By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 12: Iconic British singer, artist and a friend of Tibet David Robert Jones known more prolifically as David Bowie passed away on Sunday, Jan.10 in New York after a battling cancer for more than a year. He was 69.
Bowie’s interest in Buddhism led to his association with the Tibetan cause that saw the rock star perform at fundraising events at the “Tibet House’ in New York in 2001 and on other occasions. Robert Thurman, President of the Tibet House, US wrote on his face book page, “Prayers & thoughts to Loved Ones of David Bowie: A Great Friend to Tibet, Dalai Lama & Tibet House US.” Rod Meade Sperry writing for LionsRoar.com mentions that the young Bowie’s “interest in Buddhism and Tibet grew until he was visiting the Tibet House in London up to four times a week.”
In his illustrious career in music spanning over five decades, Bowie released singles such as ‘Silly Blue Boy,’ believed to be inspired by Heinrich Harrer’s book ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and also as a tribute to his Buddhist teacher. The lyrics of the song has lines like “Mountains of Lhasa are feeling the rain’ and “Yak butter statues that melt in the sun”.
Another single he released ,‘Seven years in Tibet’, imbued sentiments of Tibetans under oppression with graphic lyrics such as “Are you ok? You are shot in the head. I am holding your brains.” In a 1997 radio interview, Bowie had this to say of the song, “Made me feel quite guilty that I’ve known about this situation [Tibetan issue] quite well and quite intimately for many, many years—that I hadn’t actually come out and made my stance on what I feel about it. So I guess that song [Seven Years in Tibet,] in a way was to make some kind of amends.”
“The subtext of the song is really some of the desperation and agony felt by young Tibetans who have had their families killed and themselves have been reduced to mere ciphers in their own country” he further noted of the song.
The singer and song writer of hits like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Major Tom,’ among others, studied Buddhism in the late 60’s and at one time almost became a Buddhist monk. “I was within a month of having my head shaven, taking my vows, and becoming a monk,” Bowie said of his close encounter to becoming a monk. He studied Buddhism with Tibetan masters Chogyam Trungpa and Chemi Tulku Rinpoche.
The personality labeled the “reinventor” died just two days after releasing his last album Blackstar; one of the songs ‘Lazarus’ begins with the words, "Look up here, I'm in Heaven!"