David Bowie (1947-2016)

Entertainer. Performer. Musician. Legend.

The man himself. "We could be heroes..."

Who was David Bowie?

David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was a singer-songwriter and actor who was the face of popular media for over five decades. From the start of his early career to three days before his death, he was performing, writing, and recording music.

He also had a successful career as an actor, appearing in over 20 films.

How did he innovate?

In an age where the persona of musicians had to be considered "safe" and marketable, David Bowie went against the odds with his zany, androgynous appearance. He was instrumental in the glam-rock movement of the 1970s, combining hard rock that was popular in the time with artistic flair. Throughout his career, he would introduce persona characters, such as "Ziggy Stardust", the rockstar who communicated with aliens, and "The Thin White Duke", the carabet fascist romantic.

In the 70s, his output was more forward-thinking than pop music of the era. His music delt with science-fiction, the extra-terrestrial, the apocolaypse, sexual orientation, urban chaos, and mythology. This was a radical departure from popular music of the time, which dealt with more lenient subject matter, typically love songs.

His finest achievement in innovation, however, was the "Berlin trilogy" - the albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger. With these albums, he collaborated with famous musician and produer Brian Eno and took a step into the avant-garde. His efforts helped bring electronic music into the mainstream.

Glam Bowie
David Bowie's glam rock style was an innovative performance style that defined his early 70s career.

How successful was he?

David Bowie was extremely successful, critically and commercially. His record sales are estimated at 140 million records sold worldwide, making him one of the most successful musicians of all time. Among these come nine UK platinum album certifications, and five US platinum album certifications.

In addition, Bowie won two Grammy Awards and four Brit Awards. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013. In a BBC poll of the "100 Greatest Britons", David Bowie was ranked No. 29.

In total, David Bowie was nominated for 63 total awards ranging from his entire entertainment careers. Of these, he has won 25.

Bowie Star
Bowie's star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame after his death.

Quotes on David Bowie

"David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world."

Paul McCartney

"David would have an identity in mind. He’d know who the person singing it was, and their attitude. And when he was singing, he’d take the pose."

Brian Eno

"We all know how inspiring he is. We all know that his music stands. We don't have to say anything about the music: it speaks for itself. He was innovative, he was boundary-changing, and he danced to his own tune — which in any artist is really rare."

Elton John

"David Bowie had everything. He was intelligent, imaginative, brave, charismatic, cool, sexy and truly inspirational both visually and musically. He created such staggeringly brilliant work, yes, but so much of it and it was so good. There are great people who make great work but who else has left a mark like his? No one like him."

Kate Bush

"The experience of having him on set was wonderful. He had a level of charisma beyond what you normally experience, and everyone really responded to it."

Christopher Nolan

If you want to read more about David Bowie, check his official site or his Wikipedia page.

Timeline from Starman to Blackstar

1947 - Bowie is born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London.

1953 - Bowie becomes interested in music after his father brings him a collection of American records, ranging from artists such as Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.

1962 - Bowie suffers an injury in school, when his friend punches him in his left eye during a fight. This results in his characteristic heterochromia.

1964 - At age 17, Bowie releases his first record, a cover of Li'l Liza Jane. It will be the first of five chartless singles.

1967 - Bowie's first album is released, simply titled David Bowie. It fails to chart, and is considered by Bowie himself as a massive flop and an awful album. He also appears in his first acting role in an independent short film.

1969 - Bowie releases his second album, also called David Bowie, and his first successful single, "Space Oddity". It becomes successful and helps propel Bowie to mainstream success.

1970 - Bowie releases his third album, The Man Who Sold The World. He marries his first wife, Mary Angela Barnett, or Angie Bowie.

1971 - Bowie releases his first top 10 UK album, Hunky Dory, a classic that gains critical sucesss. His son, Duncan, is born. He would grow up to become a successful film director.

1972 - Bowie creates his "Ziggy Stardust" character, who features in his critical and commercial success, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

1973 - Aladdin Sane follows the succeeding year, and becomes Bowie's first No. 1 album. Pin Ups is also released this year.

1974 - "Plastic soul" becomes Bowie's newest kitsch. Diamond Dogs and Young Americans are his attempts to appeal to an American market.

1976 - Following a period of hard drug use, Bowie creates the controversial "Thin White Duke" character, who appears in his critically successful album, Station to Station. He also appears in his first major film in a lead role, The Man Who Fell to Earth, where he recieved a Saturn Award.

1977 - Bowie moves to West Berlin and collaborates with Brian Eno for his heavily influental "Berlin Trilogy" series of albums. Low and "Heroes" will be released this year, the latter's title track being one of Bowie's most famous hit songs.

1979 - Lodger is released to warm critical reception and poor commercial success.

1980 - Bowie breaks up with his wife, Angie. His next album, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), is a departure into the new wave sound that was getting popular at the time.

1981 - Queen ask Bowie to collaborate with them for their single, "Under Pressure". It becomes Bowie's third UK No. 1 single and propells him to international rockstar status.

1983 - Bowie collaborates with Chic frontman Nile Rodgers for his next album, Let's Dance. It becomes his best selling album of all time, and contains four top 10 singles. However, it becomes mixed critically, as it departures from his rock style to a more electronic, dance pop album.

1986 - Bowie appears in a major lead role as the protagonist of the Jim Henson film, Labyrinth. Although a box office bomb, it obtains a large cult following and is hailed as a cult classic.

1987 - Bowie released what he considers to be his worst album, the critical failure Never Let Me Down. Once again, it is a radical departure from his last couple of albums. He also launches a massive world tour, the "Glass Spider Tour", which is poorly recieved and criticised for being overblown and pretentious.

1988 - Bowie starts Tin Machine, a band, instead of becoming a solo artist. The band has a much more noticeable rock 'n' roll sound and becomes a success.

1992 - Bowie marries the Somali-American model Iman and moves to New York City, where he would live for most of this further career.

1993 - Bowie returns to releasing solo material and releases Black Tie White Noise. It is a commercial success and becomes a No. 1 album.

1996 - Bowie is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1998 - Bowie launches his own internet service provider, BowieNet, which provided exclusive Bowie-related content for subscribers. It closed in 2006.
2000 - Bowie plays in Glastonbury Festival for the first time in thirty years.

2006 - Bowie is awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his services. He also appears in the Academy Award-nominated film, The Prestige. He also performs his music for the last time on stage.

2013 - After a long hiatus, Bowie releases The Next Day. It becomes a surprise critical and commercial success.

2016 - Bowie releases Blackstar on his 69th birthday, which unbeknownst to the public, would be his last album and swan song, becoming hailed as one of his greatest albums. He dies only three days later of liver cancer.