David Bowie died Sunday at the age of 69 from cancer. His death was a gut punch to his millions of devoted fans and a shock considering the famed musical artist had just released a well-reviewed new album. Dying simply didn’t fit the youthful and otherworldly Bowie, who assumed countless alien personas throughout his career. As one Twitter user wrote, echoing the sentiments of thousands, “David Bowie didn’t die, he returned to his home planet. His work on Earth was done.”
Bowie’s death was significant because our society lost one of the great talents of our era. (But perhaps exposed his music to many others; sales and streams soared in the days after his death.)
But beyond that, it put in perspective the sheer breadth of his career – 25 albums, 100 singles, an estimated 140 million worldwide record sales. It highlights the fact that artists of Bowie’s magnitude are massive economic engines, generating billions of dollars from albums, tours, books, merchandise and more.
It’s no surprise that Bowie, a master marketer who was able to sell fans on his countless reinventions, cast a long promotional shadow. Here is a look at the creative items which reveal that Bowie’s shape-shifting uniqueness extended far beyond the music.
This is my Mom’s original T-shirt from Bowie’s 1978 tour. She bought it outside the concert (notice the print is nowhere near centered). Not bad for four decades ago.
This cardboard cut-out was designed to sit on a counter in something called a “record store.” Look it up, kids. Still don’t know what Bowie is doing with his hands here.
Cool promotion, and nice wordplay – Time Will Crawl was one of the tracks from Bowie’s 1987 release Never Let Me Down.
Created for a David Bowie museum exhibition in England, this foldout map took fans on a walking tour of 20 cafes, music shops, studios and more that shaped Bowie’s life and music.
Diamond Dogs, dog tags … see, this promotional stuff is a breeze.
The cool thing about these pins is the vintage '50s graphics. Do people wear pins like these anymore?
To commemorate the CD release of Bowie’s BBC sessions, record label EMI had these old-timey microphones created, with a “Bowie At the Beeb” logo that lit up. The promo cost 200 pounds originally.
You actually do see some concert flyers posted in cities these days. Print's not dead, people.
Poster of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album cover, created by French artist Guy Peellaert, who Mick Jagger was planning to use for an album cover. Said Bowie: "Mick was silly. I mean, he should never have shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, 'What do you think of this guy?' I told him I thought he was incredible. So I immediately phoned him up. Mick's learned now, as I've said. He will never do that again. You've got to be a bastard in this business."