By Photographer: Photobra|Adam BielawskiDerivative work: Y2kcrazyjoker4 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

By Photographer: Photobra|Adam BielawskiDerivative work: Y2kcrazyjoker4 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Reflections on David Bowie’s thoughts about religion and its influence on his music; Religious leaders and musicians react to his death.

British musician David Bowie passed away due to cancer at 69 last Sunday. And as the news of his demise quickly spread, not only his solid music fans grieved but a lot of church leaders from different religions expressed how they admired the artist as well.

One of the most trending tweets is that of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Vatican’s Council for Culture. On Monday, the Cardinal who became fond of Bowie’s works quoted the lyrics of the artist’s 1969 hit “Space Oddity”:  “Ground Control to Major Tom commencing countdown, engines on, check ignition and may God's love be with you.

In 2013, astronaut Chris Hadfeld covered “Space Oddity,” discussing the song and his thoughts on religion and spirituality with Terry Gross of NPR.

A lot of Bowie fans were pleased and have interacted with the Cardinal’s final salute to the musician. One even asked the Cardinal as to when the canonization of Bowie will commence explaining that “We have the miracles, just listen to his records.”

In an interview with the BBC, Archbishop Justin Welby of the Canterbury Anglican Communion remembered he would regularly contemplate on Bowie’s music “I’m very, very saddened to hear of his death. I remember sitting listening to his songs endlessly… and always really relishing what he was, what he did, the impact he had.”

Greg Thornbury of the King’s College in New York also shared on social media that he is an avid fan. 

Looking into Bowie’s Religion and Spirituality

What made Bowie’s works so popular with religious and non-religious alike is that they usually tackle his thoughts and questions on life, religion, and spirituality. According to Bowie, his state of faith, spirituality, belief and even disbelief in a particular period of time often becomes the inspiration for a new music or album. As an example, his personal experience of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York made a profound meaning that eventually led to the creation of the album Heathen.

Bowie was not religious from the very beginning. But as he aged especially during his golden years, he became one of the most provocative artists in the music industry that questioned and became interested to the deeper meanings of life, of sexuality, religion, spirituality, etc. In an interview with TV host Ellen DeGeneres, he detailed how he jumped from one religion to another out of interest. As Bowie states:

“I was young, fancy free, and Tibetan Buddhism appealed to me at that time. I thought, ‘There’s salvation.’ It didn’t really work. Then I went through Nietzsche, Satanism, Christianity… pottery, and ended up singing. It’s been a long road.”


David Bowie Interview 2004 04 23 by ladygrinningsoul-rcz

But during the last few years of his life, most of Bowie’s questions haven’t been answered. He remains confused, somewhat agnostic, and confesses on nearly becoming an atheist. As he cites in another interview:

“I honestly believe that my initial questions haven’t changed at all. There are far fewer of them these days, but they’re really important. Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what I was writing. Always. It’s because I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me. There’s that little bit that holds on: Well, I’m almost an atheist. Give me a couple of months…

That’s the shock: All clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God–so do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are true… Hell, don’t pose me that one.”

“He made Blackstar for us”
Amazon Blackstar -January 8, 2016

Amazon Blackstar -January 8, 2016

Producer Tony Visconti described Bowie’s last album Blackstar as a “parting gift” to fans.

He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was…

Posted by Tony Visconti on Monday, January 11, 2016

The name “Lazarus” may be referring to a number of different figures in Christianity, including one who Jesus raised from the dead.

Getting a message that David Bowie thought a cover you did “was really good” was a massive career highlight, even if he…

Posted by Jason Bieler on Monday, January 11, 2016

A petition has even been started on Change.org addressed to “God or whom it may concern” implies that Bowie needs to be brought back from the dead.

According to Radio.com, the last Twitter account Bowie started following was “God” (@TheTweetOfGod).

God’s response:

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