David Bowie

Summary

David Bowie (IPA: ˈdeɪ.vɪd ˈboʊ.i), pseudonym of David Robert Jones (London, 8 January 1947 – New York, 10 January 2016), was a British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actor.He is considered one of the most influential musical artists of the 20th century.

Bowie”s passion for music led him to learn to play the saxophone at a very young age. After forming bands, he went solo in the early 1970s, spanning five decades of rock music and earning a reputation for perfecting the glam rock genre.

Significant and fruitful were the collaborations with Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, veterans of glam rock of the early seventies, with whom he established a solid and deep friendship that lasted several years.

While not his main activities, Bowie also devoted himself to painting and film, working as an actor with directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Christopher Nolan. Among the various films in which he starred are The Man Who Fell to Earth, Furyo, Miriam Wakes at Midnight, Absolute Beginners, Labyrinth, Basquiat, The Prestige and My West.

With around 150 million albums sold in his lifetime, David Bowie is one of the best-selling artists of all time {{cite JodyThompsonSixty things about David Bowie. In: BBC News. 8. Januar 2007

In 2008 he was ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone”s list of the 100 best singers, which identified Life on Mars?, Space Oddity, Fame and “Heroes” as his best songs. In addition, 5 of his albums are included in the list of the 500 best albums according to Rolling Stone.

In 2019, Bowie was named “the greatest entertainer of the 20th century” via a poll conducted by BBC Two.

Childhood and Adolescence (1947-1961)

David Robert Jones was born in Brixton, a southern suburb of London, on January 8, 1947. His mother, Margaret Mary Burns, known as “Peggy”, was a cashier at a cinema, while his father, Haywood Stenton Jones, was an ex-soldier who had just returned from the front and later became the director of Bromley prison. At the age of six he and his family moved from their birthplace in 42 Stansfield Road to a new home in Bromley, another south London suburb, where he immediately began to show an interest in music from the United States: “When I was very young I saw my cousin dancing to Elvis” Hound Dog,” he later recounted, “and I had never seen her get up and wiggle like that to any other song. The power of that music just hit me so hard.” David began listening to records by Fats Domino and Little Richard while still in school and cultivated a growing interest in rhythm and blues, skiffle and rock ”n” roll, as well as other art forms. When a teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied that he wanted to be the British Elvis.

A key role in his musical education was played by his half-brother Terry Burns, born in 1937 from a previous relationship with his mother. “Terry was the beginning of it all for me,” David recounted years later, “he read a lot of beat writers and listened to jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy…while I was still in school, he was going downtown every Saturday night to hear jazz at different clubs…he was growing his hair out and, in his own way, was a rebel…. and confined in the psychiatric ward of Cane Hill Hospital in London from the seventies to 1985, when he took his own life throwing himself under a train, Terry would have inspired the singer in different circumstances as evidenced by the album The Man Who Sold the World in 1970 or songs like The Bewlay Brothers in 1971 and Jump They Say in 1993.

In 1958 David began singing as a choirboy in St. Mary”s Church, along with friends George Underwood and Geoffrey MacCormack, and the following year he received his first saxophone as a gift from his mother. Recommended by Terry began to take lessons from jazz saxophonist Ronnie Ross: “For me the saxophone represented the Beat Generation of the West Coast, that period of U.S. culture fascinated me a lot. That instrument became an emblem for me, a symbol of freedom.” Over the course of his career he would learn to play many instruments, showing more flair on rhythm guitar than solo.

Another formative experience in David”s musical education was his brief employment in the record store in Bromley, during which he became fascinated by the music of James Brown, Ray Charles and Jackie Wilson, at that time still little known in Europe. In 1960 he joined a group of students at Bromley Technical High School interested in art and his creative talents were encouraged by the progressive teacher Owen Frampton, father of guitarist Peter Frampton with whom he would later collaborate. Two years later the opportunity arose to join George Underwood in one of the school”s musical groups and David”s artistic adventure began.

The pre-Deram years (1962-1966)

In mid-1962 David and Underwood joined some students who had formed a group called The Kon-rads, which had been founded by Bromley Technical High School students Neville Wills and Dave Crook in early 1962; Underwood offered to sing for them and, in June brought David along to sing Joe Brown”s A Picture of You and help out with vocals for a cover of Hey! Baby by Bruce Channel. David began using his tenor sax and the Kon-rads had a revival. The first documented concert was held on June 16 at a school party. “The Kon-rads did covers of all the songs that made the charts,” David recounted 30 years later. “We were one of the best cover bands in the area and we worked a lot.”

At the end of the year Underwood left the band and was replaced by a new singer, Roger Ferris, while David Crook was replaced on drums by Dave Hadfield. The group”s ranks were augmented by the arrival of Rocky Shahan on bass, guitarist Alan Dodds and backing singers Christine and Stella Patton. “I originally came in as a saxophonist,” David said, “but then our singer Roger Ferris got beat up by some greasers at the Civic in Orpington, so I took up singing.” The Kon-rads played youth clubs, parish halls and even had a brown corduroy uniform. David began experimenting with his attitude on stage and introducing new ideas to make the band more “attractive,” changed the name to Dave Jay, inspired by the beat group Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, and also began composing songs of his own, some of which were added to the group”s repertoire that included songs like In the Mood, China Doll, and Sweet Little Sixteen. It was during this time that Underwood, during an argument at school over a girl named Carol Goldsmith, punched him in the left eye and the ring he wore on his finger caused chronic traumatic mydriasis. The result was the permanent dilation of the pupil, which would forever characterize his gaze and would leave him with an altered perception of depth and light (“when I drive I don”t see the cars coming towards me, I just see them getting bigger”, he would say in 1999). The most obvious result of that punch was that the pupil in his left eye remained perpetually dilated. Contrary to popular belief, the iris did not change color, although because of the paralyzed pupil, one may get the impression that the left eye is greenish, while the right eye remained blue.

In August 1963, Decca Records manager Eric Easton invited the Kon-rads for an audition after seeing them in concert in Orpington. On August 30, at Decca”s West Hampstead studios, the group decided to perform I Never Dreamed, a song David had written based on news of a plane crash. In addition to having written the lyrics of the song, the sixteen year old David appears as a backing vocalist and plays saxophone in what is considered his first known studio recording. In any case, the audition was not successful and contributed to his exit from the Kon-rads. Before long, Kon-rads became too limiting for David: “I wanted to go into rhythm and blues,” he later recounted, “but they didn”t agree. They wanted to limit themselves to the Top 20. So I left.”

After leaving Bromley Technical High School, David began working as an apprentice illustrator for the American advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. “I was a junior visualizer,” he would recount in 1993, “it was an important qualification but I was really just making collages. And I never really got a chance to prove myself because the agency was swarming with talent.” A positive side of that job was meeting Ian, a fellow John Lee Hooker fan: “I found a John Lee Hooker album and a Bob Dylan album in a store in Soho. I bought two copies of both and, since Ian had introduced me to John, I gave him Dylan”s album. I discovered these two artists in one day. It was something magical… ” The influence of the American bluesman”s music is evidenced by the name of the trio that David would form after the Kon-rads with George Underwood on guitar and harmonica and drummer Viv Andrews, The Hooker Brothers (although on occasion they went by other names such as The Bow Street Runners and Dave”s Reds & Blues). The band performed covers and earned some gigs at Peter Melkin”s Bromel Club and Ravensbourne College of Art, but it was short-lived and after a few gigs Andrews left. David and Underwood laid the foundations for the trio with which they would record their first record, the King Bees, a 45 rpm entitled Liza Jane. The name of the group was inspired by a song by bluesman Slim Harpo, I”m a King Bee. The other members, besides David and Underwood, were Roger Bluck, Dave “Frank” Howard and Bob Allen, guitar, bass and drums, respectively. “I don”t even remember what their names were,” he would confess in 1993, “they were from North London and were almost professionals. Pretty scary.” However, he and Underwood, as the latter confided, soon assumed control of the band: “We imposed our tastes on the others.”

In the spring of 1964 David got in touch with manager Leslie Conn, who got the King Bees an audition with Decca and the chance to record the single, as well as a gig at the Marquee Club and appearances on the BBC television programs Juke Box Jury and The Beat Room. Conn initially procured the King Bees a gig at Bloom”s wedding anniversary party in Soho. “It was all rather awkward,” David recounted years later. They had time to play Got My Mojo Working and Hoochie Coochie Man before Bloom yelled, “Get them off! They”re ruining my party!” Auditioning with Decca turned out to be more satisfying and a short time later allowed them to finally record Liza Jane. Thus, on June 5, 1964 Bowie”s first official 45 was released, albeit credited to Davie Jones with the King Bees, and the singer quit his job at the advertising agency. To promote the single, Conn got the band a series of appearances in various London clubs. David had the opportunity to make his first appearance at the Marquee Club, and in the BBC programs Juke Box Jury (June 6) and The Beat Room (June 27). However, the poor success of Liza Jane, which sold very few of the 3500 copies printed, decreed the end of his militancy in the group.

In August he joined the Manish Boys, already active for four years and considered at the forefront of the so-called Medway beat, and at the end of the year he gave his first television interview: accompanied by a flowing blond hair, in an attempt to gain publicity he claimed to have founded an association called “International League for the Protection of Animal Hair”. Already active for four years, Johnny Flux, Paul Rodriguez, Woolf Byrne, Johnny Watson, Mick White and Bob Solly were not exactly enthusiastic about the arrival of David, as Solly himself said in 2000 to the British monthly Record Collector: “At first we did not want, but Conn replied ”He has a record contract, he has just released a record and for you it could be an advantage””. David assumed a position of dominance and steered the group toward rhythm and blues. On August 18, the Chatham Standard announced, “another news item from the boys is that they are now accompanying Decca star Davie Jones, whose group, the King Bees, dropped him.” The following day David played for the first time with the Manish Boys at Eel-Pie Island, a famous jazz venue in Twickenham.

On October 6, the band made its first recording at Regent Sound Studios, where covers of Barbara Lewis” Hello Stranger, Gene Chandler”s Duke of Earl and Mickey & Sylvia”s Love is Strange were recorded. Although for the first piece it was considered the possibility of making a 45 rpm, none of the songs were published. A month later Bowie gave his first important television interview, although it had little to do with his music. Now accompanied by a flowing blond hair, in an attempt to get publicity the singer claimed to have founded an association called “International League for the Protection of Animal Hair”, and it was as “president” that he found himself interviewed by the novelist Leslie Thomas in the November 2 edition of the British newspapers Evening News and Star (the title of the article was “Who”s behind the bangs?”). On December 1, the group began a six-date tour in which they played as a support band for Gene Pitney, the Kinks, Marianne Faithfull, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. With the exception of Liza Jane and Last Night (written by the Manish Boys and used as the opening of the concerts) the sound of their performances was based mainly on American blues and soul ranging from James Brown, Ray Charles and the Yardbirds.

The Manish Boys” recording career took a turn in early 1965 when the group was noticed by U.S. producer Shel Talmy, known for arranging and producing The Kinks” You Really Got Me and, a little later, The Who”s debut album. As a result, on March 5, the band released the 45 rpm I Pity the Fool on Parlophone, to which the then unknown turner Jimmy Page contributed. However, the recording and mixing of the single did not meet with the approval of the other components and the final result displeased most of the group. When on March 8, Leslie Conn managed to get them a TV slot on the BBC for the program Gadzooks! It”s All Happening, David found himself involved in the second advertising campaign based on the length of his hair. The Daily Mirror published an article titled “War for David”s hair” and the following day the Daily Mail reported that the band had been kicked off the show and that David had stated, “I wouldn”t get a haircut if the Prime Minister asked me to, let alone for the BBC.” On the day of the broadcast, the Evening News published a photo of the most publicized pop singer of the week in the act of getting a haircut to participate in the program.

I Pity the Fool received no benefit from either the television appearance or the resulting publicity, and David parted ways with the group after an argument over the appearance of his name on the single (the song had been attributed simply to the Manish Boys although they had originally agreed to have it appear as the work of Davie Jones and the Manish Boys). Despite the failure of I Pity the Fool, the producer Shel Talmy managed to get a contract with Parlophone. In April David was already leading the Lower Third. The band, which came from Margate and was formed in 1963, needed new members after three of its members left and David auditioned at La Discotheque in Soho with Steve Marriott, who left immediately to form the Small Faces. In those days Bowie auditioned (especially at the Marquee Club) for other groups including the High Numbers, which soon exploded as the Who. On May 17, 1965, with a performance at the Grand Hotel in Littlestone, Davy Jones and the Lower Third was officially born, which included Denis “Tea-Cup” Taylor on guitar, Graham “Death” Rivens on bass and Les Mighall on drums (later replaced by Phil Lancaster). “I think I wanted it to be a rhythm and blues band,” Bowie said in 1983. “We were doing a lot of John Lee Hooker tunes and trying to adapt his stuff to the big beat, without much success. But back then it was fashionable: everybody was picking a blues musician…ours was Hooker.”

The group released on August 20 the single You”ve Got a Habit of Leaving, recorded at IBC Studios during a session in which they were put on tape, in addition to the B-side Baby Loves That Way, two other demos (listenable in the collection Early On of 1991): I”ll Follow You and Glad I”ve Got Nobody. The same day of the release of the single, Lower Third opened the Who concert at the Bournemouth Pavilion and David met for the first time Pete Townshend, another great source of inspiration for the English singer. Shortly after he left Leslie Conn for his first full-time manager, Ralph Horton. This 45 also proved to be a failure and David dumped Leslie Conn for his first full-time manager Ralph Horton, whose first decision was to oversee the transformation of the four long-haired teenagers: decked out in the latest fashion pants and Carnaby Street flower ties, he forced them into a mod-style haircut and encouraged the use of hairspray. This last novelty upset some members of the group but not David, who was already infatuated with the dandy image of the mods and their new spokesmen, the Who. Horton secured Lower Third a series of summer gigs, and the band began behaving like Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend”s group by smashing instruments at the end of performances. “We were known as the second most rowdy band in London,” Denis Taylor recounted years later. On August 31, Lower Third recorded a demo of two songs, Baby That”s a Promise and Silly Boy Blue, in which the influence of groups like the Kinks and Small Faces but also that of Motown r&b continued to be noted.

At this time the singer officially adopted the stage name “David Bowie”, to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees. He later recounted that he chose that name inspired by the hunting knives of the same name: “I wanted something that expressed a desire to cut short the lies and all that.” Apparently, the inspiration came to David after seeing the 1960 film The Battle of the Alamo, in which knife maker Jim Bowie was played by Richard Widmark.

Ralph Horton did not prove to be the Lower Third”s best purchase in terms of ability and financial capacity, so much so that it was he himself, aware of his own limitations, who contacted Kenneth Pitt, Manfred Mann”s manager (and Bob Dylan”s when he was on tour in Great Britain) and asked him to assist the Lower Third. Pitt refused, but advised David to change his name to avoid being confused with the Davy Jones who was becoming famous with the Monkees. A few days later, on September 17, 1965, David announced to the rest of the band that he would be called David Bowie from then on. Shortly after Bowie and the Lower Third secured a contract with Pye Records, which would soon produce their first record with producer Tony Hath.

On November 2, the band failed an audition for a BBC television program in which they played a rock version of Chim Chim Cheree (song from the movie Mary Poppins), Out of Sight (James Brown cover) and Baby That”s a Promise. “A cockney type, not particularly original, a singer with no personality who sings the wrong notes and out of tune,” was one of the committee”s lapidary comments about Bowie.

1965 ended with the recording of three songs at Pye Studios in Marble Arch: Now You”ve Met The London Boys (reworked and released a year later as The London Boys), and what would have been the A and B sides of the new 45: Can”t Help Thinking About Me and And I Say To Myself. On New Year”s Eve the group played with Arthur Brown in Paris and stayed there for a couple of days. The release of the single was imminent but the preferential treatment reserved for David during the advertising campaign was instrumental in creating a rift between him and the rest of the group. The knots came to the boil on January 29, 1966 at the Bromel Club in Bromley, when the Lower Third refused to play after learning from Horton that they would not be paid that night. The band”s dissolution left Bowie with only a single to promote and no band to accompany him. Despite some encouraging reviews, the album (the first published in the United States) was a flop like those that had preceded it, but aroused enough interest to earn the singer his first interview on Melody Maker, February 26, and participation in the program Ready Steady Go! of ITV, where March 4 performed the song accompanied by a new band, The Buzz.

David Bowie and the Buzz, namely John Hutchinson (guitar), Derek Fearnley (bass), John Eager (drums) and Derek Boyes (keyboards), had held the first of a series of live performances at Leicester University on February 10, 1966. About his meeting with Bowie, Hutchinson said years later, “I first met him after I had spent a year playing rhythm and blues with the Apaches in Gothenburg in 1965. I showed up for a very professional audition at the Marquee Club on Wardour Street, London, on a Saturday morning and it went well. I think David chose me because I was wearing Swedish clothes, a suede jacket, jeans and blue clogs, nobody in England had seen stuff like that until then and I think Bowie was impressed. I was also the best of the guitarists who showed up for the audition anyway!”

Three days after the television appearance on Ready, Steady, Go! the band recorded Do Anything You Say, which would be released as a 45 on April 1 and credited to David alone, thus avoiding the misunderstandings present in previous groups. “From day one,” said drummer John Eager, “we realized that we were actually David and his backing band.” Ralph Horton contacted Kenneth Pitt again, and in the meantime the band began a series of concerts at the Marquee Club, called the “Bowie Showboat,” which would be held on Sunday afternoons until June 12. After attending the second of these concerts Pitt officially became Bowie”s manager and Horton assumed the role of assistant and concert organizer.

On June 15, John Hutchinson decided to leave the Buzz due to non-payments, and in the following weeks Bowie was forced to play a couple of gigs without a guitarist before hiring former Anteeeks Billy Gray. In any case, producer Tony Hatch decided to exclude what was left of the band from recording the new single I Dig Everything, scheduled to be released the following month, and to use some turners. The 45 rpm was released on August 19 and proved to be yet another commercial failure despite some encouraging reviews in the specialized press, so that in September Tony Hatch and Pye released Bowie from his contract. The new manager managed to arouse the interest of Deram Records and producer Mike Vernon, with whom he would soon record his debut album simply titled David Bowie.

But in the Buzz things were not going well, especially for the new narrative direction in which Bowie”s songs moved. The group ceased to exist on December 2 after a concert in Shrewsbury, the same day Rubber Band was released, although Boyes, Fearnley, and Eager continued to participate in David Bowie”s recordings (and other songs not included on the album such as The Laughing Gnome) until February 1967.

At the end of the year, during the album sessions David also writes a song for the English actor and singer Paul Nicholas, to which he also contributes backing vocals. What in June 1967 will be the third single from Oscar (the stage name used by Nicholas) is titled Over the Wall We Go and talks in a joking tone about escaped convicts and incompetent policemen.

Space Oddity and early successes (1967-1969)

Increasingly oriented towards a solo career, in 1967 he was part of more formations for short periods and, with Riot Squad, recorded Little Toy Soldier, a sadomasochistic theme song with obvious references to Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground. The decadent vein of Lou Reed, however, gives way to an atmosphere of music hall enriched by shouting, coughing, creaking springs, explosions and other noises made by the sound engineer and future producer of Space Oddity, Gus Dudgeon.

In the following April came out the new 45 rpm, The Laughing Gnome, defined by Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray of New Musical Express “undoubtedly the most embarrassing example of Bowie”s iuvenalia”, and, by biographer David Buckley, “completely stupid, although perversely catchy”. Despite the lack of success of the single, in June 1967 he released his first album, David Bowie, which had little commercial success despite receiving some positive reviews. In the meantime, other tracks were recorded for Deram, but he refused to release them, also because of the poor sales of the album. The actor and mime Lindsay Kemp later said: “I listened to it until I wore it out”. In the fall of that year, Let Me Sleep Beside You and Karma Man were recorded. These too were not released by Deram, but the first of the two represented the beginning of one of Bowie”s fundamental collaborations, that with Tony Visconti, met in the studios of his publisher David Platz.

In this same period began his film experience with the participation in the short film by Michael Armstrong, The Image; talking again in 1983, Bowie described it as “underground avant-garde stuff in black and white, made by a certain guy … He wanted to make a movie about a painter who does a portrait of a teenager, but the portrait comes to life and, basically, turns out to be someone”s dead body. I don”t really remember the plot…it was terrible.”

After the performance of the new single Love You Till Tuesday in the Dutch television program Fanclub and the performance at the Stage Ball in London, dance for the charity organization British Heart Foundation, where he sang accompanied by the Bill Savill Orchestra, on December 18, 1967 he performed in a “BBC session” for the radio program Top Gear by John Peel, in which Bowie was accompanied by the sixteen elements of the orchestra of Arthur Greenslade. Then, on December 28, at the Oxford Playhouse, ended a first series of performances of the show Pierrot in Turquoise, based on a love triangle between Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin. The role of Cloud, played by Bowie, was that of a sort of character-narrator, whose constant changes were committed to delude and deceive the unfortunate protagonist. During the show he performed When I Live My Dream and Sell Me a Coat, along with three compositions written especially for the occasion (Threepenny Pierrot, Columbine and The Mirror), all accompanied on piano by Michael Garrett. The local Oxford Mail newspaper wrote, “David Bowie has composed some fascinating songs, which he sings in a splendid dreamy voice,” while finding that the show as a whole “only succeeds in hinting at the universal truths that Marcel Marceau manages to express.”

On February 27, 1968 Bowie traveled to Hamburg to record three songs for the ZDF network”s 4-3-2-1 Musik Für Junge Leute program. Upon his return, he recorded In the Heat of the Morning and London Bye Ta-Ta with Visconti, but Deram”s umpteenth refusal to release prompted the singer to leave the label for good.

In the spring, performances of Pierrot in Turquoise continued with some success at the Mercury Theatre and the Intimate Theater in London. Bowie then recorded a second session of songs at the BBC, followed by a concert at the Middle Earth Club in Covent Garden, where he supported T. Rex, and one at the Royal Festival Hall. In both appearances he performed the short mime piece Jetsun and the Eagle, which gave rise to Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud, inspired by the Tibetan cleric and poet Milarepa and recited with background music that included Silly Boy Blue.

After a fleeting appearance in The Pistol Shot, a BBC screenplay based on the life of Russian poet Pushkin, Bowie went to live with his partner Hermione in London”s South Kensington, and began to plan a one-man show designed specifically for the cabaret circuit, putting together a repertoire that alternated between his own songs (When I”m Five, Love You Till Tuesday, The Laughing Gnome, When I Live My Dream, Even a Fool Learns to Love) and Beatles covers such as Yellow Submarine and All You Need Is Love; In the summer he held two auditions to propose his show but both were unsuccessful. He then set up the acoustic trio Turquoise with Hermione and Tony Hill, former guitarist of Misunderstood, with a repertoire that included some of his most bizarre compositions, including the unreleased Ching-a-Ling and a selection of covers that represented Bowie”s first foray into the work of Jacques Brel.

Bowie”s first real concert was held on September 14 at the Roundhouse in London, after a few dates guitarist Tony Hill left and was replaced by John Hutchinson. Renamed Feathers, the group debuted on November 17 at the Country Club of Haverstock Hill. In addition to the songs, the members of the trio took turns in reciting poetry while Bowie interpreted his mime song The Mask.

While the two groups Slender Plenty and The Beatstalkers released the song Bowie had written the previous year, Silver Tree Top School for Boys, the last engagements of the year were both for German television: his second appearance on 4-3-2-1 Musik Für Junge Leute and his appearance on Für Jeden Etwas Musik, where Bowie acted out a mime piece and sang a song.

At the beginning of 1969 took place another important meeting for Bowie, the one with the nineteen years old American Mary Angela Barnett, who four months later became his partner and then his wife in March 1970; but the meeting with Barnett was mainly linked to the common frequentation of Calvin Mark Lee, European director of the A&R division of Mercury Records in New York, whom Bowie met already in 1967, at the meeting with the general manager Simon Hayes. According to biographers Peter and Leni Gillman, it also seems that Calvin Mark Lee was involved with the singer in a relationship that went beyond simple friendship and perhaps this was the “three-way relationship” to which Bowie referred many years later when he said, provocatively, in an interview to have met his future wife when “we both dated the same man”.

On January 22, Bowie recorded a commercial for Lyons Maid”s Luv ice cream, directed by Ridley Scott, and four days later began filming the video album Love You Till Tuesday. During this time he performed with John Hutchinson his first live performance of the year at the University of Sussex. He also participated in some dates of the Tyrannosaurus Rex tour, performing mime sequences, and tried unsuccessfully to audition for the musical Hair at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London.

In the same days Bowie and Hutchinson abandoned mime and poetry and concentrated on more sophisticated folk sounds, based on twin acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. They recorded a demo with ten acoustic pieces, which formed the basis for the new album.

Before the summer, the singer and his new partner, the Sunday Times journalist Mary Finnigan, founded a folk club at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham and began to organize weekly meetings attended by more and more people including intellectuals, poets, film students and other creative people. This new reality was baptized Growth.

On June 14 Bowie and Visconti were guests of the Strawbs in the program Colour Me Pop of the BBC and a few days later at Trident Studios in Soho began recording the new LP, where the sound engineer Dudgeon supervised the two tracks that constituted the first 45 rpm extracted from the album, Space Oddity and Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud. These sessions were an opportunity for Bowie to play with new musicians who later worked with him again: bassist Herbie Flowers, who would also play in the 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, and Rick Wakeman, who participated in the processing of the 1971 album, Hunky Dory, and Visconti himself.

After only three weeks from the recording and in time for the first Apollo 11 moon landing, the 45 Space Oddity was released on July 11, 1969 in two different versions, both in the UK and in the USA, with a good reception by the specialized press.

At the end of the month he went with Pitt to Valletta for the Malta Song Festival, where Bowie performed When I Live My Dream and the unreleased No-One; Someone, while a few days later there was his first performance in Italy in Monsummano Terme, for the International Record Award, where he won his first award for When I Live My Dream.

The recordings of the album continued throughout the summer and Visconti recruited for the occasion several other musicians and the guitarist of the Rats, Mick Ronson, who made his official debut with the English singer playing a short guitar solo in the middle section of Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud. In mid-August there was a free festival organized by Growth, Bowie”s artistic workshop, at Beckenham Recreation Ground, where the Strawbs also performed; there were about 3 000 participants and the event was immortalized in the song Memory of a Free Festival, although it seems that day Bowie”s mood was at odds with the nostalgic feelings expressed in the song, perhaps because of the death of his father, who died a few days before due to pneumonia. The Beckenham festival, however, represented Bowie”s departure from the hippie movement, disgusted by the mediocrity and indolence of many of its adherents, as well as the last act of the artistic laboratory Growth, attended mainly by apathetic spectators instead of active collaborators as it had set out.

At the end of August, after having recorded a version of Space Oddity for the Dutch television program Doebidoe, he managed to get Pitt to sign a contract with Mercury Records for a new record to be distributed in the UK by its affiliate Philips. The choice of producer initially fell on George Martin but then was chosen Tony Visconti.

After a live performance at Library Gardens in Bromley, in October he recorded his first participation in the BBC program Top of the Pops where he performed Space Oddity which, in the meantime, reached the 5th position in the British charts representing his first real success. This was followed by a recording at the BBC with Junior”s Eyes for the Dave Lee Travis Show. At the same time Bowie and Barnett moved to Beckenham in a building in Haddon Hall, which in later years became the unofficial recording studio, as well as a photo studio and common area for the entourage of the singer. During this period he performed the song of the moment, Space Oddity, on several occasions, including Swiss television”s Hits à gogo program and ZDF”s 4-3-2-1 Musik für Junge Leute.

In November began a first short Scottish tour that coincided with the release of his second album, distributed in the UK under the title David Bowie, the same title of the first LP, and in the U.S. as Man of WordsMan of Music; only in 1972 was reissued by RCA under the title Space Oddity, with which he was then forever known. The vinyl won the title of the most expensive record ever sold on the Discogs platform in 2016. Bowie, who performed a number of tracks from the new LP alternating with covers, did not yet have much live experience, and the few he did have were mainly limited to amplified rhythm and blues, so he was not ready for the cold reception given to his new acoustic style: “I didn”t realize what the audience was like at the time. There was a mod revival that had turned into the skinhead movement. They found me unbearable.”

In this period, after having his hair with a military cut due to his participation a few months earlier in the film The Virgin Soldiers in which he played the role of a soldier, he showed up with a messy curly perm, which he would continue to sport until the early seventies.

Towards the end of 1969 participated in a very successful concert at the Royal Festival Hall although the absence of journalists prevented the event to be known to the national press. Among the few who reviewed the concert was Tony Palmer of the Observer who called it “scorching” and said that Space Oddity was “spectacularly beautiful”, although other performances such as An Occasional Dream were defined by him as “gloomy, monotonous and full of self-pity”.

1969 ended with the recording of Ragazzo solo, ragazza sola, the Italian version of Space Oddity, albeit with lyrics not related to the original, and Hole in the Ground, which was performed at the benefit concert Save Rave ”69. Although the second album had proved a commercial failure, with sales in March 1970 just over 5 000 copies in the UK, Bowie was voted best new artist in a readers” poll of Music Now!, while Penny Valentine of Disc and Music Echo named Space Oddity album of the year.

The metamorphosis: from “folk” to “glam rock” (1970-1971)

Their first engagements in 1970 were the recording of The Looking Glass Murders, a television adaptation of Pierrot in Turquoise, which was filmed at the Gateway Theatre in Edinburgh, and the recording of The Prettiest Star, featuring Marc Bolan on lead guitar. The careers of the two future stars, both produced by Visconti, crossed several times during the seventies. Meanwhile, at a concert at the Marquee Club there was a new meeting with Mick Ronson, who became Bowie”s full-time guitarist, joining Visconti and Junior”s Eyes drummer John Cambridge. The new group was called Hype, short for hypocritical, Bowie”s irony about the hypocrisy that surrounded the alternative music world. “I deliberately chose that name because I wanted something that sounded a little strong, so now no one can say they were misled,” Bowie would tell Melody Maker. The new quartet debuted at the BBC sessions the following February. Shortly after the Hype made their concert debut at London”s Roundhouse, where, after months of personal experiments with costumes and makeup, the metamorphosis took place: Bowie forced the group to wear the extravagant clothes sewn by Visconti”s wife and girlfriend. Each member also assumed the identity of a comic book character, and Bowie, in multicolored lurex stockings, high boots and a blue cape, became “Rainbowman.” The concert is considered the birth of glam rock, but the public”s reception was cold; the members of the Hype themselves appeared skeptical, except for Bowie who seemed to have no doubts: “after that concert I stopped, I didn”t try other things because I knew it was good”, he told New Musical Express a few years later, “I knew what I wanted to do and I was sure that many others would have done it too. But I would have been the first.

Soon after Bowie returned to Scotland, guest of the program Cairngorm Ski Night on Grampian TV; accompanied by a large television orchestra he performed London Bye Ta-Ta and performed a dance number with Angela and Lindsay Kemp. Meanwhile Visconti and Ronson set up a recording studio in Haddon Hall, where much of the material of this period was made. Frequent visits to the studio were made by Terry Burns, Bowie”s half-brother who, although a voluntary resident at Cane Hill Hospital, often entertained with the group: these acquaintances had a fundamental influence on some compositions that ended up in the new album.

Subsequently was published the 45 rpm The Prettiest Star, a true declaration of love to Barnett, receiving considerable attention from British music magazines since it was released after the success of Space Oddity. The good reception of the press did not find a commercial response and the single did not exceed 800 copies sold. For the U.S. market Mercury Records preferred instead to focus on a new recording more concise and energetic Memory of a Free Festival, but the operation proved a failure.

On March 20, 1970 David Bowie and Angela Barnett were married in the town hall of Bromley, in an informal ceremony attended by a few friends and Bowie”s mother. Five days later the Hype recorded another session at the BBC for Andy Ferris” show, after which the band broke up and held their last concert at the Star Hotel in Croydon. During this time Angela worked hard to help David, for example liaising with promoters and general public relations, booking venues for her husband to perform in, controlling lighting and sound for the concerts etc. She would also contribute to the new image of the band and the new image of Hype. She would have also contributed to the new androgynous image of her husband advising him in the choice of costumes, hairstyles and attitudes to hold in public.

Bowie then continued to perform live as a soloist, offering mainly tracks from Space Oddity but also previews of the tracks that ended up in subsequent albums. In this period he also recorded the song remained unreleased Tired of my life, which according to some sources Bowie wrote when he was 16 years old, and was published The World of David Bowie, the first official collection containing tracks from the debut album and some unreleased tracks. From April 18 to May 22 at Trident Studios began the recording sessions of The Man Who Sold the World. Cambridge was replaced on drums by Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, Ronson”s former colleague in the Rats, while Visconti spent most of the sessions trying to stimulate the newlywed, fighting against his apparent apathy for the project. The group”s membership grew to five with the arrival of keyboardist Ralph Mace, a Philips Records executive who had become Bowie”s reference within the label earlier that year during the recording of The Prettiest Star.

Once the recordings were finished, Bowie”s activity slowed down and, unhappy with the direction Pitt tried to give to his work, he showed up with the young legal advisor Tony Defries at the manager”s house, who agreed to dissolve all professional obligations. The two parted amicably and Defries became the artist”s full-time manager. Pitt remained, however, one of the most influential figures of the early period of the English singer, with significant personal investments, although far less than the funds made available by Defries” colleague, Laurence Myers, with whom he had just created the Gem Music Group; the last engagement with Pitt was the ceremony of the Ivor Novello Awards, held May 10 at Talk Of the Town in London: Bowie sang Space Oddity and won an award. The song was performed with a large orchestral arrangement arranged by Paul Buckmaster and directed by Les Reed, and the performance was broadcast via satellite in Europe and the United States, while in England was broadcast only on the radio.

In the meantime, the success obtained the year before with the same song was exhausted and then in October Defries negotiated an offer with Chrysalis Records, managing to get an agreement and an advance of 5 000 pounds, while Bowie channeled his energies in a period of intensive writing. On November 4, 1970 The Man Who Sold the World was released in the United States and received a good reception from critics despite poor sales. Ronson”s hard rock guitar represented a noticeable change from the mainly folk and acoustic atmospheres of the previous album. The lyrics appeared more complex and less linear than in the past and the deeper themes addressed would be taken up in Bowie”s later works: sexual ambiguity, split personality, isolation, madness, false gurus, totalitarianism. Bowie soon thought about the next album. Bob Grace, general manager of Chrysalis, rented the London studios of Radio Luxembourg where the singer began to record new material, including the song Oh! You Pretty Things.

The following year was released the new 45 rpm, Holy Holy, despite the delay of six months from recording caused by contract negotiations. A few days later the song was performed in the program Six-O-One: Newsday of Granada TV, but without success. 1971 represented a crucial moment for Bowie”s career, in which Defries was fundamental to realize and promote the ideas born from the genius of the singer; the manager was radically revolutionizing the whole organization that had marked his career until then and convinced him to break the relationship with Tony Visconti, guilty of maintaining relations with Marc Bolan, who at that point contended Bowie the role of prima donna of glam rock. Visconti left and concentrated on the production of Marc Bolan and T. Rex, keeping the name Hype and hiring the singer of the Rats, Benny Marshall, who went to join Ronson and Woodmansey. He would resume his collaboration with Bowie in 1974, when the relationship between the singer and Defries was deteriorating.

In February Bowie faced his first trip to the United States for the short promotional tour of The Man Who Sold the World. Although his marriage to Angela had allowed him to obtain a green card, Bowie could not perform because of the union agreements of the American Federation of Musicians and the promotion was limited to personal appearances and a few interviews in Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In one of these interviews he announced to John Mendelsohn of Rolling Stone that he wanted to “introduce mime in a traditional Western setting, to attract the attention of the public with a series of very stylized, very Japanese movements.” On the same occasion he also declared that rock music “should be adorned like a prostitute, like a parody of itself, it should be a kind of clown, of Pierrot. The music is the mask that hides the message. The music is the Pierrot and I, the artist, am the message.”

After this brief American interlude Bowie returned to Trident Studios to complete the new album Hunky Dory, making new tracks including Changes and Life on Mars? Among the instrumentalists employed initially were some students of Dulwich who had given themselves the name Runk, including guitarist Mark Carr Pritchard, who was in the Arnold Corns, bassist Polak de Somogyl and drummer Ralph St. Laurent Broadbent. For subsequent recordings were taken into account other musicians with whom he had already collaborated in previous months including Terry Cox, the drummer of Space Oddity, and Tony Hill, who Bowie knew from 1968.

The album The Man Who Sold the World saw the light in Britain almost a year after the end of the recordings, but despite the favorable reviews, as had happened overseas, sales were disastrous. The contract that bound Bowie to Mercury was about to expire, but the company would still be willing to renew it for another album. The following month, record company representative Robin McBride arrived in London from Chicago to offer him a new three-year contract. Defries replied that if Mercury exercised their renewal option to have a new record, they would hand him “the biggest piece of crap they ever had,” informing him that under no circumstances would Bowie record another note with Mercury, who agreed to terminate the contract.

Bowie was preparing the material for the new album at a furious pace and called Ronson and Woodmansey, Ronson agreed and involved the bassist Trevor Bolder to replace Visconti. It began to outline the formation of the future Spiders from Mars.

The band moved to Haddon Hall to rehearse the new compositions and Bowie decided to use the upcoming BBC session on June 3 as a showcase for his renewed circle of musicians, including friends Dana Gillespie, George Underwood and Geoffrey Alexander, to perform some new songs including Kooks, composed for his son Zowie. On June 23 Bowie participated in the Glastonbury Fayre during which they performed, among others, Hawkwind, Traffic, Joan Baez and Pink Floyd. The previous night”s set list had been lengthened out of proportion and Bowie”s concert had been cancelled because the authorities had insisted on concluding the event by 10:30 p.m.; undaunted, Bowie began playing at 5 a.m. with some inconvenience that interrupted Oh! You Pretty Things and continued with six more tracks including Memory of a Free Festival.

The recording of Hunky Dory continued at Trident Studios throughout the summer, and in August Defries flew to New York with 500 promotional copies of a vinyl called BOWPROMO 1A11B1, featuring songs by Dana Gillespie on one side and some new Bowie recordings on the other, including Andy Warhol, Queen Bitch and the unreleased Bombers. After a few days the manager returned with a contract with RCA.

During the last phase of working on Hunky Dory appeared another crucial element for the future career of Bowie. In the summer of 1971 at the Roundhouse in London was staged the U.S. production entitled Pork, an adaptation of Andy Warhol of a collection of conversations recorded in the ambiguous environments of New York, which brought together the transvestite Wayne County, the uninhibited Geri Miller and Cherry Vanilla with Tony Zanetta in the part of Warhol himself. For the British public, Pork”s scenes of masturbation, homosexuality, drugs and abortions represented an unacceptable affront to good taste. The show received immense free publicity from the outraged comments of the press, while for Bowie the contact with Warhol”s bizarre represented a new turning point. This event and the meeting with the American artist that took place the following month contributed to the intuition of the fusion between music and staging, changing his look and exploiting the media to create the new rock-star image. His role on stage was no longer limited to that of singer-musician with a good use of body movements, but that of actor-musician.

Attracted by their brazenness, murky sexuality, New York street style and ties to Warhol, Bowie hastened to introduce the members of the new cast to Defries upon his return from the United States. When, in 1972, Defries left the Gem Music Group and founded MainMan Management, his wholly owned company with which he managed the enormous amount of business that Bowie would be able to move, some of the protagonists of Pork were hired and had prominent roles in the company.

Finished recording Hunky Dory, Bowie returned to America with Angela, Defries and Ronson to sign the new contract with RCA. As in his previous trip, Bowie was unable to play, but his stay allowed him to personally meet Warhol, to whom he played the song dedicated to him. As Bowie revealed in 1997, Warhol did not have a positive reaction: “I think he thought he was humiliated by the song or something and that really wasn”t my intention, it was an ironic tribute. He took it very badly but he liked my shoes…. I was wearing a pair that Marc Bolan had given me as a gift, a bright canary yellow, with a heel and a rounded toe, since Warhol also had the habit of designing shoes, we had something to talk about”. In the same days two other important encounters took place: Dennis Katz of RCA introduced him to Lou Reed in a restaurant and the same evening, at a party at Max”s Kansas City, he met Iggy Pop, an encounter that in the future would prove fundamental for the career of both.

Upon returning to Europe, Bowie”s commitments continued both live and in the studio, with the recordings of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which began on September 9 with a cover of It Ain”t Easy by American singer-songwriter Ron Davies. On September 21 there was a new session at the BBC for Sounds of the 70s with “Whispering” Bob Harris, in which Bowie and Ronson interpreted Amsterdam by Brel. Four days later there was the first live performance with the future Spiders from Mars, with the addition of Tom Parker on piano, at the Friars Club in Aylesbury.

On November 8 began the first real session that produced many of the tracks intended for the new album. Among them there were the new versions of Moonage Daydream and Hang On to Yourself, the famous Ziggy Stardust and Lady Stardust; the last two had already been recorded in an acoustic demo at Radio Luxembourg studios some months before. Among the discarded tracks there were Shadow Man, Sweet Head, Velvet Goldmine, a new version of Holy Holy and an interpretation of the song Around and Around by Chuck Berry, re-titled Round and Round.

Hunky Dory was released on December 17, 1971, when Bowie was already halfway through recording his next album and was working on another change of image and style. The new work saw a return to more folk sounds dominated by Rick Wakeman”s piano and Mick Ronson”s operatic arrangements and above all highlighted Bowie”s skill as a songwriter but, despite the brilliant reviews of the specialized press and the publication of the single Changes, the promotional campaign was inadequate and sales were poor. In the United States it stopped at position n. 93 of the Billboard 200 while in the United Kingdom we even had to wait for the release of Ziggy Stardust to see it in the charts. Hunky Dory was however considered over the years his first, authentic “classic” album.

The Ziggy Stardust era (1972-1973)

The real consecration came in 1972, with the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, in which he was accompanied by the eponymous band The Spiders from Mars and which contains most of his classics, which continued to be repeated in any of his concerts even thirty years later: from Starman to Moonage Daydream, from Rock ”n” Roll Suicide to Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity of which, also in the same year, Bowie performed a version in his first video clip, shot at RCA studios in New York.

Between 1972 and 1973, he toured a show where the real Bowie and the Ziggy Stardust character became blurred. Dressed in tight, colorful tights, flamboyant costumes and dyed fire-engine red hair, Bowie kicked off Ziggy”s first show in the intimate setting of Tolworth”s Toby Jug Pub on February 10, 1972. The show, later presented to larger audiences, finally catapulted Bowie into the British media spotlight over the next six months of touring, earning him enormous popularity and growing acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Throngs of young boys and girls flocked to his concerts, impressed by the unbridled, melodic glam rock and the attitude of sexual freedom that emanated from the ephebe Ziggy. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, combining the hard rock elements of The Man Who Sold the World with the more pop and experimental approach of Hunky Dory, was published in June 1972: it reached the fifth place in the UK and remained in the charts for about two years, pulling to success the previous Hunky Dory, now six months old, which returned in the charts. This success was due in large part to Bowie”s appearance at Top of the Pops, where he had presented the single (taken from the new album) Starman which also reached number ten in the charts. Within a few weeks was also released the single John, I”m Only Dancing, not contained in the album, and All the Young Dudes, a song written and produced for Mott the Hoople, which became hits in the UK. The Ziggy Stardust Tour continued in the United States of America.

During this period, Bowie contributed as producer and musician, along with Ronson, to the biggest commercial success of Lou Reed”s career, the album Transformer, considered a milestone of glam rock.

The next studio effort was the album Aladdin Sane, which became Bowie”s first album to reach the top of the British charts. Described by Bowie himself as “Ziggy Goes to America”, to emphasize the Americanization of the glam sound of the previous year, the album contains songs written during the journey across the United States for the first dates of the Ziggy Tour, which continued in Japan. From Aladdin Sane were extracted two hit singles, which reached the top of the British charts: The Jean Genie and Drive-In Saturday.

The title comes from the play on words that reflects Bowie”s dual personality of that period: on the one hand the supernatural and sane Aladdin (Aladdin Sane) and on the other the insane lad (A lad insane). Famous became the album”s iconic cover image, a half-length photo of Bowie in Aladdin Sane makeup, with a red lightning bolt across his face, one of the most recognizable and emblematic depictions of the artist over the decades.

Bowie”s love for acting and theatricality led him to a total immersion in his androgynous musical alter ego. In retrospect, the musician said, “Onstage I was a robot and offstage I had emotions. That”s probably why I preferred to dress like Ziggy rather than being David”. With success also came personal difficulties: playing the same role over and over again made it increasingly difficult for Bowie to separate his characters from his true personality; “Ziggy,” Bowie said, “wouldn”t leave me for years. That was the point where everything went too far . My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I began to seriously doubt my sanity.”

Ziggy”s last concerts, which included songs from both Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were of an absolute theatricality and included studied moments of pathos on stage alternating with disconcerting gestures, with Bowie simulating fellatio with Ronson”s guitar. The artist ended this period with the dramatic announcement of the withdrawal from the scene of the character Ziggy during the concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, July 3, 1973, at the height of his success.

After disbanding the Spiders from Mars, Bowie tried to move away from the character of Ziggy. Confirming the great success of the moment, all the albums of his past catalog sold well: The Man Who Sold the World was reissued in 1972 along with Space Oddity. The song Life on Mars? was released as a single in June 1973 and reached number three in the UK charts. Pin Ups, a collection of covers of Bowie”s favorite sixties songs, was released in October and reached number one on the UK charts. By 1973 there were six Bowie albums in the UK charts, his commercial success, at least in his home country, had been largely achieved.

Towards the end of the year Bowie had an intense but brief relationship with Amanda Lear, who he discovered when he saw her on the cover of Roxy Music”s For Your Pleasure album. It was Bowie himself who convinced her to leave the modeling profession to embrace the singing career, also financing some singing and dancing courses.

The funk, the “plastic soul” and Diamond Dogs (1974-1975)

In March 1974, Bowie boarded the ocean liner SS France, reaching the United States on April 1, initially settling in New York City.

The Diamond Dogs album of the same year was the result of two different ideas: an aborted musical based on the apocalyptic future described in George Orwell”s novel 1984 and the first soul and funk influences that began to creep into Bowie”s music.

With hit songs such as Rebel Rebel and Diamond Dogs, the album became number one in Great Britain and number five in the United States. To promote it, Bowie started the spectacular Diamond Dogs Tour, appearing in major cities in North America between June and December 1974. The tour, strongly scenic and theatrical, coincided with the increase of the singer”s cocaine addiction, which caused him several physical problems due to debilitation. In April 1975 he moved to California, in a house on the hills of Los Angeles; here Bowie spent one of the most negative periods of his life, obsessed by his passion for occultism and debilitated by the abuse of hard drugs. However, this dark period contributed in part to the birth of his next character.

Bowie himself, given his precarious state of health, commented on the next live album, David Live, saying ironically that it should have been titled “David Bowie is alive and well but living only in theory”. However, David Live solidified Bowie”s status as a rock star, reaching number two in England and number eight in the United States. After a break in Philadelphia, where Bowie recorded new material, the tour continued with more emphasis on soul music, the singer”s last great passion.

The fruit of the sessions in Philadelphia was the album Young Americans published in 1975, in which the artist, finally abandoned the colorful role of the glam rock hero, threw himself headlong into American black music. The biographer Christopher Sandford wrote: “over the years, many British musicians had tried to become “black” mimicking the black American music but few had succeeded as successfully as Bowie.

The album”s distinctive and artificial sound, which Bowie himself described as “plastic soul,” was a radical new departure in his musical style. From Young Americans was extracted the single Fame, composed with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar, which earned Bowie the first position in the U.S. charts for two weeks. The album marked an important phase in the musical evolution of the artist: it was the first of his albums to abandon almost entirely the rock in favor of funkier sounds and soul, giving rise to a sort of “white R & B”.

By the time Bowie learned of these details, MainMan was burdened with debt, both in the UK and the US many bills had gone unpaid and expenses had increased, along with Defries” misguided investments. Bowie felt betrayed and exploited; his first reaction was to cut the exorbitant concert expenses and adopt more sober costumes and settings, renaming the tour the “Philly Dogs Tour.” On January 29, 1975 he went to the RCA offices and announced his exit from MainMan, getting an advance for Young Americans of imminent release. The next day the contract termination letter arrived at MainMan.

The years of the “White Duke” and the Berlin trilogy (1976-1979)

The release of the subsequent album Station to Station in January 1976 was followed in February by a three and a half month tour of Europe and the United States to promote the album and the dramatic performances of Bowie”s new persona, the thin White Duke.

This new alter ego marked one of the many artistic turning points in his career, now far from the noisy multicolored clamor of glam rock of a few years earlier. The “White Duke” impersonated an aristocratic character with a sober and elegant clothing, hypothetical right-wing sympathies and a strong infatuation for occultism. Although many of these elements were only stage gimmicks of the multifaceted artist, the name “White Duke” entered the collective imagination of the public, soon becoming his most common nickname for the rest of his career.

The most significant songs of this period were the title track of the disc, influenced by the sound of German krautrock groups, the ballads Word on a Wing and Wild Is the Wind, a cover of a song made famous by Nina Simone, and the funky songs TVC 15 and Stay. The band that accompanied Bowie on stage included guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, a rhythm section that would accompany him until the end of the decade. The tour was a great success but also generated controversy of a political nature, such as the one that arose during a date in Stockholm, where Bowie was accused of having made the following statement: “Britain would benefit from the advent of a fascist leader”, and shortly after the border police stopped him on the Polish-Russian border for possession of Nazi memorabilia.

The controversial affair culminated in London the following May in what became known as “the Victoria Station incident.” On the afternoon of May 2, 1976, upon returning to Britain after a two-year absence, Bowie left the station greeting the crowd of adoring fans with a gesture of his left arm that was mistaken for a Nazi salute, an episode photographed and published in New Musical Express. Bowie claimed that the photographer had simply “frozen” the gesture of his arm in mid-air in the course of a normal salute. Most of the British press ignored the incident, however, the various tabloid scandals speculated on the alleged Nazi tendencies of the singer, feeding everything with recycled quotes from previous years, such as the one released by Bowie in an interview with Cameron Crowe where he said that “Adolf Hitler was one of the first real rock stars”, or quoting the song Somebody Up There Likes Me contained in the album Young Americans, in which he spoke of the return of Hitler. Bowie later apologized publicly for these ambiguous attitudes, attributing them to his cocaine addiction and excessive identification with the character of the “White Duke”: I was out of my mind, totally crazy. I was mainly interested in mythology more than in the whole business of Hitler and totalitarianism.

In this period, Bowie also had his first real experience in the field of film acting as the protagonist in the science fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth by Nicolas Roeg, director who hired him after having appreciated him in the documentary Cracked Actor inherent to the Diamond Dogs Tour the previous year. For the occasion David also began to compose some instrumental pieces that should have been the soundtrack of the film but instead merged in its subsequent recordings.

In 1976 Bowie moved to Switzerland, buying a large villa in Blonay, in the hills near Montreaux, on Lake Geneva, where his cocaine use further increased, seriously threatening his health. Determined to get clean and to distract himself from the stress of the musical environment, Bowie began to paint, producing several post-modernist works. He also made a habit of taking a sketchbook on tour to draw when he felt inspired and began photographing whatever struck his imagination. His interest in painting grew so great that he visited major European exhibitions and also visited many art galleries in Geneva, the Brücke-Museum in Berlin and became, in the words of biographer Christopher Sandford, “a prolific producer and collector of contemporary art”; his paintings were shown in many solo exhibitions and some purchased by British and American museums. Through his own website Bowieart.com, he was also involved in promoting and encouraging the visibility of works by young artists.

Before the end of 1976, Bowie”s interest in the German art scene led him to move to West Berlin to definitively detoxify and revitalize his career. Here he began a fruitful collaboration with Brian Eno and shared an apartment in Schöneberg with Iggy Pop and Corinne Schwab, his personal assistant already in Los Angeles, to whom he had entrusted most of the organizational and managerial aspects.

Schwab was the object of great jealousy by Angie, Bowie”s wife, who after spending a few days in Berlin moved back to the United States. Bowie dedicated to her the song Be My Wife included in the album Low, inviting her in vain to stay with him in this new adventure. The marriage had been in crisis since 1973, with the sexual passion between the two that had faded and the frequent extra-marital affairs of both. Later, Angie would claim that she no longer wanted to see her husband after the recurrence of pro-Nazi episodes such as the one at Victoria Station. Instead, Bowie claimed that since 1974 they had been seeing each other occasionally and living separate lives. A final separation and divorce in 1980 followed.

David began to focus on minimalism and ambient music, which will characterize the albums of the so-called “Berlin Trilogy”. In this period he also helped to revive Iggy Pop”s career, producing and writing together his first solo album The Idiot and the following Lust for Life. In Iggy Pop”s tour of Europe and the United States in March and April 1977, Bowie participated as keyboardist.

The 1977 album Low was partially influenced by the krautrock of Kraftwerk and Neu! and highlighted a step forward for Bowie as a composer and conceptual artist, distancing himself from simple pop and rock to produce ambitious, more abstract music where lyrics were sporadic and not essential. Despite the initial negative criticism received for its apparent complexity and unmarketability, Low reached number two in the UK charts, also producing the hit single Sound and Vision which also reached number three in the UK charts.In retrospect it will prove to be a cult album and will lead avant-garde composers such as Philip Glass to describe it as “a work of genius of incomparable beauty”. Glass himself will compose an entire symphony based on the music and atmosphere of the album, the Low Symphony of 1992.

Following Low”s minimalist approach, on September 23, 1977 “Heroes” was released, which includes the famous song of the same name written with Brian Eno; this album fused pop and rock, expanding the boundaries of the genre, and was the only one of the three albums of the Berlin trilogy to be entirely recorded in Berlin. Like Low, “Heroes” was also pervaded by the zeitgeist of the Cold War, stigmatized by the wall that divided the city in two. It was another great success, reaching the third position in the UK charts. The title track, which only reached the 24th position in the UK singles chart at the time, became perhaps the most famous and representative song of Bowie”s entire career, and has endured over the years as his signature song.Towards the end of the year, Bowie performed the song on both Marc Bolan”s TV show and Bing Crosby”s Christmas TV special, with whom he performed a version of Peace on EarthLittle Drummer Boy. The duet proved to be a worldwide hit in 1982, reaching number three in the UK.

After completing Low and “Heroes”, Bowie promoted the two albums spending most of 1978 in a tour attended by one million people in 70 concerts that touched 12 countries. From the tour came the live album Stage, published in the same year. Always in ”78 came out the film Just a Gigolo, with Bowie in the part of the protagonist. The film had a mediocre response from the public and bad reviews from the critics.

The final chapter of the trilogy was the 1979 album Lodger, which in turn showed an approach to the minimalist, ambient and complex music of the previous two records but with a partial return to conventional rock based on percussion and guitars. The result was a complex mix of new wave and world music elements, with some multi-ethnic influences; some tracks were composed using the aphorisms of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt”s Oblique Strategies: Boys Keep Swinging was born this way, encouraging the musicians to “beat” their instruments, while Move On used the chord progression of All the Young Dudes played backwards and Red Money used the basic instrumental track of Sister Midnight, a song previously composed with Iggy Pop. The album was recorded entirely in Bowie”s private studio in Switzerland and marked the temporary interruption of the collaborative relationship between Bowie and Brian Eno, who would return to work together in the nineties. Lodger reached number four in Great Britain and number 20 in the United States and from the album were extracted the singles Boys Keep Swinging and DJ. Although it was initially perceived as a minor closure to the Berlin trilogy, Lodger would be re-evaluated over the years, also due to the disappointing results of Bowie”s albums of the eighties.

The commercial and mass success (1980-1989)

In the eighties Bowie was very busy in the cinema and theater and increased the number of stages and grandeur of the tours, while the record production was based on a refined and generic pop, with albums containing some more commercial hits, suitable for a massive radio broadcast. The success of these singles was fueled by the evocative videos that accompanied them; a phenomenon, that of the videos, that Bowie already knew and that he exploited in the best way, as a multifaceted artist that he has always shown.The album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) of 1980 had a great success, reaching the first position in the United Kingdom, thanks to the guitar contributions of Robert Fripp, Pete Townshend and Tom Verlaine. It produced the chart-topping hit Ashes to Ashes, which gave international visibility to the New Romantic movement, when to make the video Bowie recruited at the nightclub “Blitz” in London several extras, including Steve Strange of Visage. In the video Bowie is dressed as a creepy Pierrot, in one of his most famous disguises. In September 1980 Bowie debuted on Broadway in the play The Elephant Man playing the part of the deformed John Merrick, without the aid of any make-up and receiving flattering reviews.

The same year he made an appearance in the German film Christiane F. – We, the boys from the Berlin Zoo whose soundtrack, composed exclusively of his songs from Station to Station, Low, Heroes and Lodger, was released a few months later and was a good success. In 1981 Bowie collaborated with Queen for their album Hot Space, dueting in the track Under Pressure with Freddie Mercury. The track proved to be a big hit, becoming Bowie”s third number 1 single in the UK. In 1982 he starred in the BBC television adaptation of Bertolt Brecht”s play Baal. Five of the tracks from the play, recorded in Berlin, were released on an EP of the same name. 1983”s hugely successful album Let”s Dance, co-produced with Chic”s Nile Rodgers, went platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. The release of Let”s Dance was followed by the Serious Moonlight Tour, featuring guitarist Earl Slick and backing vocalists Frank and George Simms. The world tour lasted six months and was a huge success, although some critics pointed out that Bowie”s music had suffered a regression too “commercial”. During the tour he performed with a new look by hyper-oxygenated hair and tanned body, offering an accessible dance-rock not devoid of passages with disturbing themes and lyrics.

Also in 1983 Bowie starred in the film Furyo, also known by its original title Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, directed by Nagisa Ōshima and based on the novel The Seed and the Sower by Laurens van der Post. His interpretation was praised by critics and the film was a good success with audiences. In 1984 Tonight was released, another album with a dance imprint and strongly commercial, which reached the top position in the UK, which collaborated with Tina Turner and Iggy Pop. Among the various covers of the disc there is a criticized version of the Beach Boys” classic of 1966 God Only Knows. There was, however, the hit Blue Jean, which would be featured in the musical short film Jazzin” for Blue Jean which won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.

In 1985 Bowie performed at Live Aid at the old Wembley Stadium in London. During the event was screened the specially made video where Bowie duets with Mick Jagger in the song Dancing in the Street, which later reached number one in the charts. He later starred in Absolute Beginners and Labyrinth, films released in 1986 for which he also wrote the soundtrack. The single Absolute Beginners reached number two in the UK and number one in the European Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart. In 1987 he released the album Never Let Me Down, which was judged by the critics a dull and commercial test but had a good success in the charts helped by the new world tour, the mastodic and theatrical Glass Spider Tour.

The short period with Tin Machine (1989-1990)

In 1989 he took part as singer, guitarist and saxophonist in the rock band Tin Machine, formed together with Reeves Gabrels and the brothers Tony and Hunt Sales, with whom he had already collaborated in the seventies on Iggy Pop”s album Lust for Life; he also played keyboards in the tour documented by the live album Tv Eye (1978).

Although there was absolute democracy within Tin Machine, Bowie”s leadership nature soon began to prevail in the group dynamics, both as a composer and as a leader. In 1989 the band”s debut album, Tin Machine, was well received by the public and critics, although the excessive politicization of the lyrics caused some concern. The album reached number three in the UK charts and the band”s first world tour was a success. However, after a series of unsuccessful singles and a disagreement with EMI, Bowie left the label and the group disbanded after the publication of a second studio album and a live album both poorly received by audiences and critics. Bowie had already returned, before the publication of the second album of the group, to the solo activity with the Sound + Vision Tour of 1990, which kept him busy for seven months in bringing around the world his old successes, after the publication of the box set “Sound and Vision”, gaining great acclaim and high earnings. A third Tin Machine studio album had been planned, but Bowie preferred to return to solo activity after having reunited with Nile Rodgers (the producer of Let”s Dance). With Rodgers he recorded Real Cool World, title track of the Cool World movie soundtrack, which was released as a single in the summer of 1992.

Electronics, new experimentations and the return to the past (1990-1999)

In 1990 he moved permanently to New York in an apartment at 160 Central Park South, on the ninth floor of the Essex House, overlooking Central Park and devoted himself to experimentation by designing new albums, all very different from each other, which were released in the early nineties. For their realization returned to use the collaboration of Nile Rodgers and Brian Eno, exploring the genres and musical trends of the period such as hip hop, jungle and drum and bass. Also in New York founded the Isolar Enterprises, a company to manage the catalog of his songs, copyright, property and all activities of the press office.

In April 1992 she appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert where she performed Heroes, All the Young Dudes and, together with Annie Lennox, Under Pressure. On June 6, 1992 she married Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, in a private ceremony held at the American Episcopal Church of Saint James in Florence.

In 1993 he released the album Black Tie White Noise, with soul, jazz and hip hop influences, and characterized by a large use of electronic instruments; the album, produced by Nile Rodgers, reached the top of the British charts and two singles entered the Top 40 and one in the Top 10, the song Jump They Say dedicated to his half-brother Terry. Bowie later explored new ambient musical trends with The Buddha of Suburbia, soundtrack of the homonymous TV mini-series; the album received good reviews but was a commercial failure, stopping at position no. 87 in the UK charts.

From the collaboration with Brian Eno was made 1.Outside, a concept album for which he created a new alter ego, the detective Nathan Adler, and others to each of whom is entrusted with the interpretation of the tracks, thus developing the narrative of the story. Denigrated and exalted in equal measure, but in recent years re-evaluated very positively, the album was well received both in America and Europe and also produced some of the most successful singles of the period as the song Hello Spaceboy, later performed with the Pet Shop Boys. The album was supposed to be part of a trilogy, but the project was shelved after the conclusion of the Outside Tour in July 1996.

On January 17, 1996 Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a recognition that was followed by the famous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was laid in February 1997. In December 1996 Bowie became the first rock star to be publicly traded, offering investors bonds placed on Wall Street. The Bowie Bonds were valid for ten years, were guaranteed mainly by the proceeds of 287 songs contained in his 25 albums recorded before 1990, with a total value of $ 55 million and were purchased in full by Prudential Insurance Company in New York. This operation made Bowie one of the richest singers in the world and his example was soon followed by artists such as Elton John, James Brown, Ashford & Simpson and The Isley Brothers.

In the same period Bowie realized the great potential of the web and, in addition to his personal website www.davidbowie.com, in the spring of 1996 he inaugurated BowieNet, the first thematic portal created by a singer, through which it was possible to connect to the web but also to legally download his music. Later BowieNet was nominated for the 1999 Wired Award as the best entertainment site of the year and remained active until 2012.

In 1997 the new album Earthling was released, which included new experiments of jungle music and drum and bass; it was a success more with the public than with critics and produced the hit Little Wonder, a song with which he performed as a guest at the 47th Sanremo Festival. In 1999, on the occasion of the new album ”hours…”, Bowie changed his look again, abandoning his short auburn hair in favour of a “big hair” look similar to that of his early days. The album, characterized by the hit single Thursday”s Child, has been defined by Rolling Stone as a synthesis of Bowie”s career, in which his fans can find traces of previous albums such as Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Heroes and Low.

Heathen, Reality and retirement from the scenes (2000-2013)

In 2000 took place some sessions for the planned album entitled Toy, which was supposed to be a compilation of new versions of some of the early Bowie songs with the addition of three new songs but remained unexpectedly unpublished.On August 15 of that year was born Alexandria Zahra “Lexie” Jones, daughter of David and Iman.

In October 2001, Bowie opened the Concert for New York City, a charity event in aid of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with a minimalist performance of Simon & Garfunkel”s song America, followed by the classic “Heroes.”

Also in 2001 he played a version of Nature Boy for the soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge!

Bowie”s collaboration with Tony Visconti continued in 2002 with the production of Heathen, an album of unreleased tracks followed by the long American and European tour of 2002 that kicked off from the Meltdown Festival in London, of which Bowie was the curator that year, inviting great artists such as Philip Glass, Television and The Dandy Warhols.

The following year he released the album Reality and the promotional tour was a great success, but was dramatically interrupted on June 25, 2004 when, after the concert at the Hurricane Festival in Scheeßel, Bowie was rushed to Hamburg for the severe blockage of a coronary artery, whose symptoms had been felt days before. Following the operation of coronary angioplasty Bowie returned to New York, but the remaining eleven dates of the tour were canceled.

In the following years Bowie stayed away from the scene, except for a few rare appearances, however he devoted himself to recording some pieces for the cinema, such as his old hit Changes in duet with Butterfly Boucher for the 2004 animated film Shrek 2 and wrote the 2005 song (She Can) Do That, made with Brian Transeau, for the film Stealth – Weapon Supreme.

He returned to perform live on September 8, 2005 with Arcade Fire, for the US television event Fashion Rocks and joined the Canadian band again a week later for the CMJ Music Marathon. A few months later he sang on a track on TV on the Radio”s Return to Cookie Mountain album,

On February 8, 2006 he was awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement and, after announcing in April that he would be away from the stage for a year, on May 29 he made a surprise appearance at David Gilmour”s concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Some of the songs from the event were recorded for the DVD Remember That Night: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.

His last live concert was in November 2006 with Alicia Keys for a benefit show at the Black Ball in New York. In the same year, he participated as an actor in the film The Prestige by Christopher Nolan in the role of Nikola Tesla.

In 2007 he recorded a commercial with Snoop Dogg for the American station XM Satellite Radio and collaborated with Lou Reed on the album No Balance Palace by the Danish rock band Kashmir. However, his artistic commitments continued and in the same year Bowie was chosen as artistic director of the High Line Festival in Manhattan, and collaborated on Scarlett Johansson”s album Anywhere I Lay My Head, which contains covers of Tom Waits. On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, EMI released the tracks from the original recording of Space Oddity in 2009 in a competition to which the public was invited to record a remix.

In January 2010, the double live album A Reality Tour was released, containing material recorded during the last tour in 2003 and 2004.

On January 21, 2009, on some blogs spread the news that Bowie was in Berlin for the recording of a new album, but came immediately the denial published on the official website of the artist.

In March 2011, it was possible to download from the internet the unreleased album Toy, whose release had been cancelled in 2001, which contains some of the songs used for Heathen and most of the B-sides of the singles from the same record.

In 2012, Louis Vuitton hired him as the new testimonial for their new 2013 American campaign.

The return with The Next Day (2013-2015)

After ten years of absence (a couple of which were spent with Visconti working in secret on new songs), on January 8, 2013, his 66th birthday, Bowie announced the new album, The Next Day; anticipated the same day by the single and its video Where Are We Now? made by Tony Oursler, followed by The Stars (Are Out Tonight), which was released on February 25. The album was released the following March 12 getting a great success of public and critics, placing at the top of the charts all over the world. On November 5 was released The Next Day Extra, a special version of the album containing also a DVD with the video clips of Where are we now?, The Stars are out Tonight, The Next Day and Valentine”s Day and four unreleased songs in addition to the standard edition.

In the fall of 2014 Bowie released a new anthology, Nothing Has Changed; it was released in different formats and contains an unreleased track, Sue (In the Season of Crime), also released as a single. The album was a great success, especially in Europe and especially in the United Kingdom, where Bowie has always had the “hard core” of his fans. It reached the ninth place in the British charts and was awarded, after a few months, a gold disc for having sold over 100 000 copies.

In October 2015, John Giddins, a longtime London concert organizer, revealed that Bowie would no longer perform live and would not undertake any more tours, not even to promote The Next Day.

The last album Blackstar and death (2015-2016)

On November 19, 2015, Bowie launched his new single Blackstar, the first extract from the album of the same name, and later Lazarus, also accompanied by a music video broadcast online three days before his death. With the same title on December 12 debuted the eponymous musical written and produced for Broadway by Robert Fox, for whose theatrical premiere Bowie attended, making his last public appearance.

On January 8, 2016, his 69th birthday, the studio album Blackstar (stylized as ★) was released.

Two days later, on the night between 10 and 11 January, the singer died suddenly, at the age of 69 years, in an unknown location but presumably in a cancer clinic in New York, where it is assumed that he used a planned practice of euthanasia due to the irreparable worsening of a liver tumor, against which he fought secretly for about 18 months. The news was disclosed in his official Facebook profile, while in the following days the same producer Robert Fox, Bowie”s friend, revealed that he had confided in him that he wanted to undertake a new experimental treatment against cancer. He also said that only a few friends and family members were aware of his illness, but that as many people, among those involved in the recording of the album, were not aware of the diagnosis until the death of the artist.

According to producer Tony Visconti during an interview with RS America, Bowie was inspired by rapper Kendrick Lamar”s To Pimp a Butterfly album and influenced by groups such as Death Grips and Boards of Canada. Visconti would have also declared the true nature of most of the lyrics of the unreleased songs contained in Blackstar, which would refer to Bowie”s illness and the possibility of an imminent death, so as to lead the public to conceive the entire project as his spiritual testament, a sort of last farewell to his audience.

On January 12, 2016, Blackstar debuted at the top of the U.K. Official Albums Chart, selling over 146,000 copies and being certified gold disc in just under a day after its release. The album quickly topped the charts around the world, reaching number one in 35 countries, including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Finland, Argentina, Italy, and the US, where it debuted at number one on the Billboard Albums Chart with 130,000 copies sold in its first week, Bowie”s previous highest sales in such a short time. The catalog of all Bowie”s videos received more than 51 million views in twenty-four hours on Vevo on 11 January, surpassing the record held by Adele on the day of the release of Hello.A few days later, Amazon.com revealed that it had sold out of every edition, both vinyl and CD formats, and had never recorded such a number of sales in such a short time.

Many personalities from the world of music participated in the mourning: on January 13, during one of his concerts in Los Angeles, Elton John interrupted the set list of the show to pay homage to the rock star. On January 12 also Madonna, during the Houston stop of her Rebel Heart Tour, wanted to remember him with a cover of Rebel Rebel.

Mick Jagger recalled on behalf of the Rolling Stones on Twitter what Bowie was to him and to the group: a “wonderful and kind” man:

On the day of his death, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter quickly recorded a strong flow of information and message exchanges. Millions of fans but also many representatives of music, entertainment and politics (including David Cameron, Ariana Grande, Brian May, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, J.K. Rowling, U2, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Martin Scorsese, Barack Obama) have said they were saddened by the death of the singer, leaving dedications, messages of condolences to family members, photographs and videos on the web.

On January 14, some of the major U.S. newspapers have spread the news that Bowie”s remains were cremated on January 12 in New Jersey according to his instructions, without any ritual of suffrage and without the presence of family and friends. Later, through a statement on Facebook, the family, children and close friends of the singer thanked the fans for the solidarity and affection shown and that they would organize a personal ceremony of remembrance strictly private.

Indeed, despite the many spontaneous initiatives around the world, there was no official public commemoration, with the exception of a large concert planned at Carnegie Hall, already scheduled before his death, but now become a tribute to the memory and whose tickets, sold out quickly, reached incredible numbers. However, the family of the singer has clarified that this event has not been proposed or organized by them, continuing to maintain the strictest confidentiality on the incident. Given the large turnout expected, the organizers of the tribute have added to the planned date of March 31 also that of April 1, this double Bowie tribute has been attended by many artists including: Michael Stipe, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Mumford & Sons, Pixies and his friend Tony Visconti.

On January 29, 2016 some newspapers made known the terms of Bowie”s holographic will, filed by him with the well-known lawyer Herbert E. Nass and signed “David Robert Jones”. It provided for the cremation of the body and the scattering of the ashes, for the latter indicating as a place the island of Bali, which Bowie visited several times, or other place of choice closer provided that the Buddhist ritual was respected. The will also established the division of the estate of about 100 million dollars, half of which was destined to the widow Iman, including the majority of the shares of Isolar Enterprises and the large penthouse at 285 Lafayette Street, and the remaining half, a quarter each, to the eldest son Duncan and the second daughter Lexie, to whom was also destined the large property in the Catskills. Also benefiting from the inheritance were Corinne “Coco” Schwab, his personal assistant for more than 30 years, to whom $2 million and part of the shares of Isolar Enterprises went, and Marion Skene, the elderly nanny, to whom $1 million was paid and who died in March 2017.

Bowie”s record label staff also reported that Blackstar proceeds collected throughout January 2016 were donated entirely to cancer research.

An EP, titled No Plan, was released on January 8, 2017, the day Bowie would have turned 70. With the exception of Lazarus, the EP includes three songs recorded by Bowie during the sessions for the Blackstar album, but left off the record and later included on the soundtrack of the musical Lazarus in October 2016. A video clip was made for the title track.

Although he is often placed among glam rock, art rock, and new wave artists, David Bowie”s style is very difficult to categorize unambiguously.

Initially, Bowie”s musical production was based on nostalgic sounds influenced by the beat generation with acoustic folk rock songs, which would be followed by the metamorphosis of the seventies, which led Bowie to become one of the first and most important exponents of glam rock with albums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) and Aladdin Sane (1973).

During the seventies, Bowie”s style changed countless times, becoming more intimate and inspired by progressive rock, dance rock, of which he was a forerunner Confirming the eclecticism of these years are the dark The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Station to Station (1976), the more pop Hunky Dory (1971), Young Americans (1975) which, with a sudden change of style, shifts the focus on the soul genre with the creation of white soul, and the “Berlin Trilogy” (consisting of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger), considered his most experimental and avant-garde phase. During the latter, Bowie was also influenced by krautrock and experimental rock, interpreting the trends, discomforts and turmoil typical of the time, but also anticipating the “new wave” of the years to come.

After the great pop success of the eighties well represented by Let”s Dance of 1983, Bowie”s style returned to new experiments, first of all with the formation of the group Tin Machine, started at the end of the eighties, in which Bowie proposed a hard rock that has been defined “metallic”. Further on, with experimental incursions of electronic and industrial in the album 1.Outside of 1995, until ranging to jungle and techno style in the album Earthling of 1997.

From the 2000s Bowie”s musical style returned to be a refined rock, without betraying the typical brit pop sounds of the origins; however in the last albums there is no lack of more introverted songs with a vague new wave style. The last album, Blackstar (2016), in fact, sees the artist trying his hand at almost avant-garde songs, a factor perhaps due to the jazz and experimental training of the complex with which the album would have been made.

In addition to the aforementioned collaborations with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno, Bowie collaborated with Bing Crosby in a Christmas duet singing Peace on EarthLittle Drummer Boy for the 1977 television program Merrie Olde Christmas. However, the song was kept in the archives by RCA, Bowie”s record label at the time, until it was released as a single in 1982, before Bowie left RCA for EMI.The record reached number three on the UK charts and became, over the years, a Christmas classic, both as a song and as a video.

Significant was also the collaboration with John Lennon for the cover of the song Across the Universe by the Beatles and Fame, one of the most successful songs of Bowie, included in the album Young Americans in 1975.

In 1981, Bowie collaborated with Queen to record an almost unknown and unreleased version of the song Cool Cat and for the creation of Under Pressure, in which he duetted with the English rock group and also sang at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert along with Annie Lennox and Queen itself, Mercury”s orphans. The song, initially called People on Streets, was composed based on a “riff” by bassist John Deacon and credited to Queen and Bowie; it was later included on the 1982 album Hot Space.

Among other collaborations of the “White Duke” there was also the one with the leader of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger. Together, in 1985, in support of the Live Aid project, they realized a version of the song by Martha & the Vandellas Dancing in the Street of which we remember the videoclip. It is also said that between the two rock stars the bond was more than professional and that the famous song Angie, which the Stones made in 1973, was inspired by Angela Bowie and indirectly referred to a four-way orgy between her, David, Mick and his then wife Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias. In the same year Bowie recorded together with Tina Turner the song Tonight, title track of the 1984 album of the same name. The two will also duet together during a date of the Private Dancer Tour of Tina Turner in 1985.

With NIN, Bowie opened the Outside tour in the U.S. where they performed together both songs of the artist, both songs of the band. The collaboration with Trent Reznor, leader of the band with whom Bowie formed a strong bond of friendship, saw the production of several remixes, including I”m Afraid of Americans, in whose video Reznor appears as co-star.

Another collaboration was with the Pet Shop Boys in 1996, for the song Hallo Spaceboy: thanks to the success of the song, which was launched as a single, Bowie performed with the Pet Shop Boys both in music programs such as Top of the Pops and at the prestigious BRIT Awards in 1996.

After having collaborated to Placebo”s debut by taking them on tour as his supporters, Bowie collaborated with them on two occasions: for the single Without you I”m nothing, extracted from the homonymous album, they made a version with two voices, while in February 1999 they performed together at the Brit Awards for a cover of 20th Century Boy, which Placebo also played in the film Velvet Goldmine, as members of the imaginary band Malcolm & The Flaming Creatures. The close relationship between the band and Bowie was witnessed by several episodes: the tribute paid to him with an acoustic version of Five Years made in 2004, during a French television program and the touching farewell letter written by Brian Molko shortly after Bowie”s death and published on the official website of the band.

In 1970 he married Mary Angela Barnett with whom he had in 1971 a son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones; the two divorced in 1980. In 1992 he married Somali model Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid in the church of Saint James in Florence. From her in 2000 he had a daughter, Alexandria “Lexie” Zahra.

The debate on sexuality

In late 1964, when he was part of the Manish Boys, the group auditioned with the BBC for a series of concerts at the Star Club in Hamburg. The singer secured the gig by swearing to the German organizer that he was gay. Later, despite its ostentatious attitudes ambiguous and transgressive led to the hypothesis of homosexuality, Bowie met the fourteen year old Dana Gillespie, who became his girlfriend and continued to date until the seventies. In January 1972 an interview was published on Melody Maker in which he admitted to be gay; this created a certain uproar and it was assumed a promotional intent in view of the publication of the new album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Nevertheless, the British gay movement elected David as its symbol. After all, the taboos always exerted a strong attraction on Bowie and his nonconformity pushed him towards the homosexual subculture. Despite this, David”s comments on the subject made in the following years were far from clarifying: “he told Playboy magazine in September 1976, except to respond shortly after the question of another interviewer stating the opposite: “it was just a lie, they stuck me with that image and I adjusted quite well for a few years. During the tour in New Zealand in 1978 he declared again to be bisexual, but in 1983, when Bowie was becoming an international superstar, he retracted his previous statements, telling Time magazine that it had been “a big misunderstanding” and in Rolling Stone called it “the biggest mistake I”ve ever made”. In 1987, pressed on the subject by Smash Hits, he amusedly pointed out the whole thing, allowing the magazine to publish, “You shouldn”t believe everything you read.” In 1993, always on Rolling Stone magazine, he denied the rumors about his bisexuality: “I never felt a real bisexual but I was magnetized by the underground gay scene. It was like another reality of which I wanted to buy a share. This phase only lasted until 1974 and died more or less with Ziggy. Really, I had only made the bisexual status my own, the irony being that I wasn”t gay..” Eventually, however, even this last version was changed again in 2002, justifying the previous retractions: when Blender asked him if he still believed that the public statement was his biggest mistake, after a long pause he replied: “I don”t think it was a problem in Europe, but it was much harder in America. I didn”t have a problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold banners or represent a group of people.”

David Bowie”s discography consists of 25 studio albums as a solo artist and two with the Tin Machine group of which he was a member. Bowie himself before his death, in a letter to Brian Eno, referred to his last work as his 25th album. It also includes four soundtracks, five EPs, 15 live albums, 50 collections and 113 singles. One estimate put his output at about 720 songs, with a total of 147 million records sold worldwide.

Studio Albums

With Tin Machine

Live Albums

Soundtracks

Videography

Always recognized as one of the pioneers of music video, by 1969 Bowie had enough promos under his belt to put together a full-length film, even before he had his first chart-topping single. His first video clip was of the song Space Oddity, released in 1972 and directed by Mick Rock.

Bowie”s videography includes 71 promotional video clips to add to four other artists” videos in which he participated, 15 album or compilation videos released on VHS, DVD, and 18 guest appearances in other artists” videos.

More recent creations such as The Hearts Filthy Lesson, Little Wonder, and Survive have confirmed that Bowie continues to explore the boundaries of the music video. In the new millennium, collaborations with directors such as Floria Sigismondi and Johan Renck and Hollywood actors such as Gary Oldman and Tilda Swinton have brought Bowie”s music videos closer to true cinematic shorts.

Tours

Although the first official tour was the Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972, Bowie”s live activity began with the Kon-rads in 1962 and continued with the various groups that accompanied him until 1971. From King Bees to Lower Third, to more improvised projects such as The Riot Squad, Turquoise and Feathers, the groups performed covers of rock and R & B songs but also Bowie”s first original compositions and the singer alternated concerts with his mime activity.

From 1972 to 2004, the year in which he made his last tour, Bowie has collected 16 tours with which he crossed the five continents.

Actor

Cinemas

Television

Commercials

Voiceover

Cinema

Television

Actor

In the Italian versions of his films, David Bowie was voiced by:

Documentaries

Biographical film

Since 1970, Bowie has collected 41 nominations and 16 awards (11 for musical activity, 2 for film, 3 for multimedia). Among the most important are 4 BRIT Awards (2 posthumously), 7 Grammys (5 posthumously), 3 MTV Europe Music Awards and 1 Saturn Award.The artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the following year was honored for his contribution to the entertainment industry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, outside the Hollywood Galaxy Theatre.

In 2000 Bowie refused the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2003 the title of Knight of the same order.

Additional Readings

Sources

  1. David Bowie
  2. David Bowie

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