Yep lists like this are usually 10-fold, but number 11 snuck in at the last minute, and who am I to keep such a magical man from partaking in this celebration of creativity, endeavour, and hard work?
We’re all looking for inspiration, be it from people, music, the theatre, film, or wherever else you can find a pool of creative loveliness. The list below is somewhat of a hybrid, mixing pure creative flare, bravery, endeavour, and ingenuity. Something for everyone!
The last 10 or so years have seen street art soar to quite incredible, and innovative, heights. What was once seen as plain and simple vandalism is now embraced by millions, and leading the charge is Bristol-born Banksy, real name (according to many) Robin Cunningham. This artist has marked himself out from the street art crowd thanks to his undisputed talent and the fact that, well, nobody knows who he is. He has taken advantage of people’s addiction to controversy and illusiveness, which has probably made him many more millions than any normal artist with the same amount of talent.
Banksy’s trademark is his ability to drift in and out of high profile locations without being seen, leaving behind his awe-inspiring stencil works. Banksy’s efforts can be found on walls all around the world, from Hollywood Boulevard and London Zoo, to sites in Jerusalem and Mali. What makes his pieces particularly inspirational is their reference to current events, be it the recent intensification of privacy invasion, or the senselessness of certain wars currently raging around the world. Such is the profile of Banksy, that any new piece of work is instant headline news. Not bad for a kid with some spray paint and no identity.
2) J.K. Rowling
Having started to write the Harry Potter books in her Edinburgh council flat, J.K. Rowling has now catapulted herself into the upper reaches of Britain’s writing elite. She has told of how creating Harry Potter provided her with an escape route from her life – “he was my hero”. This is a prime example of the ways in which creativity can manifest itself. It seems that, in the case of Rowling, her creativity stemmed from intense emotions and a desire to achieve something more, which she has certainly done.
Rowling transformed her life in the most dramatic of ways by simply delving into her own mind and pulling out an imagination-capturing character who, by using her talent, she was able to bring to life on the page. Millions of people, both old and young, have enjoyed her world of wonder and enchantment, and these books will surely go on to be timeless classics, read by countless generations for years to come – quite an achievement.
3) Salvador Dali
As mad as a box of frogs (in the best possible way), Salvador Dali was a surrealist painter who brought new meaning to the word ‘eccentric’. He was born 11 May, 1904 in Figures, Spain, and went on to have a hugely successful career which gave the world mind-boggling pieces including The Persistence of Memory, Swans Reflecting Elephants, and Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man. You could say he is the poster boy for creativity and its incredible power. His out-there take on every aspect of life continues to wow and inspire all who come into contact with his work.
In addition to his art, Dali has left behind an altogether different legacy of wacky wonder, including his surreal and lavish house in Portlligat, Girona which has been preserved exactly how it was left and is visited by scores of tourists every year. Walking around this property is truly like walking around in Dali’s mind, and for all kinds of reasons – none of which you can fathom – you want to stay for a very long time.
Dali also created his very own museum, which houses the majority of his original pieces, as well as his body (a completely expected kind of revelation given the man in question). It can be found in his home town of Figures, and is an example of the artist’s attitude. He meant for his work to be marvelled at by millions, not be tucked away in a stuffy room and seen by only a few people each day.
4) Ray Charles
Even for a man without any obstacles to overcome, the achievements of Ray Charles would be phenomenal, but considering that he did it all without the ability to see puts him on another level. Born September 23, 1930 in Georgia (a state that would later go on to inspire one of his most famous songs) Charles battled through a challenging childhood before finding solace in music.
As impressive as his achievements with a piano are, this artist did a lot more than bring soulful music to the world. In 1962, he famously boycotted his home state of Georgia until it embraced desegregation, and was fined as a result. He was also the first black artist to be given creative control by a record label, and his achievements did a great deal for the Civil Rights Movement. Among his most iconic songs are I Got a Woman, Hit the Road Jack, Georgia, and What’d I Say. He is an example of how an obstacle is only an obstacle if you allow it to be.
5) John Lennon
The lad from Liverpool who changed the world.
For those living under a rock for the last 50 years, John Lennon was one fourth of iconic rock and roll group The Beatles, before going on to have a hugely successful solo career which produced timeless classics including Jealous Guy and Imagine, the latter of which is thought by many to be the greatest song ever written.
As is the case with quite a few creative geniuses, Lennon had a far from ideal childhood, with the words of his song Mother summing it up perfectly – “Mother….you had me….but I never had you”. He was raised primarily by his aunt and uncle after his father left, and soon developed that famous scouse wit. It was his confidence and cockiness that shone during the early stages of Beatles mania; at a Royal Variety Performance he famously told “those in the cheap seats” to clap their hands, before instructing the ones “down front” to rattle their jewellery.
Never shy of controversy, Lennon alienated many by once saying that The Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus’, and while this didn’t go down too well in certain quarters, it is indicative of the carefree cheeky nature that summed up both The Beatles and Lennon himself. There is definitely no such thing as bad publicity.
In addition to his formidable accomplishments with a guitar around his neck, and later with piano keys at his fingertips, Lennon was a campaigner for peace, famously singing “all we are saying……is give peace a chance”. This scouser is a prime example of where you can get with a bit of cheek and a lot of talent.
Following his death, on December 8, 1980, Lennon was mourned by hundreds of millions across the world.
6) Nelson Mandela
On December 5, 2013, the world lost one of its brightest sons, although the hole that Nelson Mandela leaves will certainly be filled by his incredible legacy. Falsely imprisoned by his own people for 27 years, Mandela’s willingness to forgive his captors has shaped a modern-day philosophy which, while advocated by millions, is not embraced nearly as much as it should be. He saw the pointlessness of retaliation, and despised the thought of the vicious cycle that such retaliation would only serve to encourage.
Nelson Mandela was known for his wise and emotive insights, and below are just a few of his most inspiring quotes:
“Money won’t create success, freedom to make it will.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
“When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.”
7) Margaret Thatcher
Love her or hate her, you have to respect her. How on earth she managed to achieve what she did in the gender climate of the time is anybody’s guess. Even today women are fighting inequality, but somehow Margaret Thatcher managed, 37 years ago, to be elected leader of Great Britain, and to occupy that position for longer than any other person. That certainly seems like a source of inspiration to me.
Thatcher’s road to politics was not very politically themed at all, making what she went on to achieve even more astonishing. She graduated from Oxford University with a Second-Class Honours degree in Chemistry before changing her career path (not for the last time) and becoming a barrister. She was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959, and after a 5-year stint as the Secretary of State for Education and Science, she became Leader of the Opposition (Tories) in 1975, before going on to secure the position of Prime Minister in 1979.
Thatcher’s abrupt approach to the country’s troubles alienated many people, but the relevant part in terms of this article is how she managed to propel herself into a position to make those decisions in the first place – quite astonishing.
8) Mahatma Gandhi
Born in Porbandar in 1869, Mahatma Gandhi, was an advocate of peace and an utterer of inspirational quotes. After studying law at London’s Inner Template, he returned to his homeland with an intense thirst to change things for the better. Gandhi fought for his country’s independence by employing peaceful tactics, and is seen by many Indians as the ‘Father of the Nation’.
Gandhi’s innovative protest tactics have inspired millions around the world to stand up for what they believe in without resorting to violence. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, who shot him in the chest three times. His birthday, 2 October, is known as the International Day of Nonviolence.
9) Albert Einstein
Some people can do it all, and German-born Albert Einstein was certainly one of them. A theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and philosopher, Einstein’s contributions to science can be equalled by only a handful of men. He was even offered the job of Israeli president when Chaim Weizmann died, but turned it down – as you do.
The foundation of modern physics consists of two crucial pillars, namely quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. The latter of these was created by none other than Albert himself. He will also be remembered for his work on the photoelectric effect, which earned him his Nobel Prize in 1921.
Einstein, much like some of the others in this list, was partial to a quote or 20, and below are some of his most inspiring offerings:
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Einstein’s death at the age of 76 marked the end of an era which produced some of the world’s most exciting and influential scientific discoveries. Many of today’s ground-breaking work would not be possible without the endeavour of this man.
Full name Elvis Aaron Presley, not that it is ever used, the King of rock and roll is perhaps the world’s most iconic musician, with thousands of Elvis impersonators making a living from the legacy left behind by this charismatic and pioneering performer. He was born January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, and after receiving a $7 guitar for his 11th birthday, he began his journey to stardom.
Presley’s stature is even more impressive given the fact that he wrote none of his own songs. Instead, it was his ability to perform and captivate an audience that saw him stand out a mile from the crowd. That’s All Right, Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes are just a few of the hits which continue to please millions of music lovers around the world.
When Elvis died in 1977 from a sudden heart attack, the world of rock and roll lost perhaps its greatest ever performer.
11) Roald Dahl
The late entry, and someone who should have popped into my mind a lot sooner. I should hang my head in shame.
Born 13 September, 1916 in Cardiff, Roald Dahl served in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot and intelligence officer before turning his creative hand to literature. This innovative author wrote all of his stories in the same chair, in the same shed, at the end of his garden. Among the books for which he will be remembered are James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
For years, Dahl’s characters have danced around in the minds of young readers who are transfixed by the surreal yet comforting nature of his stories. His characters represent the power of imagination, and the joy that this power can bring. Another theme which is certainly addressed by Roald Dahl’s books is that of hardship, and more importantly how it can be overcome. He gave/gives children a place to escape to, and what a fun place it is.
If there is anyone you think should be on this list, feel free to leave a comment!