th studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 23 January 1976 by RCA Records. In an album that reflected his darkest years Bowie, who five years previously in one of his lyrics had entrusted salvation to aliens, dedicated himself to the Stations of the Cross. He prayed, in the depths of his addictions and lacerating questions: “Lord, I kneel and offer you my word on a wing / And I’m trying hard to fit among your scheme of things.” (Word on a Wing).

Bowie admits that the song Word on a Wing was written out of a coke-addled spiritual despair that he experienced while filming the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. In 1980 Bowie spoke of the song to NME, claiming "There were days of such psychological terror when making the Roeg film that I nearly started to approach my reborn, born again thing. It was the first time I'd really seriously thought about Christ and God in any depth, and 'Word on a Wing' was a protection. It did come as a complete revolt against elements that I found in the film. The passion in the song was genuine... something I needed to produce from within myself to safeguard myself against some of the situations I felt were happening on the film set."

From the time of this song, David Bowie starting wearing and wore for many years a small silver crucifix, as can be seen in a number of his performances.[17]

Loving the Alien

Bowie sought to understand the meaning of prayer in Loving the Alien, a track from the album Tonight, released in 1984. He asks if our invocations to God hid truth within them, if religion was not believing – once again – only in an alien: “And your prayers they break the sky in two / You pray ’til the break of dawn.”

Bus Stop

The references in Bowie’s art and music to spirituality, often in anguish and torment, are more than can be counted, and were never excluded from his life. “I’m a young man at odds / With the bible / But I don’t pretend faith never works / When we’re down on our knees / Prayin’ at the bus stop,” he wrote in Bus Stop, one of the tracks on the album Tin Machine released in 1989.

I would be your slave

The arrival of Jesus on earth left Bowie with a mix of hope and incredulity. Yet he never abandoned that part of his soul, he never ceased asking for a sign from God: “Open up your heart to me / Show me who you are / And I would be your slave … Give me peace of mind at last / Show me all you are / Open up your heart to me” (I Would Be Your Slave from the album Heathen released in 2002).


Bowie in a deathbed, as depicted in the music video

Lazarus is a single released on December 17th 2015 as a digital download, making it the second single from his twenty-fifth studio album, Blackstar (2016). It is Bowie's last single to be released during his lifetime. The official music video, directed by Johan Renck, was released on January 7th 2016, three days before Bowie's death. Bowie never performed the song live. According to Bowie's producer Tony Visconti, the lyrics and video of "Lazarus" and other songs on the album were intended to be a self-epitaph, a commentary on Bowie's own impending death.[18][19][20] The title of the song is a reference to the biblical Lazarus, a friend of Jesus who Jesus rose from the dead (John 11:1-30;11:31-45). In the music video, Bowie's face is wrapped in a cloth, as was Lazarus' according to the Gospel account.

On the day of David Bowie's passing away, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeted a quote from the song Space Oddity, released in 1969: "Ground Control to Major Tom / Commencing countdown, / engines on / Check ignition / and may God's love be with you"[21].


  1. Asked why he knelt and prayed, Bowie said he had a friend who was dying of AIDS. "He was just dropping into a coma that day. And just before I went on stage something just told me to say the Lord's Prayer. The great irony is that he died two days after the show".[5]
  2. He later said he was influenced by his cocaine addiction and the "psychological terror" from making The Man Who Fell To Earth, marking "the first time I'd really seriously thought about Christ and God ... I very nearly got suckered into that narrow [view of] finding the Cross as the salvation of mankind".[13]


  1. "How to say: Bowie". BBC. 8 January 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  2. "Why David Bowie Was the Greatest Rock Star Ever". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  3. "Thurston Moore Reflects on David Bowie". Pitchfork. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  4. "Stardust Memories – Without Tibet House, David Bowie never may have gotten Ziggy with it. Now the pop star returns the favor ..." Newsday. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Parsons, Tony. "Bowie, what is he like?". Arena. Spring/Summer 1993. Retrieved 31 January 2016 – via Exploring David Bowie.
  6. Sawer, Patrick; McNulty, Bernadette (30 January 2016). "David Bowie's lifetime interest in Buddhism to culminate in Bali scattering of his ashes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  7. Johnson, Bridget (13 January 2016). "Why David Bowie Knelt and Said the Lord's Prayer at Wembley Stadium". PJ Media. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  8. Kaye, Jeff (22 April 1992). "(Safe) Sex, (No) Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll : A Star-Filled Send-Off to Freddie Mercury". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  9. Buckley (2005): pp. 413–14
  10. Simon Bates radio interviews, BBC Radio 1, 29–31 March 1993
  11. 11.0 11.1 DeCurtis, Anthony (5 May 2005). In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life And Work. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 262–263. ISBN 978-0-634-06655-9. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  12. Cavanagh, David (February 1997). "ChangesFiftyBowie". Q: 52–59.
  13. Egan, Sean (2015). Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters. Souvenir Press Ltd. p. 116. ISBN 978-1569769775.
  14. Cavanagh, David (February 1997), "ChangesFiftyBowie", Q magazine: 52–59
  15. Clement, Olivia (11 January 2016). "'Look Up Here, I'm in Heaven' – Poignant Lyrics to Bowie's 'Lazarus' Signal His Farewell". Playbill. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  16. "David Bowie: how the man who sold the world never stopped searching for God".
  17. See a gallery of pictures here: https://bowiesattva.com/2016/05/21/bowies-cross-a-tool-for-psychic-self-defense/ .
  18. Cooper, Leonie (11 January 2016). "How David Bowie told us he was dying in the 'Lazarus' video". NME. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  19. "David Bowie: Was Lazarus Bowie singing his epitaph?". BBC. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  20. "David Bowie's last release, Lazarus, was 'parting gift' for fans in carefully planned finale". the Telegraph. 11 January 2016. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  21. See https://twitter.com/CardRavasi/status/686466465784934400

External sources