What Investors Can Learn from David Bowie

Last night the world lost an iconic musician, as the inimitable David Bowie lost his 18-month battle with cancer. He was 69.

I was saddened by this news, as I grew up listening to David Bowie’s music and watching the many films he appeared in.

Bowie was one of those unique and innovative artists with a distinctive, yet ever-evolving vision. His outrageous costumes and makeup in the early 1970s nearly defined the glam-rock era. He influenced fashion, the visual arts, the character of live performances and even much of popular culture along the way.

I remember listening to his 1972 release, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” a concept album that I think is one of the best of its kind.

Yet despite the success Bowie had with his glam-rock concept style, he wasn’t content to just be complacent and rest on his artistic and financial laurels.

Instead, Bowie followed his own vision — innovating, challenging and creating his music according to his artistic principles.

It is this kind of approach to life that represents a lesson for us all.

Image Credit: www.davidbowie.com

One thing I really admired about Bowie is that he was constantly changing musical styles, and constantly shifting over the years to do something different.

For Bowie, it wasn’t enough to remain a genius in one confined area. Unlike the Ziggy Stardust project, 1975’s soul-infused “Young Americans” was almost a 180-degree about-face in the world of rock and roll.

Then just a few years later there were the dance/pop hits in 1983’s “Let’s Dance.” Whether you like David Bowie’s music isn’t the issue here. I liked most of it, but not all of it.

What I do like, and what I admire greatly, was his willingness to stretch out and try something innovative, unexpected and even dangerous in career terms.

Reflecting on Bowie’s life and career made me start thinking about a contrasting attitude and approach that so many people have when it comes to life’s choices.

Rather than following the unconventional and challenging path (the “uncommon wisdom” path, of sorts), most tend to remain confined in their own comfort zones. In fact, fear of change and fear of the unknown is something that operates as a sort of internal governor in most of us.

I don’t know too many people who would take the kind of artistic and/or career chances Bowie took. Of course, I also don’t know many people who have achieved the iconic success that Bowie did.


The way I see it, if you want to be different, or if you want to carve out your own successful niche in life, then doing things the way other people do is just not the way to get there.

Think of the iconic figures in so many important walks of life …

Artists (Picasso), writers (Ayn Rand), athletes (Michael Jordan), scientists (Isaac Newton), philosophers (Aristotle), fashion designers (Coco Chanel), business leaders (Steve Jobs), explorers (Edmund Hillary), warriors (Sun Tzu), etc. …

The one thing they all have in common is that they each created something unique and/or did something different.

I think it’s safe to say that these individuals were all innovators who followed the courage of their convictions, and acted in accordance with their principles and their goals.

And that is an example for all of us to admire.


One thing I learned today about David Bowie is that, in addition to his innovative music and artistic vision, he also was an innovator in the financial field.

A story in today’s MarketWatch described Bowie’s venture into Wall Street. This move was aimed at raising capital via a bond offering, and one of the first instances of so-called “celebrity bonds.”

According to MarketWatch:

In 1997 he [Bowie] introduced an unusual marriage between the rock scene and Wall Street: He issued bonds backed by future revenue of the 25 albums he had recorded before 1990, paying a generous 7.9% interest rate over 10 years. The bond issue earned Bowie $55 million, which he reportedly used to buy back songs from his catalog owned by his former manager.

Ultimately, the bonds were downgraded by Moody’s to near junk status. The ratings agency cited ” … lower than expected revenues generated by the assets due to weakness in sales for recorded music.”

Bowie’s financial venture is just another example of how he wasn’t afraid to embrace innovation, and to embrace the many changes life throws our way.

I guess that’s why it’s no surprise that one of his most-famous and beloved songs, “Changes” was such a big hit.

Just like the admonition in his lyrics, David Bowie lived what he preached — choosing to “turn and face the strange” in the pursuit of excellence.

I recommend we all do the same.


Let me know what you’re doing by leaving me a comment on our website or sending me an e-mail.


Stocks traded back and forth between gains and losses Monday, as bulls and bears battled for control of this battered market. The Nasdaq fell for the eighth-straight day. It hasn’t seen a losing streak this long since 2008. Meanwhile the Dow Industrials added 0.32%.

•  A bright spot on the Nasdaq today was Affymetrix (AFFX), a leader in genome analysis. Shares soared nearly 52% on news that Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) is planning a $14-per-share ($1.3 billion) buyout.

•  Oil dropped 5.3% today, making energy the worst-performing sector once again. WTI crude closed at $31.41 a barrel.

•  Airlines upgrade their Wi-Fi, and up their advertising ante. A new report by Guestlogix says airlines soon plan to sell theater tickets, theme park admission and other entertainment options to travelers. They also plan to pitch in-flight luxuries like food and cocktails based on flyers’ spending habits.

Good Luck and Happy Investing,

Brad Hoppmann


Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “What Investors Can Learn from David Bowie”

  1. I bought the “Spiders from Mars” album–okay, Ziggy Stardust and….before I knew what I was buying. His Mellotron work wasn’t up to the Moody Blues or Keith Emerson’s level of skill. The lyrics were solid. SRV played studio musician on “Let’s Dance”, but David was really an excellent guitarist, too. After a couple of years, I got used to his style and increasingly enjoyed much of his work. His work over such a length of time qualifies him to be named a True Artist. Too bad he had to battle cancer at the end. To Infinity and Beyond, Major Tom!

  2. Thank you for your very sensitive and loving tribute to one of the truly great and brave creative artists of our times. I’m certain most of us will miss his talent and future contributions to our culture, but continue to enjoy for years the pleasure of his legacy.

  3. Thank you for an insightful article on David Bowie. I enjoyed all his music and taught my kids how to appreciate all kinds and types of music. They are also saddened by his passing.
    His music bond idea was ahead of its time and a good idea.
    I, on the other hand, don’t quite understand most of the intracasies of investing and need additional assistance.
    Thank you again for your article.

  4. Brad,

    VERY nice article reflecting on David Bowie and his long creative and inventive career! He was certainly a paradigm changer and ever innovating with his artistry as an accomplished musician. As you say, there are parallels between his thinking out of the box as a musician and an investor thinking out of the box. The problem today, is many many people still remain in that box, mostly because of their lack of curiosity, lack of focus and lack of measured risk taking. Much of that, you might say, is by design as we have a generation of couch potatoes, that are just spectators in life. Many say this “dumbing down” of the population is by design as well in order for the Global Elites to roll out their One World or New World Order. The ability to understand how the elite think, plan, vision, create policy and implement policy and plans across the vast spectrum of finance, business, economics, academia, research and government. media, entertainment, intelligence, defense, healthcare etc.etc. is, unfortunately, thinking WAY TOO FAR out of the box.

  5. Hi Brad!
    I’m much older (87) than you, and I listened to classical music to both soothe and stimulate the soul and mind since I was 18 years old. So-called “rock music” is really noise pollution that basically activates the gonads and therefore is very physical, which is a serious global problem now as it’s tied to violence of various forms. Guns are a bad enough nightmare! Try meditating to rock “music”—-it’s impossible!!!

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Brad Hoppmann originally grew up in Florida, but has lived in Baltimore, Charlotte and New York as well throughout his career. Always an athlete, he played varsity football and water polo at the University of Florida and received All-SEC/SCC honors.