The Future Seen by Starman,… IS NOW
Norman Warwick hears evidence on Bowie´s behalf
The Starman musician ) topped the Sky Arts list of 50 influential artists ahead of 12 Years A Slave Oscar-winning filmmaker Sir Steve McQueen, and It’s A Sin writer Russell T Davies, who revived Doctor Who in 2005.
Street artist Banksy also made an appearance in the list, as did filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott and fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Comedians Ricky Gervais and Victoria Wood (right) also appear alongside artist Tracey Emin and Skin, lead singer of rock band Skunk Anansie, who was Glastonbury’s first black British headliner in 1999.
The list recognises renowned artists across the categories of visual arts, literary arts, performing arts, music, film and TV.
The judging panel, led by broadcaster and DJ Lauren Laverne (left) , were challenged by TV channel Sky Arts to create the list and crowned Bowie for his ability to transcend a variety of mediums.
Laverne said: “I was honoured to be chosen to take part in this judging day for Sky Arts, as working with such a respected group of judges, I knew their conversations would be fascinating, and they were.
“The judges took so much time and care with their scoring to ensure the Top 50, Top 20 and Top 10 lists were truly the best of the best in terms of influence, and the final list includes artists that are so deserving of their places.
“David Bowie coming in at number one was the cherry on top of a brilliant judging process, and it was great to be a part of it.”
The Top 10 list is to be applauded not least for its equal gender split and diversity of genre.
David Bowie – songwriter, performer and actor
2. Sir Steve McQueen CBE – director, producer and writer
3. Russell T Davies OBE – TV screenwriter and producer
4. Dame Vivienne Westwood – fashion designer
5. Caryl Churchill – playwright
6. Michael Clark – dancer and choreographer
7. Angela Carter – feminist writer
8. Stormzy – rapper and political activist
9. Muriel Spark – novelist
10. Michaela Coel – actress, writer and director
The list of names ´below´ Bowie´s must all have been considered very seriously to be nominated as top of the pops.
The last decade must surely be deemed successful by Sir Steve McQueen (right) In 2011, McQueen’s second major theatrical film Shame was released. Set in New York City, it stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addict whose life is suddenly turned upside-down when his estranged sister (Carey Mulligan) reappears. The film was premiered at Venice Film Festival and was shown at the New York Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. It received critical acclaim with Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times giving the film four out of four stars and describing it as “a powerful film” and “courageous and truthful”, commenting that “this is a great act of filmmaking and acting. I don’t believe I would be able to see it twice.” Ebert would later name it his second best film of 2011.] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, stating, “Driven by a brilliant, ferocious performance by Michael Fassbender, Shame is a real walk on the wild side, a scorching look at a case of sexual addiction that’s as all-encompassing as a craving for drugs.”
McQueen’s next film was 12 Years a Slave (2013). Based on the 1853 autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup, the film tells the story of a free black man who is kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery, working on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before being released. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in March 2014, becoming the first Best Picture winner to have a black director or producer. The film also won a supporting actress Oscar for Lupita Nyong’o. On the process of making 12 Years a Slave, actor and producer Brad Pitt stated: “Steve was the first to ask the big question, ‘Why has there not been more films on the American history of slavery?’. And it was the big question it took a Brit to ask.”
In 2012, McQueen debuted a new artistic installation “End Credits”, which focuses on the political persecution of Paul Robeson, with over 10 hours each of video footage and audio recordings, unsynced. It has been exhibited at a number of locations including the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, Perez Art Museum (Miami), and (upcoming June 2019) International Performing Arts festival in Amsterdam. In 2014 he announced plans to do a feature film on Robeson] with Harry Belafonte.
In 2013, McQueen signed on to develop Codes of Conduct, a six-episode limited series for HBO. However, after the pilot episode was shot, HBO shut down production. He also worked on a BBC drama about the lives of black Britons, which follows a group of friends and their families from 1968 to 2014.
In 2015, McQueen shot the video for Kanye West‘s single “All Day“. The film was screened at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris on 7 March 2015 before the first concert of a four-night residency by the American artist, at the Frank Gehry-designed building, began. The film subsequently received its American premiere at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in July 2015.
In 2018, McQueen directed Widows, which was co-written with Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and based on the 1983 British series of the same name. Viola Davis starred in the heist thriller about four armed robbers who are killed in a failed heist attempt, only to have their widows step up to finish the job. He also directed a 1-minute commercial for Chanel‘s men fragrance Bleu de Chanel starring Gaspard Ulliel.
Russell T Davies OBE was behind some wonderful material on Children´s television before creating work for an adult audience. During his production tenure on Children’s Ward, Davies continued to seek other freelance writing jobs, particularly for soap operas; his intention was to eventually work on the popular and long-running Granada soap Coronation Street. In pursuit of this career plan, he storylined soaps such as Families and wrote scripts for shows such as Cluedo, a game show based on the board game of the same name, and Do the Right Thing, a localised version of the Brazilian panel show Você Decide with Terry Wogan as presenter and Frank Skinner as a regular panellist. One writing job, for The House of Windsor, a soap opera about footmen in Buckingham Palace, was so poorly received his other scripts for the show would be written under the pseudonym Leo Vaughn.
In 1994, Davies relinquished all of his producing jobs, and was offered a scriptwriting role on the late-night soap opera Revelations, created by him, Tony Wood, and Brian B. Thompson. The series was a tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of organised religion, and featured his first overtly homosexual character: a lesbian vicar portrayed by Sue Holderness, who came out of the closet in a two-hander episode with Carole Nimmons.
Davies attributes the revelation about Holderness’s character as a consequence of both the “pressure cooker nature” of the show and the recent ordination of female vicars in the Church of England. He let his contract with Granada expire and pitched a new early-evening soap opera to Channel 4, RU, with its creator Bill Moffat, Sandra Hastie, a producer on Moffat’s previous series Press Gang, and co-writer Paul Cornell. Although the slot was eventually taken by Hollyoaks, he and Cornell mutually benefited from the pitch: Davies introduced Cornell to the Children’s Ward producers and established contact with Moffat’s son Steven, and Cornell introduced Davies to Virgin Publishing. Davies wrote one Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novel, Damaged Goods, in which the Doctor tracks a Class A drug tainted by Time Lord technology across several galaxies. The book includes several themes which Davies would intersperse in his later works—including a family called “Tyler” and companion Chris Cwej participating in casual homosexual sex— and a subplot formed the inspiration for The Mother War, a proposed but never produced thriller for Granada about a woman, Eva Jericho, and a calcified foetus in her uterus.
Davies continued to propose dramas to Channel 4. The next drama to be commissioned was Springhill, an apocalyptic soap-opera, co-created by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Paul Abbott, which aired simultaneously on Sky One and Channel 4 in 1996–97. Set in suburban Liverpool, the series focuses on the devoutly Catholic Freeman family and their encounter and conflict with Eva Morrigan (Katharine Rogers). He storylined for the second series, but submitted fewer scripts; Granada had commissioned him to write for their soap The Grand, temporarily storyline for Coronation Street, and write the straight-to-video special, Coronation Street: Viva Las Vegas!. The second series of Springhill continued his penchant for symbolism; in particular, it depicted Marion Freeman (Judy Holt) and Eva as personifications of good and evil, and climaxed with a finale set in an ultra-liberal dystopian future where premarital sex and homosexuality are embraced by the Church. Boyce later commented that without Davies’ input, the show would have been a “dry run” for Abbott’s hit show Shameless. The success and influence of Dame Vivien Westwood can be measure by how long her name has remained in fashion and it would be hard to argue her being named the most influential artist of recent times.
photo 5 Caryl Lesley Churchill (born 3 September 1938) is a British playwright known for dramatising the abuses of power, for her use of non-naturalistic techniques, and for her exploration of sexual politics and feminist themes. Celebrated for works such as Cloud 9 (1979), Top Girls (1982), Serious Money (1987), Blue Heart (1997), Far Away (2000), and A Number (2002), she has been described as “one of Britain’s greatest poets and innovators for the contemporary stage”. In a 2011 dramatists’ poll by The Village Voice, five out of the 20 polled writers listed Churchill as the greatest living playwright.
Michael Clark’s commissions for major dance companies include the G.R.C.O.P. (Groupe de Recherche Chorégraphique de l’Opéra de Paris), The Paris Opera, Scottish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, Ballet Rambert, Phoenix Dance Company and the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Clark has also produced considerable work for film and video, including Hail the New Puritan (1984) and Because We Must (1989) with Charles Atlas. He also choreographed and danced the role of Caliban in Peter Greenaway‘s Prospero’s Books (1991).
In 1998 he presented a new full-length work, current/SEE, in collaboration with Susan Stenger, Simon Pearson, Big Bottom, and Hussein Chalayan which became the subject of a BBC documentary directed by Sophie Fiennes, The Late Michael Clark. Before and After: The Fall (2001) was Clark’s first major collaboration with the visual artist Sarah Lucas, followed by an evening entitled Would, Should, Can, Did (2003), for the Barbican, London. In the same year Clark created the first Satie Stud for William Trevitt of George Piper Dances, choreographed a solo for Mikhail Baryshnikov, and OH MY GODDESS opened London Dance Umbrella’s 25th anniversary season. In 2004 Rambert Dance Company revived SWAMP (1986), which received the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2005.
Clark then embarked on the Stravinsky Project, a three-year project to produce a trilogy of works to seminal dance scores by Igor Stravinsky. He radically reworked Mmm… (1992) and 0 (1994), for this project, and in 2007 he premiered the final part of the trilogy, I Do. In 2009 he debuted come, been and gone at the Venice Biennale. Subsequent productions include New Work (2012) (later “animal / vegetable / mineral”) and his most recent work “to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song.” which premiered at the Barbican in London in October 2016. He has created major site-specific commissions for the Tate Modern, Whitney Biennial, the 2012 Cultural Olympiad at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, and The Institute of Contemporary Art (Miami).
Angela Carter (left 1940–1992) is one of the boldest and most original writers of the 20th century. Her work draws on an eclectic range of themes and influences, from gothic fantasy, traditional fairy tales, Shakespeare and music hall, through Surrealism and the cinema of Godard and Fellini. I´am ashamed to say that I only came across her work when I went to university as a ´mature student´ in 1996. Her books opened the eyes of even this un-reconstructed man.
Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper, singer and songwriter. In 2014, he gained attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats. He has retained his relevance.
Muriel Spark began writing seriously, under her married name, after World War II, beginning with poetry and literary criticism. In 1947 she became editor of the Poetry Review. This position made Spark one of the only female editors of the time. Spark left the Poetry Review in 1948.[ In 1953 Muriel Spark was baptized in the Church of England but in 1954 she decided to join the Roman Catholic Church, which she considered crucial in her development toward becoming a novelist. Penelope Fitzgerald, a fellow novelist and contemporary of Spark, wrote that Spark “had pointed out that it wasn’t until she became a Roman Catholic … that she was able to see human existence as a whole, as a novelist needs to do”. In an interview with John Tusa on BBC Radio 4, she said of her conversion and its effect on her writing that she “was just a little worried, tentative. Would it be right, would it not be right? Can I write a novel about that – would it be foolish, wouldn’t it be? And somehow with my religion – whether one has anything to do with the other, I don’t know – but it does seem so, that I just gained confidence.” Graham Greene, Gabriel Fielding and Evelyn Waugh supported her in her decision.
Her first novel, The Comforters, was published to great critical acclaim in 1957. It featured several references to Catholicism and conversion to Catholicism, although its main theme revolved around a young woman who becomes aware that she is a character in a novel.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) was even more successful. Spark displayed originality of subject and tone, making extensive use of flashforwards and imagined conversations. It is clear that James Gillespie’s High School was the model for the Marcia Blaine School in the novel. Her residence at the Helena Club was the inspiration for the fictional May of Teck Club in The Girls of Slender Means published in 1963.
Known professionally as Michaela Coel, Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson (born 1 October 1987), is a British actress, screenwriter, director, producer and singer. She is best known for creating and starring in the E4 sitcom Chewing Gum (2015–2017), for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Female Comedy Performance; and the BBC One/HBO comedy-drama series I May Destroy You (2020) for which she won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress in 2021. For her work on I May Destroy You, Coel was the first Black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Coel is also known for her work in other Netflix productions, including guest-starring in the series Black Mirror (2016–2017), starring as Kate Ashby in the series Black Earth Rising (2018) and as Simone in the film Been So Long (2018).
Bowie, one of the most influential and revered musicians of the 20th century, died with liver cancer on 10 January 2016,two days after his 69th birthday.
Five years later Sky Arts have named him top of what is an amazing list of artists.
A unique portrait of the singer-songwriter has been made from more than 8,500 individually placed guitar plectrums – each featuring a cut-out shape to symbolise all the artistic disciplines Bowie influenced.
Artist Joe Black, who created the two-metre tall piece (left) , said: “This portrait was created to celebrate David Bowie being named the most influential artist of the last 50 years.
“His visual representation had a huge impact across all of the arts worldwide.
“The idea was to use thousands of specially designed plectrums, with each design representing one of the five artistic areas of Bowie’s creative life and influences – music, film, fashion, literature and art.
“Bowie was a maverick and a global icon who initiated a new Bowie era in popular culture.”
Philip Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts, said: “As our number one artist, we wanted to honour David Bowie in a way that would feel fitting to the scale of his influence.
“The artwork that has been created by Joe Black honours the ways Bowie’s influence transcends genres, through guitar picks with cut-out designs of music, art, stage and screen.”
The fairly recently released film, Stardust, a biopic of Bowie received scant praise from the likes of The Guardian or from the acclaimed critic on-line.
´It’s not easy taking on the role of an iconic celebrity beloved by millions, and it’s a job made even harder when that celebrity’s estate hasn’t given you their blessing.in some ways, though that was a good thing.´
That’s what Johnny Flynn (left) said on the film´s release film Stardust, about David Bowie’s first road-trip around America in 1971 – just before he creates his Ziggy Stardust alter ego and hits mega stardom.
“The truth is the estate, as far as I know, they haven’t tried to stop the film being made or objected to it in particular, it’s just that Duncan [Bowie’s son] was asked by journalists when we went into production about the film, a film about his dad, and he said, ‘well, they’re not doing it with his music’, which is nothing but the truth.
“He wasn’t condemning it necessarily, but people have taken an inference from what he said and now said that this film shouldn’t exist
.”The family is absolutely entitled to feel what they feel, but I think the fact that other people jump on the idea that the film shouldn’t exist is a sort of dangerous aspect of cancel culture.”
it must have been difficult to carry any kind of a linear narrative about a central character who changed, chaemeleon-like in the blink of a pop fan´s eye, and looking at some of the eye line remarks about the film from Bowie fans that they have been more cogniscant of that fact than the professional media critics.
It is surely true, as Peter Lowe, Head Of Home news at Sky said: ´When you look at Bowie´s past, you realise he was a master at understanding the future´
Mr. Lowe went on to observe
“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” sang David Bowie. “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”
The song is Lazarus, a track from the album Blackstar, released just two days before he died of liver cancer on 10 January 2016, exactly five years ago.
Was the lyric another case of Bowie being one step ahead of the world by predicting his own death? Perhaps we were supposed to see clues in the Blackstar video, in which the skeleton of a dead astronaut floats away into outer space.
The demise of Major Tom from Space Oddity? Nobody knows for sure.
But when I think about that day, I realise it’s the only time I’ve ever felt utterly bereft by the death of someone I’ve never met. This feeling is illogical, but real. It’s as if something about your own personal history has altered.
For teenage fans from the drab 1970s suburbs, Bowie offered a glimpse of extravagance, even decadence, and a thrilling soundtrack to our lives. We were hooked for life.
During the first rush of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, someone shared an interview he did with MTV in 1983, which I’d not seen before.
Bowie turned the tables on interviewer Mark Goodman by asking him questions about why there were so few black artists on the station. He was told that towns in the Midwest might be “scared to death by Prince… or a string of other black faces and black music”.
It’s jaw-dropping to watch this interview today.
Goodman said MTV had to choose music that suited all of America, and questioned what the Isley Brothers might mean in those days to a 17-year-old. Bowie came back, polite but pointed: “I’ll tell you what the Isley Brothers or Marvin Gaye mean to a black 17-year-old. Surely he’s part of America as well.”
He went on: “Should it not be a challenge to try to make the media far more integrated?”
Goodman had to agree. It’s a long road still being travelled today.
More frivolously, when you watch the 1980 video for the track Ashes To Ashes, you might think it was Bowie who invented the iPad, 30 years before Apple.
The video was, at the time, the most expensive and technologically sophisticated any artist had made. On two occasions, Bowie’s Pierrot character holds up a tablet with video playing. Surely it must have given people ideas…Bowie saw what was coming. He was a slayer of convention and a champion of individualism.
His embrace of sexual ambiguity suggested people could just be who they wanted to be, long before the evolution in gender fluidity we see today.
I’ve looked back this week at his interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman (left) in 1999, at a time when we were all just getting used to “surfing” the internet. Paxman wondered whether the claims being made for the internet were not hugely exaggerated. He raised a quizzical eyebrow at the answer.
“I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Bowie. “I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society – for good and bad – is unimaginable. We are on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying. It’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.”
I saw the interview at the time and didn’t entirely understand what he meant. A decade later, we all got it. Bowie’s grasp of the future had already envisaged that the internet would carry infinite content and provide effortless interplay between users and providers.
In 2002, he told the New York Times that the days of mass sales of CDs would one day end.
“Music is going to become like running water or electricity – the absolute transformation of everything we have thought about music will take place within 10 years.”
He told his fellow artists that they’d better get used to doing a lot of touring to make their money, because future streaming services would dominate music. Spotify launched in October 2008, and Bowie had proved to be far-sighted yet again.
His insights were the product of an insatiably curious mind.
He read Nietzsche, William S Burroughs and the poet Khalil Gibran. He was influenced musically by Little Richard, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground. He was fascinated by George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
These, and many other influences, were filtered through the multiplex of his brain and erupted in a frenzy of creativity, which delivered 13 albums in 11 years between 1969 and 1980.
Bowie electrified the 1970s to the same extent that The Beatles helped define the 1960s, feeding off the social fluctuations and paranoias of the age.
We could have lost him so much earlier than we did. His mid-’70s tour of the United States was relentlessly fuelled by cocaine. Pictures of him at the time reveal a pale, cadaverous figure, permanently on the edge – and sometimes over it.
Yet the creativity was never stifled. He managed to switch mid-tour from the rock-and-roll of Diamond Dogs to the soul of Young Americans, which he wrote and then recorded in Philadelphia, while on the road, and under the influence.
He has said himself that he doesn’t know what might have happened to him, had he not abandoned the American hedonism for a quieter life in Berlin. His Berlin trilogy – Low, Heroes, and Lodger- was the result of European influence and his embrace of electronic and ambient music in collaboration with Brian Eno.
It was a ’70s innovation which helped usher in the music of the ’80s.
There is at least compensation for the loss of such an extraordinary creative force. The music which sold 140 million albums is still here. His influence on music, art, fashion and style can’t be erased.
He sang on Blackstar: “Something happened on the day he died. His spirit rose a metre, and stepped aside.”
I’m not sure there’s anyone out there to take his place
Regular readers of these pages will know that we have often talked about how writers of stories,poems and songs should prepare their output for light years of travel.
The text, the music and the rhymes will end up in faraway times and places, in other galaxies, and will perused by beings of differnet forms,…..
and it just might be that those ínvisible angels
are being guided by
who, for a short while came here as he guided them to us.