David Bowie


The singer that we know as David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in the Brixton area of London on January 8, 1947, the son of a working class family. He began playing music at age 12 when his parents bought him a saxophone and he performed in a series of small-time groups while in high school. After graduating from technical school with a degree in art in 1963, Jones formed his first serious group, Davie Jones and the King Bees. Their first and only single failed to gain much attention and Jones quickly moved on to the Manish Boys, but they didn't find any commercial success either.

By late 1965, Jones had adopted the stage name David Bowie to avoid confusion with London theatre star Davy Jones, who later became a member of the made-for-TV band, the Monkees. David said he chose the name because he had always admired "that American, bear hunting knife." The newly christened Bowie joined a Who-influenced R&B/rock group called the Lower Third, who managed to release one single before splitting up. Bowie then moved on to the Buzz, a post-mod band that packed it in at the end of 1966.

By this time, Bowie was a fairly well-known musician and songwriter on the London music scene and he was offered a solo deal with Deram Records. Deram released Bowie's debut album of folk-influenced pop in late 1967 which led to his signing as the opening act for the popular psychedelic band, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

When his career failed to flourish, Bowie decided to take some time off and spent several weeks in a Scottish Buddhist monastery. When he left, he studied with Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe, forming his own mime company called the Feathers in 1969. The Feathers were short-lived and later the same year, he formed the experimental art group, Beckenham Arts Lab.

Bowie needed to finance the Arts Lab, so he signed with Mercury Records that year and released "Man of Words, Man of Music", a trippy singer/songwriter album featuring a song called "Space Oddity", the saga of a stranded astronaut, inspired by the movie 2001. The song was released as a single and became a Top Ten hit in the U.K., convincing Bowie to concentrate on music. Hooking up with his old friend Marc Bolan, he began miming at some of Bolan's T. Rex concerts, eventually touring with Bolan, bassist/producer Tony Visconti, and guitarist Mick Ronson as a group called Hype. Meanwhile, Bowie married Angela Barnett, with whom he had a son, Zowie, the following year.

On his next release, 1971's "The Man Who Sold the World", Bowie came into his own stylistically, but the album's proto-glam guitars and over-the-top lyrics failed to win a wide audience, prompting Mercury to part ways with Bowie.

RCA Records, confident of Bowie's star potential, quickly signed the 24-year-old artist and released his next album, "Hunky Dory" in 1972. Hunky Dory featured a more refined "glam" sound copied from T. Rex and lyrics inspired by Bowie's wild time in New York City's underground art scene, where he partied with Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, and other cult figures. Thanks to the U.S. and U.K. Top 10 success of "Changes", Bowie became an international star, as famous for his campy cross-dressing and different colored eyes (the result of a schoolyard fight that left one pupil permanently enlarged) as for his dramatic sound.

Capitalizing on his sudden stardom, Bowie sealed his fame with 1972's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", a sci-fi concept album about a band from outer space. Backed by the Spiders from Mars -- Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey -- Bowie, as Ziggy, launched a now-legendary world tour, complete with outrageous costumes and outlandish sets. The tour propelled Ziggy Stardust (as well as his earlier albums) to the top of the charts. Ziggy Stardust was widely hailed by critics as one of the best, most influential albums of the decade; the title track became an international hit, while "John, I'm Only Dancing" reached No. 1 in the U.K. (It was not released as a single in the U.S. due to its suggestive lyrics.)

To cap off his most productive year ever, Bowie produced Lou Reed's 1972 hit "Transformer" and Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes", whose title track was written by Bowie. He also shocked the international music press by announcing that he was "gay" (Bowie is actually bisexual), becoming the first major rock star to openly discuss his homosexuality. In 1973, Bowie released his next opus, the punning "Aladdin Sane", then toured again as Ziggy Stardust. At a London concert in July 1973, Bowie shocked his fans -- and his own band -- by suddenly announcing that "not only is it the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do." With that, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars were no more. Later that year, Bowie distanced himself from his Ziggy Stardust character by releasing "Pin-Ups", a collection of covers of mid-'60s British hits meant as a tribute to his earliest years as an aspiring London musician.

After re-mixing Iggy Pop's 1973 classic "Raw Power", Bowie returned to his own work, recruiting a new backing band for 1974's "Diamond Dogs". The album featured a controversial shot of Bowie as a half-man/half-dog and presented a dark, theatrical vision of the future, loosely inspired by George Orwell's book, "1984". Thanks to the radio hit "Rebel Rebel", Diamond Dogs reached No. 5 in the United States. Bowie launched a massive tour, even more elaborate than the Ziggy Stardust outing; however, due to enormous production expenses, the tour lost money even though every night sold out. To commemorate the spectacle, Bowie recorded the double album, "David Live" at their Philadelphia performance.

Though some cuts on Diamond Dogs indicated that Bowie was drifting toward American soul, it was a Continental imitation of that genre, dubbed "plastic soul," which defined 1975's effort, "Young Americans". Its standout single, "Fame," an impromptu duet with John Lennon, became Bowie's first (and only) U.S. No. 1 hit. Shortly after the release of Young Americans, Bowie starred in the science-fiction movie "The Man Who Fell to Earth", recalling his Ziggy Stardust era persona, as well as his long-time fascination with outer space.

The constantly evolving Bowie changed his image yet again in 1976, dressing in a clean-cut, formal fashion and announcing that he admired Hitler and Nietzsche. In his elegant yet creepy "Thin White Duke" character, Bowie issued 1976's dark "Station to Station", which spawned the Top 10 single "Golden Years" and was supported by world tour with an odd 1930s German theatre motif.

Taking his obsession with Germany one step further, Bowie moved to the Neukoeln section of Berlin, where he began collaborating with aspiring producer Brian Eno, formerly the keyboard player for Roxy Music. Under the creative guidance of Eno -- now famous for his unusual studio techniques and innovative production style -- Bowie recorded 1977's "Low", an experimental mixture of standard rock and synthesizer-driven ambient music. Now widely praised by critics, "Low" was truly ahead of its time, confusing audiences who were expecting concise pop singles.

After helping Iggy Pop with his album "The Idiot" and playing piano for Pop on the supporting tour, Bowie returned to Berlin and recorded 1978's "Heroes" with Eno and former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Following an appearance in the film "Just a Gigolo" and the "Heroes" world tour, Bowie relocated to Switzerland. His 1979 release, "The Lodger", featured a reunion with Tony Visconti, who played bass on one track, while 1980's "Scary Monsters" produced the early MTV singles "Fashion" and "Ashes to Ashes."

In the early 1980s, Bowie put aside his various personas to deal with his own life and work on other artistic goals. Turning to acting, Bowie earned positive reviews for his lead role in the Broadway play The Elephant Man and starred in the vampire thriller The Hunger. After recording the hit single "Under Pressure" with Queen, Bowie announced he was giving up drugs and homosexuality, and leaving RCA for EMI.

He returned to music with a vengeance in 1983, releasing his most commercially successful album to date, "Let's Dance". Produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers, the album was, not surprisingly, full of funky, danceable rhythms and pop sensibilities, spawning the smash singles "Modern Love," "China Girl," "Let's Dance" and "Cat People." 1984's "Tonight" continued in the same vein, and featured the hit single "Loving the Alien" and the title track, a duet with Tina Turner.

Bowie capped his most public period with a high-profile appearance at the 1985 Live Aid festival, a starring role in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth and a supporting role in 1986's Absolute Beginners. During this time Bowie also recorded a cover version of Marvin Gaye's "Dancing in the Streets" with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Bowie's 1987 album, "Never Let Me Down Again", is best remembered for its epic support tour, the Glass Spider Tour, during which Peter Frampton was Bowie's backing guitarist. Bowie then released a greatest hits boxed set called "Sound and Vision" and followed it up with another world tour, cautioning his fans that it would be his final outing playing old material. It was a huge public relations success, prompting sales of his newly re-mastered albums to skyrocket.

To completely break with his past, Bowie formed a new band called Tin Machine, with American guitarist Reeves Gabrels and former Iggy Pop musicians Hunt Sales (bass) and Tony Sales (drums). The quartet recorded two albums of Pixies-influenced alternative rock, but never quite achieved mainstream success. Tin Machine broke up in 1992.

Retaining the talented Gabrels in his back-up group, Bowie resumed his solo career with 1993's "Black Tie, White Noise", produced by Nile Rodgers. The slightly jazzy, eclectic record featured an instrumental titled "The Wedding" -- a tribute to his new wife, a supermodel who simply goes by the name "Iman" -- as well as a cover of Cream's "I Feel Free," recorded with Mick Ronson. The success of Black Tie, White Noise coincided with the independent release of Bowie's first interactive CD-ROM project, "Jump".

Reuniting with producer Brian Eno, Bowie won back critics with his 1995 concept album "Outside", an industrial-tinged effort on which each song was written from the perspective of a different "outsider." In keeping with the theme of the album, it was supported by a U.S. tour with Nine Inch Nails and a European tour with Morrissey. Also in 1996, Bowie appeared as his late friend Andy Warhol in the feature film Basquiat. That July he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1997, David Bowie broke new ground yet again with the Internet-only release of his single "Telling Lies." A full-length album, "Earthling", followed shortly thereafter. The electronica-themed release received positive reviews from critics, demonstrating that after more than 30 years in music, Bowie still has his pulse on the modern scene.

In the fall of 1999, he released a new album for Virgin Records called "Hours" and promoted the effort by appearing as the musical guest on the season premiere of TV's "Saturday Night Live".

In December 2001, Bowie announced the launch of his own independent label, ISO, on which his first release came in June, 2002. The album was called "Heathen" and saw Bowie working with Tony Visconti for the first time in over two decades. The effort has been termed by rock critics as "rather respectable, a tasteful, pseudo-experimental sheen that's infinitely preferable to the screeching techno-rock that Bowie has so frequently inflicted upon himself of late."

2006 brought a host of good times when David Bowie received a lifetime achievement honor at the Grammy Awards. He was also scheduled to guest on Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, playing a character called Lord Royal Highness. He also played inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan's movie The Prestige.

In 2007, Bowie was chosen to curate the High Line Festival in New York, selecting musicians and artists for the event. He also 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 "Space Oddity", EMI released the individual tracks from the original studio recording of the song. "A Reality Tour", a double LP of live material from the 2003 concert tour, was released in January 2010. In late March, 2011, "Toy", Bowie's previously unreleased 2001 album, was leaked onto the internet, containing material used for "Heathen" and most of its single B-sides, as well as unheard versions of his early back catalogue.

Still maintaining a low profile, David declined an invitation to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

On January 8th, 2013, Bowie marked his 66th birthday by releasing his first new music in ten years, a single called "Where Are We Now?". He also announced plans for a new album, but said it would not be supported by a tour or 'live' shows. In mid-May, a new single, "The Next Day", was making news after it was pulled from YouTube, then quickly allowed back on. The religious-themed promo brought howls of protest by America's Catholic League and was branded "juvenile" by a former Archbishop of Canterbury. The song went on to be a global hit, reaching #1 in the UK and #2 in the US.

In February, 2014, a 67-year-old Bowie was named best British male at the annual Brit Awards in London. Now spending much of his time in New York, he did not attend the gala. The following July, Bowie hinted to those in attendance at a low-key event in London to celebrate 50 years of Bowie's music, that there will be "more music soon." The official announcement of that "more music" came in June, 2015 when Bowie announced the first in a series of box sets that showcase the highlights of his career. "Five Years 1969-1973" was slated for release on September 25th on CD, vinyl and digitally.

Bowie was in the news again in September, 2015 when the UK's Sky TV announced that he had penned the theme song for the six-part drama, The Last Panthers, about a real-life Balkan gang of diamond thieves. As far as more live shows are concerned, British concert promoter John Giddings has stated that Bowie has told him on several occasions, "I'm not touring." That news was tempered by an October 2015 announcement of a new album called "Blackstar" that would be released on January 8, 2016.

Fans around the world were shocked to learn that 69-year-old David Bowie had passed away on January 10, 2016 after a secret eighteen month battle with cancer. Survivors included his wife, Iman, whom Bowie married in 1992, his son, Duncan Jones, and daughter Alexandria. Twenty-four hours after his death, "Blackstar" shot to the top of the UK album chart with sales of over 43,000 units. Just days later, Bowie's albums made up 25% of the UK album chart and thirteen of his singles were in the Top 100. In total, Bowie sold 241,000 albums and 167,000 singles in less than a week, while his tunes were streamed more than 19 million times on services like Spotify and Apple Music, jumping by 2,822% following news of his passing. Parlophone Records announced that all of Bowie's albums released between 1969 to 1973 would get a vinyl re-release in February, 2016. In the first three months of 2016, Bowie had six albums in the UK Top 40, more than any other artist. They included "Blackstar" at #2, "Best Of Bowie" at #4 and "Nothing Has Changed - The Very Best Of" at #10.

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