Four inspiring quotes from the late, great David Bowie

By
Photography Herb Ritts

Published January 10, 2018

DAVID BOWIE PHOTOGRAPHED BY HERB RITTS, INTERVIEW, MAY 1990.

It’s been two years since the world lost David Bowie—a very mortal death for a seemingly immortal Star Man, just two days after his 69th birthday. Since then, the glamorous fabric of pop culture has started to publicly unravel, revealing that our once-thought impervious idols are simply corporeal. But in all that, the continuous posthumous outpouring of love from Bowie fans is a testament to the joy and inspiration that a musician, actor, artist, and iconic creative personality can provide.

His wisdom—mainlined via song lyrics and in acute interview quotes—continues to inspire, reverberating in the hallowed halls of pop culture to this day. We went back through Interview‘s archives in search of more intimate insights from the British rocker. And, if you’re still left looking for a Bowie fix, we’re not the only ones paying tribute. The “David Bowie is” exhibition, which started at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, travels to the Brooklyn Museum in March and features sheet music, dazzling costumes, and oil paintings done by Bowie, among hundreds of other items from the rock star’s archive. Internationally, there’s a “Celebrating David Bowie” concert tour beginning today in Paris, presented by some of Bowie’s career-long music collaborators.

With this collective effort, Bowie’s song will surely play on forever.

 

March 1973 on Cygnet Committee

DAVID BOWIE: I basically wanted to be a cry to fucking humanity. The beginning of the song when I first started it was saying—Fellow man I do love you—I love humanity, I adore it, it’s sensational sensuous, exciting—it sparkled and it’s also pathetic at the same time. And it was a cry to list O.K., that was the first section. And then I tried to get into the dialogue between two kinds of forces. First the sponsor of the revolution, the quasi-capitalist who believes that he is left wing and put support into a lot of the pure, what ended up being what I anticipated that particular movement for quite a few months over in England. People like Mick Farren, Jerry Rubin, etc.

June 1978 on Privacy

BOWIE: I’d just rather like to mind my own business. I don’t like people probing into my life, so I reveal as little as possible or lie about it as much as need be so as to give them something to write about. But people probing into my life, how dare they? My happiness really is from being allowed to remain quite anonymous in the places that I go to and getting involved in what the people there are doing. That is a far greater inspiration for the music I write these days.

May 1990 on characters

BOWIE: I don’t think that I need characters anymore. I’m not sure that means I’m cocksure about who I am, any more than I ever was, but at least I have an understanding that I know myself better. It doesn’t mean that I know what I am, but I know who I am, if that makes any sense. That sounds like rambling shit, but I’m far more aware of my limitations, strengths, and weaknesses than I ever was. I still feel that it’s fair to both myself and to the audience that the shows have a different personality every time that I tour. I don’t want to see an artist duplicate his presence every time I see it. There are a few artists who can carry a show sheerly on their real persona repeatedly, but there comes a point where you want some new information, as much as you love them. That’s true with anybody—the stones or whoever. There is a point where you think, Yeah, I know that jump, I know that lick.

September 1995 on motivation

BOWIE: I need friction. Also, I adore a sense of competition. I really like to see or hear somebody’s work and say, “I can top that.” It makes me work in a far grittier, more muscular way. In the ‘80s, I couldn’t look at Paula Abdul or Kylie Minogue and say, “I can do better than that.” I didn’t give a fuck. I can’t write if I’m not with people or in a place that really gives me grist for the mill. I need people to throw things back and question my opinions and premise of life. It makes me really respond. There’ve been moments living in Berlin and in New York when I’ve felt all that. Bells go off and you’re alive and everything’s tingling. And I’m feeling that now about London.