David Bowie: Alienation and Stardom, by Rod Tweedy

Schizophrenia, Spaceboys, and the Spiders from Mars

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The death of David Bowie has revived both intense media interest in his work and astonishing creative legacy and also a plethora of unthinking and misleading cliches about who he was and what he signified. Foremost amongst these is the description of him as some kind of alien being, or “mysterious extraterrestrial”: “40 years ago, in millions of living rooms across the British isles,” one hagiographic BBC documentary started, “a strange alien creature was beamed onto our television screens”. Online and newspaper headlines are full of references to Starmen, Spaceboys, The Man who Fell to Earth – but there is very little attempt to explore or decode these references or to consider their psychological significance.

David Bowie didn’t come from the stars: he came from Brixton, south London. And much of the potency of ‘space’ imagery in his work derives from his intense feelings of alienation and dissociation, as well as his ability to give remarkable and eloquent expression to the sense of dislocation and displacement he carried with him throughout his life. Much of this sense of disconnection centres on the disturbing experiences of mental illness, especially schizophrenia, that his whole family suffered from, including his mother, three aunts, and half-brother, and which surrounded him in childhood …

 

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5 thoughts on “David Bowie: Alienation and Stardom, by Rod Tweedy

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