The rock icon David Bowie died peacefully yesterday surrounded by family after an 18-month bout with cancer. While his obituarists justly focus on his musical genius and his mastery of a broad range of musical genres, his political views deserve some attention.
Although Bowie mainly kept his political views to himself, there are indications that he harbored libertarian leanings. In a 1977 interview he stated:
I'm apolitical. The more I travel and the less sure I am about exactly which political philosophies are commendable. The more government systems I see, the less enticed I am to give my allegiance to any set of people, so it would be disastrous for me to adopt a definitive point of view, or to adopt a party of people and say 'these are my people'.
In 2000, Bowie was offered and refused the award of a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). In 2003 when he was offered the honor of a knighthood, he also turned it down, unlike fellow rock stars Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Paul McCartney.
In 2013, Bowie released the powerful, neo-psychedelic anti-war song, "I'd Rather Be High," about a shell-shocked soldier. Bowie's lyrics are deeply evocative of the natural human revulsion against war:
I'd rather be high
I'd rather be flying
I'd rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns on those men in the sand
I'd rather be high
The Thames was black, the tower dark
I flew to Cairo, find my regiment
City's full of generals
And generals full of s***
I stumble to the graveyard and I
Lay down by my parents . . .
Finally in his wonderfully ferocious critique of left-wing political correctness in Hollywood and the entertainment industry in his controversial 2014 Playboy interview, actor Gary Oldman identified David Bowie, a friend of thirty years, as one of the few who "speaks the truth in this culture."