David Bowie


David Bowie is an English musician, singer-songwriter, producer, actor and arranger. Bowie has been a major figure in the world of popular music for over four decades, and is renowned as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He is known for his distinctive voice as well as the intellectual depth and eclecticism of his work. Bowie demonstrates several traits that single him out as a song-writer of interest: narrative story-telling and characterisation, non-standard song structures, musical eclecticism and a variety of singing styles that have a wide vocal range and mixture of different tones and timbres to suit individual songs and stage personas. Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in July 1969, when his song "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie's impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture." The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation. In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. These so-called Berlin Trilogy albums all reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise. After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance, which yielded several hit singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. He has not toured since the 2003–04 Reality Tour and has not performed live since 2006. Bowie's latest studio album The Next Day was released in March 2013. 


Biographer David Buckley writes, "The essence of Bowie's contribution to popular music can be found in his outstanding ability to analyse and select ideas from outside the mainstream —from art, literature, theatre and film— and to bring them inside, so that the currency of pop is constantly being changed." Buckley says, "Just one person took glam rock to new rarefied heights and invented character-playing in pop, marrying theatre and popular music in one seamless, powerful whole." Bowie's career has also been punctuated by various roles in film and theatre productions, earning him some acclaim as an actor in his own right. Buckley says of Bowie: "His influence has been unique in popular culture; he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure." Bowie's innovative songs and stagecraft brought a new dimension to popular music in the early 1970s, strongly influencing both its immediate forms and its subsequent development. A pioneer of glam rock, David Bowie, according to music historians Schinder and Schwartz, has joint responsibility with Marc Bolan for creating the genre. At the same time, he inspired the punk rock music movement. While punk musicians trashed the conventions of pop stardom, Bowie moved on again into a more abstract style of music making that in turn became a transforming influence. David Buckley writes, "At a time when punk rock was noisily reclaiming the three-minute pop song in a show of public defiance, Bowie almost completely abandoned traditional rock instrumentation." Bowie's record company sought to convey his unique status in popular music with the slogan, "There is old wave, there is new wave, and there is Bowie..." Musicologist James Perone credits him with having "brought sophistication to rock music", and critical reviews frequently acknowledge the intellectual depth of his work and influence. Buckley writes that, in an early 1970s pop world that was "Bloated, self-important, leather-clad, self-satisfied... Bowie challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day." As described by John Peel, "Before Bowie came along, people didn't want too much change." Buckley says that Bowie "subverted the whole notion of what it was to be a rock star", with the result that "After Bowie there has been no other pop icon of his stature, because the pop world that produces these rock gods doesn't exist any more. ...The fierce partisanship of the cult of Bowie was also unique; its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom." Buckley concludes that "Bowie is both star and icon. The vast body of work he has produced... has created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture... His influence has been unique in popular culture." Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Through perpetual reinvention, he has seen his influence continue to broaden and extend: music reviewer Brad Filicky writes that over the decades, "Bowie has become known as a musical chameleon, changing and dictating trends as much as he has altered his style to fit, influencing fashion and pop culture." Biographer Thomas Forget adds, "Because he has succeeded in so many different styles of music, it is almost impossible to find a popular artist today that has not been influenced by David Bowie." In the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie was placed at number 29. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK, he has been awarded nine Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all time.


BIOGRAPHY
1947–62: Early life

David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London, on 8 January 1947. In 1953 his family moved to the suburb of Bromley, where two years later, Bowie progressed to Burnt Ash Junior School. His voice was considered "adequate" by the school choir, and his recorder playing judged to demonstrate above-average musical ability. At the age of nine, his dancing during the newly introduced music and movement classes was strikingly imaginative: teachers called his interpretations "vividly artistic" and his poise "astonishing" for a child. By the end of the following year he had taken up the ukulele and tea-chest bass and begun to participate in skiffle sessions with friends, and had started to play the piano; meanwhile his stage presentation of numbers by both Presley and Chuck Berry —complete with gyrations in tribute to the original artists— to his local Wolf Cub group was described as "mesmerizing... like someone from another planet." Later Bowie joined Bromley Technical High School. He studied art, music and design, including layout and typesetting. After Terry Burns, his half-brother, introduced him to modern jazz, his enthusiasm for players like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane led his mother to give him a plastic alto saxophone in 1961; he was soon receiving lessons from a local musician. Bowie received a serious injury at school in 1962 when his friend George Underwood punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. Doctors feared he would become blind in that eye. After a series of operations during a four-month hospitalisation, his doctors determined that the damage could not be fully repaired and Bowie was left with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil. The latter condition has misled some to believe that Bowie has different coloured eyes, when in reality both irises are the same blue colour. Despite their altercation, Underwood and Bowie remained good friends, and Underwood went on to create the artwork for Bowie's early albums.


1962–68: Early career


Graduating from his plastic saxophone to a real instrument in 1962, David Bowie formed his first band at the age of 15. Playing guitar-based rock and roll at local youth gatherings and weddings, The Konrads had a varying line-up of between four and eight members, Underwood among them. Later Bowie joined another band, the King Bees and Leslie Conn became Bowie's first personal manager. Their debut single, "Liza Jane", credited to Davie Jones and the King Bees, had no commercial success and Bowie joined the Manish Boys and soon moved on again to join the Lower Third, a blues trio strongly influenced by The Who. They did no better and Bowie moved to yet another group, the Buzz and also the Riot Squad; their recordings, which included a Bowie number and Velvet Underground material, went unreleased. Dissatisfied with his stage name as Davy (and Davie) Jones, which in the mid-1960s invited confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees, Bowie renamed himself after the 19th-century American frontiersman Jim Bowie and the knife he had popularised. His April 1967 solo single, "The Laughing Gnome", using speeded-up thus high-pitched vocals, failed to chart. Released six weeks later, his album debut, David Bowie, an amalgam of pop, psychedelia, and music hall, met the same fate. It was his last release for two years. Bowie's fascination with the bizarre was fuelled when he met dancer Lindsay Kemp. Kemp recalled, "I didn't really teach him to be a mime artiste but to be more of himself on the outside... I enabled him to free the angel and demon that he is on the inside." Studying the dramatic arts under Kemp, from avant-garde theatre and mime to commedia dell'arte, Bowie became immersed in the creation of personae to present to the world. The beginnings of his acting career predate his commercial breakthrough as a musician. Studying avant-garde theatre and mime under Lindsay Kemp, he was given the role of Cloud in Kemp's 1967 theatrical production Pierrot in Turquoise (later made into the 1970 television film The Looking Glass Murders). Meanwhile, the Bowie-penned "Over the Wall We Go" became a 1967 single for Oscar; another Bowie composition, "Silly Boy Blue", was released by Billy Fury the following year. After Kemp cast Bowie with Hermione Farthingale for a poetic minuet, the pair began dating; Playing acoustic guitar, she formed a group with Bowie and bassist John Hutchinson; between September 1968 and early 1969, when Bowie and Farthingale broke up, the trio gave a small number of concerts combining folk, Merseybeat, poetry and mime.


1969–73: From psychedelic folk to glam rock

Because of his lack of commercial success, David Bowie was forced to try to earn a living in different ways. He played a ghostly boy who emerges from a troubled artist's painting to haunt him, in the black-and-white short film The Image (1969). The same year, the film of Leslie Thomas' 1966 comic novel The Virgin Soldiers, saw Bowie make a brief appearance as an extra. He featured in a commercial and Love You till Tuesday was a 30-minute film featuring performances from his repertoire that was intended as a vehicle to promote the singer. Although the film was not released until 1984, the filming sessions in January 1969 led to unexpected success when Bowie told the producers, "That film of yours; I've got a new song for it." He then demoed the song that provided his commercial breakthrough. "Space Oddity" was released on 11 July, five days ahead of the Apollo 11 launch, to become a UK top five hit. Bowie moved in with Mary Finnigan as her lodger and joined forces with Finnigan, Christina Ostrom and Barrie Jackson to run a folk club on Sunday nights at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham High Street. This soon morphed into the Beckenham Arts Lab, and became extremely popular. The Arts Lab hosted a free festival in a local park, later immortalised by Bowie in his song "Memory of a Free Festival". Bowie's second album, Space Oddity, followed in November 1969; originally issued in the UK as David Bowie, it caused some confusion with its predecessor of the same name, and the early US release was instead titled Man of Words/Man of Music. Featuring philosophical post-hippie lyrics on peace, love and morality, its acoustic folk rock occasionally fortified by harder rock, the album was not a commercial success at the time of its release.

Space Oddity

David Bowie met Angela Barnett in April 1969. They married within a year. Her impact on him was immediate, and her involvement in his career far-reaching, leaving manager Ken Pitt with limited influence. Having established himself as a solo artist with "Space Oddity", Bowie began to sense a lacking: "a full-time band for gigs and recording; people he could relate to personally". The shortcoming was underlined by his artistic rivalry with Marc Bolan, who was at the time acting as his session guitarist. A band was duly assembled. John Cambridge, a drummer Bowie met at the Arts Lab, was joined by Tony Visconti on bass and Mick Ronson on electric guitar. Known as The Hype, the bandmates created characters for themselves and wore elaborate costumes that prefigured the glam style of the Spiders from Mars. After a disastrous opening gig at the London Roundhouse, they reverted to a configuration presenting Bowie as a solo artist. Their initial studio work was marred by a heated disagreement between Bowie and Cambridge over the latter's drumming style. Cambridge summarily quit and was replaced by Mick 'Woody' Woodmansey. Not long after, in a move that resulted in years of litigation, at the conclusion of which Bowie was forced to pay Pitt compensation, the singer fired his manager, replacing him with Tony Defries. The studio sessions continued and resulted in Bowie's third album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970). Characterised by the heavy rock sound of his new backing band, it was a marked departure from the acoustic guitar and folk rock style established by Space Oddity. 

The Man Who Sold the World


To promote it in the US, Mercury Records financed a coast-to-coast publicity tour in which Bowie, between January and February 1971, was interviewed by radio stations and the media. Exploiting his androgynous appearance, the original cover of the UK version unveiled two months later depicted the singer wearing a dress; taking the garment with him, he wore it during interviews to mixed reactions. Rolling Stone's John Mendelsohn described him as "ravishing, almost disconcertingly reminiscent of Lauren Bacall". During the tour Bowie's observation of two seminal American proto-punk artists led him to develop a concept that eventually found form in the Ziggy Stardust character: a melding of the persona of Iggy Pop with the music of Lou Reed, producing "the ultimate pop idol". On his return to England he declared his intention to create a character "who looks like he's landed from Mars".


The Man Who Sold the World front cover

Hunky Dory (1971) found Visconti, Bowie's producer and bassist, supplanted in both roles, by Ken Scott and Trevor Bolder respectively. The album saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of "Space Oddity", with light fare such as "Kooks", a song written for David Bowie's son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones, born on 30 May. (His parents chose "his kooky name Zowie for the next 12 years, after the Greek word zoe, life.) Elsewhere, the album explored more serious themes, and found Bowie paying unusually direct homage to his influences with "Song for Bob Dylan", "Andy Warhol", and "Queen Bitch", a Velvet Underground pastiche. It was not a significant commercial success at the time but was ranked number 58 by voters on the All Time Top 1000 Albums list.

Changes


With his next venture, David Bowie, in the words of biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture". Dressed in a striking costume, his hair dyed red, Bowie created his androgynous alter egoZiggy Stardust. The stage show was launched with The Spiders from Mars -Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass and Woody Woodmansey on drums- at the TobyJug pub in Tolworth on 10 February 1972. The show was hugely popular, catapulting him to stardom as he toured the UK over the course of the next six months and creating, as described by Buckley, a "cult of Bowie" that was "unique; its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom."

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie & The Spiders from Mars

David Bowie & Mick Ronson
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), combining the hard rock elements of The Man Who Sold the World with the lighter experimental rock and pop of Hunky Dory, was released in June. "Starman", issued as an April single ahead of the album, was to cement David Bowie's UK breakthrough: both single and album charted rapidly following his July Top of the Pops performance of the song. The album, which remained in the chart for two years, was soon joined there by the 6-month-old Hunky Dory.

Starman


Ziggy Stardust

Suffragette City


At the same time the non-album single "John, I'm Only Dancing", and "All the Young Dudes", a song David wrote and produced for Mott the Hoople, became UK hits. The Ziggy Stardust Tour continued to the United States. Bowie contributed backing vocals to Lou Reed's 1972 solo breakthrough Transformer, co-producing the album with Mick Ronson. His own Aladdin Sane (1973) topped the UK chart, his first number one album. Described by Bowie as "Ziggy goes to America", it contained songs he wrote while travelling to and across the US during the earlier part of the Ziggy tour, which now continued to Japan to promote the new album. Aladdin Sane spawned the UK top five singles "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday".

David Bowie as Aladdin Sane

The Jean Genie



Aladdin Sane

David Bowie's love of acting led his total immersion in the characters he created for his music. "Offstage I'm a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It's probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David." With satisfaction came severe personal difficulties: acting the same role over an extended period, it became impossible for him to separate Ziggy Stardust —and later, the Thin White Duke— from his own character offstage. "Ziggy", Bowie said, "wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour... My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity." His later Ziggy shows, which included songs from both Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were ultra-theatrical affairs filled with shocking stage moments. Bowie toured and gave press conferences as Ziggy before a dramatic and abrupt on-stage "retirement" at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973. Footage from the final show was released the same year for the film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.



After breaking up The Spiders from Mars, Bowie attempted to move on from his Ziggy persona. His back catalogue was now highly sought: The Man Who Sold the World had been re-released in 1972 along with Space Oddity. "Life on Mars?", from the album Hunky Dory, was released in June 1973 as a single and made number three in the UK singles chart. 

Life on Mars?


Entering the same chart in September 1973, David Bowie's novelty record from 1967, "The Laughing Gnome", reached number six. Pin Ups, a collection of covers of his 1960s favourites, followed in October, producing a UK number three hit in "Sorrow" and itself peaking at number one, making David Bowie the best-selling act of 1973 in the UK. It brought the total number of Bowie albums currently in the UK chart to six.


1974–76: Soul, funk and the Thin White Duke

David Bowie moved to the US in 1974, initially staying in New York City before settling in Los Angeles. Diamond Dogs (1974), parts of which found him heading towards soul and funk, was the product of two distinct ideas: a musical based on a wild future in a post-apocalyptic city, and setting George Orwell's 1984 to music. The album went to number one in the UK, spawning the hits "Rebel Rebel" and "Diamond Dogs", and number five in the US. To promote it, David launched the Diamond Dogs Tour, visiting cities in North America between June and December 1974. Choreographed by Toni Basil, and lavishly produced with theatrical special effects, the high-budget stage production was filmed by Alan Yentob. The resulting documentary, Cracked Actor, featured a pasty and emaciated Bowie. The accompanying live album, David Live solidified Bowie's status as a superstar, charting at number two in the UK and number eight in the US. It also spawned a UK number ten hit in Bowie's cover of "Knock on Wood". After a break in Philadelphia, where Bowie recorded new material, the tour resumed with a new emphasis on soul.


Rebel Rebel


The fruit of the Philadelphia recording sessions was Young Americans (1975). Biographer Christopher Sandford writes, "Over the years, most British rockers had tried, one way or another, to become black-by-extension. Few had succeeded as Bowie did now." The album's sound, which the singer identified as "plastic soul", constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. Young Americans yielded Bowie's first US number one, "Fame", co-written with John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar, who contributed backing vocals, and Carlos Alomar. Lennon called Bowie's work "great, but it's just rock'n'roll with lipstick on". Earning the distinction of being one of the first white artists to appear on the US variety show Soul Train, Bowie mimed "Fame", as well as "Golden Years", his November single, that was offered to Elvis Presley to perform, but Presley declined it. Young Americans was a commercial success in both the US and the UK, and a re-issue of the 1969 single "Space Oddity" with "Velvet Goldmine" as a B-side,  became Bowie's first number one hit in the UK a few months after "Fame" achieved the same in the US.


Fame


Despite his by now well established superstardom, David, in the words of biographer Christopher Sandford, "for all his record sales (over a million copies of Ziggy Stardust alone), existed essentially on loose change." In 1975, in a move echoing Ken Pitt's acrimonious dismissal five years earlier, Bowie fired his manager. At the culmination of the ensuing months-long legal dispute, he watched, as described by Sandford, "millions of dollars of his future earnings being surrendered" in what were "uniquely generous terms for Defries". Michael Lippman, Bowie's lawyer during the negotiations, became his new manager; Lippman in turn was awarded substantial compensation when Bowie fired him the following year. Station to Station (1976) introduced a new Bowie persona, the Thin White Duke of its title track. 

David Bowie as the Thin White Duke

David Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Visually, the character was an extension of Thomas Jerome Newton, the extraterrestrial being from a dying planet, David portrayed in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth the same year (1976), directed by Nic Roeg. It was his first major film role and it earned him acclaim.

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth trailer


Developing the funk and soul of Young Americans, Station to Station also prefigured the synthesiser music of his next releases. Station to Station's January 1976 release was followed in February by a 3-and-a-half-month concert tour of Europe and North America. Featuring a starkly lit set, the Isolar–1976 Tour highlighted songs from the album, including the dramatic and lengthy title track, the ballads "Wild Is the Wind" and "Word on a Wing", and the funkier "TVC 15" and "Stay". The core band that coalesced around this album and tour —rhythm guitarist Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis— continued as a stable unit for the remainder of the 1970s. The tour was highly successful but mired in political controversy. Bowie was quoted in Stockholm as saying that "Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader", and was detained by customs on the Russian/Polish border for possessing Nazi paraphernalia. Matters came to a head in London in May in what became known as the "Victoria Station incident". Arriving in an open-top Mercedes convertible, the singer waved to the crowd in a gesture that some alleged was a Nazi salute, which was captured on camera and published in NME. Bowie said the photographer simply caught him in mid-wave. 


1976–79: The Berlin era

David Bowie moved to Switzerland in 1976, purchasing a chalet in the hills to the north of Lake Geneva. He took up painting, and produced a number of post-modernist pieces. When on tour, he took to sketching in a notebook, and photographing scenes for later reference. Visiting galleries in Geneva and the Brücke Museum in Berlin, David became, in the words of biographer Christopher Sandford, "a prolific producer and collector of contemporary art. ...Not only did he become a well-known patron of expressionist art, but also, locked in Clos des Mésanges, he began an intensive self-improvement course in classical music and literature, and started work on an autobiography". Before the end of 1976, Bowie's interest in the burgeoning German music scene prompted him to move to West Berlin to revitalise his career. Working with Brian Eno while sharing an apartment in Schöneberg with Iggy Pop, he began to focus on minimalist, ambient music for the first of three albums, co-produced with Tony Visconti, that became known as his Berlin Trilogy. During the same period, Iggy Pop, with Bowie as a co-writer and musician, completed his solo debut album The Idiot and its follow-up Lust for Life. Low (1977), partly influenced by the Krautrock sound of Kraftwerk and Neu!, evidenced a move away from narration in Bowie's songwriting to a more abstract musical form in which lyrics were sporadic and optional. It received considerable negative criticism upon its release, a release which RCA, anxious to maintain the established commercial momentum, did not welcome, and which David's ex-manager, Tony Defries, who still maintained a significant financial interest in the singer's affairs, tried to prevent. Despite these forebodings, Low yielded the UK number three single "Sound and Vision", and its own performance surpassed that of Station to Station in the UK chart, where it reached number two. Leading contemporary composer Philip Glass described Low as "a work of genius" in 1992, when he used it as the basis for his Symphony No. 1 "Low"; subsequently, Glass used Bowie's next album as the basis for his 1996 Symphony No. 4 "Heroes". Glass has praised Bowie's gift for creating "fairly complex pieces of music, masquerading as simple pieces". Echoing Low's minimalist, instrumental approach, the second of the trilogy, "Heroes" (1977), incorporated pop and rock to a greater extent, seeing Bowie joined by King Crimson's founder and guitarist Robert Fripp. Like Low, "Heroes" evinced the zeitgeist of the Cold War, symbolised by the divided city of Berlin. Incorporating ambient sounds from a variety of sources including white noise generators, synthesisers and koto, the album was another hit, reaching number three in the UK. Its title track, though only reaching number 24 in the UK singles chart, gained lasting popularity, and within months had been released in both German and French. Towards the end of the year, Bowie performed the song for Marc Bolan's television show Marc, and again two days later for Bing Crosby's televised Christmas special, when he joined Crosby in "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy", a version of "The Little Drummer Boy" with a new, contrapuntal verse. Five years later, the duet proved a worldwide seasonal hit, charting in the UK at number three on Christmas Day, 1982.

"Heroes"


After completing Low and "Heroes", Bowie spent much of 1978 on the Isolar II world tour, bringing the music of the first two Berlin Trilogy albums to almost a million people during 70 concerts in 12 countries. He was now in a healthy mental condition and the recordings from the tour made up the live album Stage, released the same year. The final piece in what Bowie called his "triptych", Lodger (1979), eschewed the minimalist, ambient nature of the other two, making a partial return to the drum- and guitar-based rock and pop of his pre-Berlin era. The result was a complex mixture of New Wave and World Music, in places incorporating Hejaz non-Western scales. Some tracks were composed using Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies cards: "Boys Keep Swinging" entailed band members swapping instruments, "Move On" used the chords from Bowie's early composition "All the Young Dudes" played backwards, and "Red Money" took backing tracks from "Sister Midnight", a piece previously composed with Iggy Pop. The album was recorded in Switzerland. Ahead of its release, RCA's Mel Ilberman stated, "It would be fair to call it Bowie's Sergeant Pepper... a concept album that portrays the Lodger as a homeless wanderer, shunned and victimized by life's pressures and technology." As described by biographer Christopher Sandford, "The record dashed such high hopes with dubious choices, and production that spelt the end of Bowie's partnership with Eno." Lodger reached number 4 in the UK and number 20 in the US, and yielded the UK hit singles "Boys Keep Swinging" and "DJ". Just a Gigolo (1979), an Anglo-German co-production directed by David Hemmings, saw Bowie in the lead role as Prussian officer Paul von Przygodski, who, returning from World War I, is discovered by a Baroness (Marlene Dietrich) and put into her Gigolo Stable. Towards the end of the year, Bowie and Angela initiated divorce proceedings, and after months of court battles the marriage was ended in early 1980.


1980–89: From superstar to megastar

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) produced the number one hit "Ashes to Ashes", featuring the textural work of guitar-synthesist Chuck Hammer and revisiting the character of Major Tom from "Space Oddity". The song gave international exposure to the underground New Romantic movement when Bowie visited the London club "Blitz" —the main New Romantic hangout— to recruit several of the regulars (including Steve Strange of the band Visage) to act in the accompanying video, renowned as one of the most innovative of all time. While Scary Monsters utilised principles established by the Berlin albums, it was considered by critics to be far more direct musically and lyrically. The album's hard rock edge included conspicuous guitar contributions from The Who's Pete Townshend, Robert Fripp, Chuck Hammer and Tom Verlaine. 


Ashes to Ashes


As "Ashes to Ashes" hit number one on the UK charts, David Bowie took the title role in the Broadway theatre production The Elephant Man opened on 24 September 1980. He undertook the role wearing no stage make-up, and earned high praise for his expressive performance. He played the part 157 times between 1980 and 1981. The same year, he made a cameo appearance in the German film Christiane F. The film's soundtrack album, which featured much material from David's Berlin Trilogy albums, was released  in 1981.

The Elephant Man


David Bowie paired with Queen in 1981 for a one-off single release, "Under Pressure". The duet was a hit, becoming David's third UK number one single. Bowie was given the lead role in the BBC's 1981 televised adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play Baal. Coinciding with its transmission, a five-track EP of songs from the play, recorded earlier in Berlin, was released as David Bowie in Bertolt Brecht's Baal. In March 1982, the month before Paul Schrader's film Cat People came out, Bowie's title song, "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", was released as a single, becoming a minor US hit and entering the UK top 30. 

Cat People


David Bowie starred in The Hunger (1983), a revisionist vampire film, with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. The same year, he played Major Jack Celliers, a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp, in Nagisa Oshima's film  Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, based on Laurens van der Post's novel The Seed and the Sower. In 1983, he also had a cameo in Yellowbeard, a  pirate comedy created by Monty Python members.



David Bowie reached a new peak of popularity and commercial success in 1983 with Let's Dance. Co-produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers, the album went platinum in both the UK and the US. Its three singles became top twenty hits in both countries, where its title track reached number one. "Modern Love" and "China Girl" made number two in the UK, accompanied by a pair of acclaimed promotional videos that, as described by biographer David Buckley, "were totally absorbing and activated key archetypes in the pop world. 'Let's Dance', with its little narrative surrounding the young Aborigine couple, targeted 'youth', and 'China Girl' was sufficiently provocative to guarantee heavy rotation on MTV. By 1983, Bowie had emerged as one of the most important video artists of the day. Let's Dance was followed by the Serious Moonlight Tour, during which Bowie was accompanied by guitarist Earl Slick and backing vocalists Frank and George Simms. The world tour lasted six months and was extremely popular." Stevie Ray Vaughan was guest guitarist playing solo on "Let's Dance". Tonight (1984), another dance-oriented album, found Bowie collaborating with Tina Turner and, once again, Iggy Pop. It included a number of cover songs, among them the 1966 Beach Boys hit "God Only Knows". The album bore the transatlantic top ten hit "Blue Jean", itself the inspiration for a short film that won Bowie a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video, "Jazzin' for Blue Jean". Bowie performed at Wembley in 1985 for Live Aid, a multi-venue benefit concert for Ethiopian famine relief. During the event, the video for a fundraising single was premièred, Bowie's duet with Mick Jagger. "Dancing in the Street" quickly went to number one on release. The same year, Bowie worked with the Pat Metheny Group to record "This Is Not America" for the soundtrack of The Falcon and the Snowman. Released as a single, the song became a top 40 hit in the UK and US. David had a small part as Colin, the hitman in the 1985 film Into the Night and he declined to play the villain Max Zorin in the James Bond film A View to a Kill (1985).

This Is Not America


Absolute Beginners (1986), a rock musical based on Colin MacInnes's 1959 novel about London life, featured David's music and presented him in a minor acting role. It was poorly received by critics, but Bowie's theme song rose to number two in the UK charts. 

Absolute Beginners


David Bowie also appeared as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the 1986 Jim Henson film Labyrinth, for which he wrote five songs.  

David Bowie in Labyrinth

David's final solo album of the decade was 1987's Never Let Me Down, where he ditched the light sound of his previous two albums, instead offering harder rock with an industrial/techno dance edge. Peaking at number six in the UK, the album yielded the hits "Day-In, Day-Out" (his 60th single), "Time Will Crawl", and "Never Let Me Down". Bowie later described it as his "nadir", calling it "an awful album". Supporting Never Let Me Down, and preceded by nine promotional press shows, the 86-concert Glass Spider Tour commenced on 30 May. Bowie's backing band included Peter Frampton on lead guitar. Critics maligned the tour as overproduced, saying it pandered to the current stadium rock trends in its special effects and dancing.

David Bowie on the Glass Spider Tour

David Bowie on the Glass Spider Tour

In 1988, David Bowie played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ.


1989–91: Tin Machine

Bowie shelved his solo career in 1989, retreating to the relative anonymity of band membership for the first time since the early 1970s. A hard-rocking quartet, Tin Machine came into being after David began to work experimentally with guitarist Reeves Gabrels. The line-up was completed by Tony and Hunt Sales, whom Bowie had known since the late 1970s for their contribution, on drums and bass respectively, to Iggy Pop's 1977 album Lust For Life. Though he intended Tin Machine to operate as a democracy, Bowie dominated, both in songwriting and in decision-making. The band's album debut, Tin Machine (1989), was initially popular, though its politicised lyrics did not find universal approval; EMI complained of "lyrics that preach" as well as "repetitive tunes" and "minimalist or no production". The album nevertheless reached number three in the UK. Tin Machine's first world tour was a commercial success, but there was growing reluctance —among fans and critics alike— to accept Bowie's presentation as merely a band member. A series of Tin Machine singles failed to chart, and David, after a disagreement with EMI, left the label. Like his audience and his critics, Bowie himself became increasingly disaffected with his role as just a member of a band. Tin Machine began work on a second album, but Bowie put the venture on hold and made a return to solo work. Performing his early hits during the seven-month Sound+Vision Tour, he found commercial success and acclaim once again. Tin Machine resumed work, but their audience and critics, ultimately left disappointed by the first album, showed little interest in a second. Tin Machine toured again, but after the live album Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby failed commercially, the band drifted apart, and David, though he continued to collaborate with Gabrels, resumed his solo career. Bowie portrayed a disgruntled restaurant employee opposite Rosanna Arquette in The Linguini Incident film (1991) and the mysterious FBI agent Phillip Jeffries in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992).


1992–99: Electronic experimentation

In April 1992 David Bowie appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, following the Queen frontman's death the previous year. As well as performing "Heroes" and "All the Young Dudes", he was joined on "Under Pressure" by Annie Lennox, who took Mercury's vocal part. Four days later, David and Somali-born model Iman were married in Switzerland and they settled in New York. 1993 saw the release of Bowie's first solo offering since his Tin Machine departure, the soul, jazz and hip-hop influenced Black Tie White Noise. Making prominent use of electronic instruments, the album, which reunited Bowie with Let's Dance producer Nile Rodgers, confirmed David's return to popularity, hitting the number one spot on the UK charts and spawning three top 40 hits, including the top 10 song "Jump They Say". Bowie explored new directions on The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), a soundtrack album of incidental music composed for the TV series adaptation of Hanif Kureishi's novel. It contained some of the new elements introduced in Black Tie White Noise, and also signalled a move towards alternative rock. The album was a critical success but received a low-key release and only made number 87 in the UK charts. Reuniting Bowie with Eno, the quasi-industrial Outside (1995) was originally conceived as the first volume in a non-linear narrative of art and murder. Featuring characters from a short story written by David, the album achieved US and UK chart success, and yielded three top 40 UK singles. In a move that provoked mixed reaction from both fans and critics, Bowie chose Nine Inch Nails as his tour partner for the Outside Tour. Visiting cities in Europe and North America between September 1995 and February the following year, the tour saw the return of Gabrels as Bowie's guitarist. David Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 17 January 1996. He took a small but pivotal role as Andy Warhol in Basquiat, artist/director Julian Schnabel's 1996 biopic of Jean-Michel Basquiat. 


Incorporating experiments in British jungle and drum 'n' bass, Earthling (1997) was a critical and commercial success in the UK and the US, and two singles from the album became UK top 40 hits. Bowie's song "I'm Afraid of Americans" from the Paul Verhoeven film Showgirls was re-recorded for the album, and remixed by Trent Reznor for a single release. The heavy rotation of the accompanying video, also featuring Reznor, contributed to the song's 16-week stay in the US Billboard Hot 100. The Earthling Tour took in Europe and North America between June and November 1997.


Bowie reunited with Visconti in 1998 to record "(Safe in This) Sky Life" for The Rugrats Movie. Although the track was edited out of the final cut, it was later re-recorded and released as "Safe" on the B-side of David's 2002 single "Everyone Says 'Hi'". The reunion led to other collaborations including a limited-edition single release version of Placebo's track "Without You I'm Nothing", co-produced by Visconti, with Bowie's harmonised vocal added to the original recording. David co-starred in Giovanni Veronesi's Spaghetti Western Il Mio West (1998, released as Gunslinger's Revenge in the US in 2005) as the most feared gunfighter in the region.

Placebo ft. David Bowie-Without You I'm Nothing


1999–present

David Bowie created the soundtrack for Omikron, a 1999 computer game in which he and Iman also appeared as characters. Released the same year and containing re-recorded tracks from Omikron, his album 'Hours...' featured a song with lyrics by the winner of his "Cyber Song Contest" Internet competition, Alex Grant. Making extensive use of live instruments, the album was Bowie's exit from heavy electronica. Sessions for the planned album Toy, intended to feature new versions of some of David's earliest pieces as well as three new songs, commenced in 2000, but the album was never released. Bowie and Visconti continued their collaboration, producing a new album of completely original songs instead. Alexandria Zahra Jones, David and Iman's daughter, was born on 15 August. In October 2001, Bowie opened the Concert for New York City, a charity event to benefit the victims of the September 11 attacks, with a minimalist performance of Simon & Garfunkel's "America", followed by a full band performance of "Heroes". 2002 saw the release of Heathen and, during the second half of the year, the Heathen Tour. Taking in Europe and North America, the tour opened at London's annual Meltdown festival, for which David was that year appointed artistic director. Among the acts he selected for the festival were Philip Glass, Television and the Dandy Warhols. As well as songs from the new album, the tour featured material from Bowie's Low era. Reality (2003) followed, and its accompanying world tour, A Reality Tour, with an estimated attendance of 722,000, grossed more than any other in 2004. Onstage in Oslo, Norway, on 18 June, David was hit in the eye with a lollipop thrown by a fan; a week later he suffered chest pain while performing at the Hurricane Festival in Scheeßel, Germany. Originally thought to be a pinched nerve in his shoulder, the pain was later diagnosed as an acutely blocked coronary artery, requiring an emergency angioplasty in Hamburg. The remaining 14 dates of the tour were cancelled. Following recuperation from the heart attack, Bowie has reduced his musical output, making only one-off appearances on stage and in the studio. He sang in a duet of his 1972 song "Changes" with Butterfly Boucher for the 2004 animated film Shrek 2. During a relatively quiet 2005, he recorded the vocals for the song 
"(She Can) Do That", co-written with Brian Transeau, for the film Stealth. He returned to the stage on 8 September 2005, appearing with Arcade Fire for the US nationally televised event Fashion Rocks, and performed with the Canadian band for the second time a week later during the CMJ Music Marathon. He contributed backing vocals on TV on the Radio's song "Province" for their album Return to Cookie Mountain, made a commercial with Snoop Dogg for XM Satellite Radio, and joined with Lou Reed on Danish alt-rockers Kashmir's 2005 album No Balance Palace. David Bowie was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award on 8 February 2006. In April, he announced, "I'm taking a year off; no touring, no albums." He made a surprise guest appearance at David Gilmour's 29 May concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The event was recorded, and a selection of songs on which he had contributed joint vocals were subsequently released. He performed again in November, alongside Alicia Keys, at the Black Ball, a New York benefit event for Keep a Child Alive, a performance that marks the last time Bowie performed his music on stage. He portrayed physicist Nikola Tesla in the Christopher Nolan film, The Prestige (2006), which was about the bitter rivalry between two magicians in the late 19th century. 


David Bowie was chosen to curate the 2007 High Line Festival, selecting musicians and artists for the Manhattan event, and performed on Scarlett Johansson's 2008 album of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head. On the 40th anniversary of the July 1969 moon landing —and Bowie's accompanying commercial breakthrough with "Space Oddity"— EMI released the individual tracks from the original eight-track studio recording of the song, in a 2009 contest inviting members of the public to create a remix. A Reality Tour, a double album of live material from the 2003 concert tour, was released in January 2010. In late March 2011, Toy, Bowie's previously unreleased album from 2001, was leaked onto the internet, containing material used for Heathen and most of its single B-sides, as well as unheard new versions of his early back catalogue. On 8 January 2013, on his 66th birthday, his website announced a new album, to be titled The Next Day and scheduled for release 8 March for Australia, 12 March for the United States and 11 March for the rest of the world. Bowie's first studio album in a decade, The Next Day contains 14 songs plus 3 bonus tracks. Record producer Tony Visconti said 29 tracks were recorded for the album, some of which could appear on David's next record, which he might start work on later in 2013. The announcement was accompanied by the immediate release of a single, "Where Are We Now?", written and recorded by Bowie in New York and produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti. A music video for the single was released onto Vimeo the same day, directed by New York artist Tony Oursler. The single topped the UK iTunes Chart within hours of its release, and debuted in the UK Singles Chart at No. 6, his first single to enter the top 10 for two decades, (since "Jump They Say" in 1993). A second video, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", was released 25 February. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, it stars David Bowie and Tilda Swinton as a married couple. On 1 March, the album was made available to stream for free through iTunes. The Next Day debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, his first since Black Tie White Noise (1993), and is currently the fastest-selling album of 2013. The music video for the song "The Next Day" has created some controversy, initially being removed from YouTube for terms-of-service violation, then restored with a warning recommending viewing only by those 18 or over. According to The Times, Bowie has ruled out ever giving an interview again, with producer Visconti agreeing with the interviewer's suggestion that he is now Bowie's "voice on earth". Visconti also revealed to The Times that David has no intention of going on tour, noting that all "he wants to do is make records." An exhibition of Bowie artifacts was shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013. He was also featured in a cameo vocal, in the Arcade Fire song "Reflektor". A poll carried out by BBC History Magazine, in October 2013, named David Bowie as the best-dressed Briton in history.



DISCOGRAPHY

David Bowie (1967)
Space Oddity (1969)
The Man Who Sold the World (1970)
Hunky Dory (1971)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Aladdin Sane (1973)
Pin Ups (1973)
Diamond Dogs (1974)
Young Americans (1975)
Station to Station (1976)
Low (1977)
"Heroes" (1977)
Lodger (1979)
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
Let's Dance (1983)
Tonight (1984)
Labyrinth-Original Soundtrack (1986)
Never Let Me Down (1987)
Black Tie White Noise (1993)
The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)
Outside (1995)
Earthling (1997)
'Hours...' (1999)
Heathen (2002)
Reality (2003)
The Next Day (2013)


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