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David Bowie: A Video Visionary

Updated on May 23, 2014

When MTV came along and aided and abetted in video's killing of the radio star, there were some artists who quickly adapted to and even thrived in this new age of visually driven entertainment. There is no question that MTV changed the commercial music landscape -- whether for better or worse being open to debate, but certainly some artists fared better than others in this new musical landscape. David Bowie was one who fared better than most and even seemed to thrive in this adventurous new media.

One of the earliest videos on MTV was "Ashes to Ashes" from Bowie's classic Scary Monsters album. This video not only paid tribute to the past by re-introducing Bowie's Major Tom character from Space Oddity, but also saluted the future by giving exposure to what was at the time an underground movement known as New Romanticism -- a fashion style originally connected to the world of synth-pop music but which came to be more widely associated with the new wave style of bands like The Police, Duran Duran and The Romantics.

Artists Influenced by Bowie

  • Bauhaus
  • Be-Bop Deluxe
  • Cherie Curie (The Runaways)
  • Duran Duran
  • Joy Division
  • Lady Gaga
  • Morrissey
  • Gary Numan
  • The Police
  • Psychedelic Furs
  • Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
  • ...and many more!

The "Ashes to Ashes" video showed that Bowie was ready for this new era in rock 'n' roll, already a step or two ahead of many of his fellow music stars. Many bands would eventually look to Bowie's earliest videos for inspiration for their own music videos. This type of thing was nothing new to David Bowie who had long been recognized as an influential artist, with legions of musicians openly acknowledging that they were fans as well as giving credit to Bowie for his mark on their music, style and fashion. It was no surprise to those familiar with him that he would become a leader in this newest form of artistic expression. In fact, it seemed virtually inevitable that he would do so..

Those Who Played with Bowie

  • Carlos Alomar
  • Peter Frampton
  • Robert Fripp
  • Iggy Pop
  • Queen
  • Mick Ronson
  • Pete Townshend
  • Tina Turner
  • Tom Verlaine
  • ...and many more!

Bowie had always been a very visual performer with elaborate stage shows full of costumes and theatrics and albums filled with conceptual storylines and intricate lyrics designed to create a specific picture in the mind of the listener. He was known for assuming various personas such as Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, and the aforementioned Major Tom, weaving these characters into not only his studio efforts and live performances, but often also into interviews, television appearances, business meetings and other parts of his everyday life.

Certainly, David Bowie was a superstar and even a legend before the video revolution changed the marketing environment for popular music, but with these new tools at his disposal, Bowie quickly became a megastar. From Scary Monsters through Let's Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down, Bowie scored hit after hit in the '80s with videos for songs like "China Girl," "Modern Love" and "Blue Jean." Where as many other well established artists seemed unsure how to best utilize this new medium, Bowie was right at home and seemed to use the video medium to naturally expand his artistic vision.

His exploitation of the new medium of music videos led to one of the David Bowie's most commercially successful periods. While some critics as well as many fans may have found the music a bit mainstream and a little too safe for an artist who had so often rode the cutting edge of musical creativity, there was no denying his mastery of this cutting edge method of creative expression. Just as he had pioneered new frontiers in the formative days of rock music, so did he spearhead the move into music video as an artistic form.

David Bowie Video Poll

My favorite 1980's Bowie video is...

See results


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    • F.B. Spannigan profile image

      F.B. Spannigan 7 years ago from Unknown

      I love Bowie! But I havent seen his videos. I love the songs China Girl, Let's Dance, Ziggy Stardust (my ringtone), Scary Monsters and super freaks, Fame, Fashion and Heroes. I love bowie!

    • DarkSinistar profile image

      DarkSinistar 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Satomko, thanks for stopping by! Bowie definitely was a an innovator and has been a big influence on many.

      Katharella, when I try to think of the Bowie song "Fascination" all I can remember is the Human League song! I know the Bowie song is the better song but those dang catchy lyrics will not get out of my head.

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 7 years ago from Lost in America

      Not sure of the year, but I voted on "not listed" because I just love the song Fascination. :) As always, love David Bowie. Fascination was never publicized, but ah, yeah I think it was 70's. He's one it's just too hard to choose! Great hub!!

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 7 years ago from Macon, GA

      Good hub. I don't think Bowie gets enough credit for his innovations or the overall body of his performance in music videos.