One of the most prominent rock and pop music personalities, musician, producer, songwriter, painter and actor, David Bowie left the world after an 18-month battle with cancer. Just two days before his death he released a new album “Blackstar”.
David Bowie, whose real name was David Robert Jones, was born in 1947 in Brixton, England. When he was 19 years old, he refused his real last name due to its similarity to Davy Jones (the lead singer of at that time popular band The Monkees). This is how David Bowie as one of the incarnations of David Jones was born.
In 1967 his debut album “David Bowie” was released. Although his debut was not that successful, two years later, another album of Bowie was released, which contained a well-known single “Space Oddity”. This song was possibly inspired by the British space program that failed, while others consider it as a peculiar criticism or an ironic mockery of Apollo 11 mission, which started only 9 days after the single’s release. The lyrics of this song tell a story of an astronaut Tom, who stays to die alone in the space when the spaceship broke down. This ballad influenced by folk and progressive rock was the first David Bowie’s first step to becoming a legend. The following year David Bowie released “The Man Who Sold the World”, the last album of his first trilogy that helped him to expand his audience.
And then everything changed in 1971. David Bowie released his first ‘real’ album, which showed the world Bowie’s style, his uniqueness, new musical direction and glam rock – a genre, the singer was inseparable from, despite the variations of style during his amazing 5 decades-long career. Beginning with a surrealistic “Life on Mars” and ending with tribute songs to Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Bowie’s album played mainly by piano and guitar keeps the attention till the end and prepares the listener for the next stage of Bowie.
After the successful year, in 1972, for the first time ever, David Bowie performed as the alter ego Ziggy Stardust. In the beginning of the year, together with a backing band The Spiders from Mars, David Bowie appeared on stage with red hair, dressed in a skin tight bodysuit with a guitar in his hand. During the tour in the United Kingdom, David Bowie reached a great success that opened him the door to the US. In the same year the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” was released, it is considered to be the best one in Bowie’s history. The collection of 16 songs tells the story of a rock star Ziggy Stardust, who is used by unearthly creatures to convey a message to the humankind. The whole album is just genial, beginning with the apocalyptic song “Five Years”, which end in chanting that only 5 years left till the world ends, ending with a dramatic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide“, in which the life of Ziggy ends because of his wild lifestyle. Moreover, in 1972 David Bowie contributed to Lou Reed’s studio masterpiece “Transformer” – together with Mick Ranson he produced the album and performed the back vocals.
The 70’s were probably the most productive years for this musician – in addition to the previously mentioned albums, “Aladdin Sane” was released. Having the same name as the album, one more character with an iconic lightning bolt on his face, was born. However, this incarnation was not the last, it was followed by no less iconic alter ego Halloween Jack with an eye patch and a classic Thin White Duke, representing David Bowie’s transition to funk.
During this decade, David Bowie revealed himself as an actor. Even though he appeared in several small movies before 1976, “The Man who Fell to Earth” directed by Nicolas Roeg brought Bowie Saturn Award for Best Actor. Throughout his lifetime, he played approximately 30 roles in various movies, but the majority of them were background and supporting roles. An exception could be the famous “Labyrinth” (film director Jim Henson, 1986), the movie in which David Bowie appears with his legendary long hair and leather trousers.
People were always interested not only in Bowie’s music, his personal life, as being passionate and wild as well as depressive, was also interesting to them. His sexual orientation was discussed a lot, but the musician spoke ambiguously about his bisexuality. He admitted this as much as later he denied. His first marriage with Angela Barnett lasted for 10 years, David and Angie have a son Duncan Jones, who is now a famous director. Once he was born, David wrote a song called “Kooks” for him (by the way, this song inspired the popular British band “The Kooks”). There are still rumours about the intimate relationship between David and the leader of The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger. Later on, in 1992 the musician married a supermodel Iman.
In the 80’s, Bowie in a few interviews mentioned that fascism is the only governmental system that actually works and he called Adolf Hitler the first rock star. Afterwards, he renounced these words and put the blame on drugs – at that time, he was mired in drugs that much that many people from his environment actually thought that he went crazy.
At the end of 80’s, Bowie changed his music even more by incorporating some electronic music elements. In partnership with Brian Eno, he released his trilogy of Berlin. The most popular album of this trilogy is “Heroes” released in 1977, containing a single with the same title, in which a legendary progressive rock band’s King Crimo guitarist Robert Fripp plays his guitar.
The song “Under Pressure” recorder in 1981 together with Queen and the album “Let’s Dance” released several years later, marking Bowie’s transition to even more popular dance music, restored his popularity.
In the tenth decade Bowie’s popularity subsided, his electronic music was not that attractive to his listeners. The unsuccessful tour with Nine Inch Nails, since the audience left right after the performance of NIN, furthermore, strange music tracks influenced by drum and bass in his album “Earthling”, in addition to this, his refusal to play his old hits live, all these things had a negative influence on his career. The album called “Reality” released in 2003 seemed to fix the issues, however, 3 years later Bowie withdrew from the musicindustry. No performances, no concerts, no new songs, only some recordings of old concerts were left.
When it really seemed that David Bowie had retired, his new album “The Next Day”, without any official announcements, interviews or advertisements, was released and David Bowie in one day got his popularity back. Everyone, including critics and his fans adored the new album, which took 3 years to be recorded – all the people, who worked on it were forced to sign a confidentiality agreements. As the producer Tony Visconti once said, he was strolling around the streets of New York during the breaks between the studio recording sessions listening to the new album “The Next Day” through his headphones, looking at those people with Bowie T-shirts and thinking ‘if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment’.
Although there were no live performances by David Bowie, his fans got another present, on his birthday, not long ago he released a new album “Blackstar”. Bowie looked as far from rock music as possible when searching for an inspiration, the main sources of his inspiration were a hip-hop singer Kendrick Lamar (last year he released a great album called “To Pimp a Butterfly”) and the band Death Grips.
On the 10th of January David Bowie died.
He passed away after the year and a half battle with cancer, leaving us a huge amount of music, movies and history of himself. He was a musician, whose name and music is everywhere the past few days. Bowie is worth it. He is a songwriter, who inspired thousands of musicians. He showed the world that it is possible to be accepted despite the strange oddities. He is a person, who proved that phoenixes exist. He is the legend, who can be described in his own words: chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature (his song “The Bewlay Brothers”, 1971).