Rock superstar David Bowie, who died of cancer over the weekend at the age of 69, became famous as a “Space Oddity” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” – but his legacy includes real technological innovations as well as contributions to science fiction and fashion.
That’s a big reason why so many scientists, explorers and techies are flocking to tweet their condolences. Even from outer space:
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) January 11, 2016
Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many. @DavidBowieReal
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) January 11, 2016
In “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” Bowie portrayed an extraterrestrial who tries to succeed in human society but gets caught up in its addictions instead. As Ziggy Stardust, the rocker sang about a starman waiting in the sky and the Spiders From Mars. And then there’s “Space Oddity,” the ballad about Major Tom that inspired one of the best-ever covers from Earth orbit:
— NASA (@NASA) January 11, 2016
Astronaut-guitarist Chris Hadfield issued fresh tributes to Bowie this morning:
Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust. Your brilliance inspired us all. Goodbye Starman. pic.twitter.com/FbcxlAzces
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) January 11, 2016
— Kay Designer (@KayDesigner) January 11, 2016
Bowie portrayed a real-life tech icon, Nikola Tesla, a decade ago in a must-see movie titled “The Prestige.” But Bowie was a tech icon in his own right, and not just because of his music or way-out personae.
Back in 1996, he made waves by distributing “Telling Lies” as an online-only release, drawing more than 300,000 downloads. Then, in 1998, he launched BowieNet, an online resource that provided Internet service as well as access to audio recordings, music video and chats with the singer and fellow fans, all for a monthly fee. In 2000, he created an online portal for artists, called BowieArt.
All this was in the days before YouTube, Vevo, Twitter, Facebook and Spotify. (Check out The Guardian for more about BowieNet.)
Bowie saw clearly what the Internet would do to the music industry. “I download everything on the Internet,” he told David Letterman during a late-night TV appearance in 2002. In that same year, he told The New York Times that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. … So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.”
For his contributions to the Internet, the Webby Awards gave Bowie a lifetime achievement award in 2007. Webby acceptance speeches are traditionally limited to five words – but Bowie broke the mold, as he did in so many other settings. “I only get five words?” he said. “Sh*t, that was five. Four more there. That’s three. Two.”
Here are some of today’s far-out Twitter tributes to David Bowie, every one more than five words:
I wonder if some forms of creativity can only be generated by a Space Oddity that Falls to Earth. RIP #DavidBowie (1947-2016)
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 11, 2016
Sad to hear that David Bowie died. He was amazing.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2016
Stardust to Stardust – Farewell legendary Starman; Thank you for the inspiration of your immortal voice and song. pic.twitter.com/3gdlQYaz9w
— Doug Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels) January 11, 2016
Ground Control to Major Toms everywhere: The stars look very different today. David Bowie inspired us for 5 decades. He will be missed.
— Bill Nye (@BillNye) January 11, 2016
Remembering David Bowie–a fantastic musician & artist. Our “Inspirations” doc feat shows the creative force he was https://t.co/kwjvArPFyG
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) January 11, 2016
RIP David Bowie, fellow space traveller pic.twitter.com/zr5JfZVPPh
— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) January 11, 2016
Rest in Peace David Bowie pic.twitter.com/r0yCU7iDBO
— Darth Vader (@DepressedDarth) January 11, 2016