David Bowie (b. David Jones, January 8 1947 in London, England - ), British rock and roll musician, and occaisonal actor, from the 1960s into the 21st century. Initially a saxophonist and vocalist with various blues groups, such as The Lower Third, in '60s London, Bowie's greatest strength through his career has been his ability to adapt his public image to fit, and often in advance of, the prevailing musical trends. Heavily influenced by the dramatic arts, from avant-garde theatre and mime to Commedia del Arte much of his work has involved the creation of characters or personae, to present to the world.
His first flirtation with fame came in 1969 when his single Space Oddity was released to coincide with the first moon landing. A failure first time out, along with his first two albums, it later became a UK hit record. His first notable album, The Man Who Sold The World (1970), rejected the acoustic guitar sound of Oddity replacing it with the heavy rock backing provided by long-term collaborator Mick Ronson. (The title track provided an unlikely hit for UK pop singer Lulu, and would later be recorded by Kurt Cobain's Nirvana.) His next record, Hunky Dory (1971), saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Oddity, with light fare such as the droll "Kooks" and "Oh You Pretty Things" sitting along side the verbose philosophising of "The Bewlay Brothers". Lyrically, Bowie also took the time to pay tribute to some of his influences, on "Song for Bob Dylan", "Andy Warhol" and "Queen Bitch" (dedicated to The Velvet Underground. The next year, Bowie would produce Lou Reed's solo breakthrough, Transformer). Supported by another hit single in "Life On Mars", Hunky Dory sold tremendously well and lifted Bowie into first rank of stars (in an 18 month period in 1972 and '73 he would have four top 10 albums and eight top ten singles in the UK).
The cover of first of these albums, on which Bowie is seen reclining in a dress, was an early indication of his interest in expoloiting his androgynous looks in his appearance. This would be taken further with his next record, the seminal Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Ziggy Stardust (as it is widely known) was a concept album concerning the career of an extraterrestrial rock singer. Bowie took the character to extreme ends, touring and giving press conferences as Ziggy before finally killing the character onstage in 1973. More importantly, the record contained some of Bowie's best work, much of it a reaction to his own fame and the difference between his beliefs and the reality of stardom. These themes were further explored, with the same musicians, on 1973's Aladdin Sane, a further concept work about the disintegration of society, which included the hit "Jean Genie".
After Pin Ups, a weak collection of cover versions of 1960s hits, came Diamond Dogs, another ambitious album with some spoken-word passages and with a song-cycle about a fascist state based (loosely) on George Orwell's 1984.
In 1975 came the first of Bowie re-inventions of his image, having taken the genderless-alien-cum-rock-star to (and possibly beyond) its limit, including the lead role in Nic Roeg's film "The Man Who Fell To Earth". Rejecting the glam rock trappings and, with Young Americans, became a consummate soul musician, based largely around the then-popular "Sound Of Philadelphia", with backing from the youthful Luther Vandross. This soul persona would gain a name ("The Thin White Duke") on 1976's Station To Station. By then Bowie was heavily dependent on drugs, especially cocaine, and had become notorious for a supposed fascist salute given at London's Victoria Station. Many have attributed the chopped rhythms and emotionless sheen of the record to the influence of the drug. That year, Bowie's interest in the growing German music scene, and the appeal of the nightlife caused him to move to Berlin, where he produce two more classic albums, and produce others, notably by Iggy Pop.
This brittle sound of Station to Station was a precursor to that found on Low, the first of three recorded there with the assistance of Brian Eno. Heavily influenced by the Krautrock sound of Kraftwerk et al., the new songs were relatively simple, repetitive and stripped, a clear and typically perverse reaction to punk rock, with the second side wholly instrumental. (By way of tribute, proto-punk Nick Lowe recorded an EP entitled "Bowi".) The next record, "Heroes", was similar in sound to Low, but was more accessible. The mood of these record fit the zeitgest of the Cold War, symbolised by the divided city that provided inspiration, and in which it was recorded. The title track was a worldwide hit and remains one of Bowie's best known. Lodger (1979) was the final, and probably weakest, of his Berlin records, although it did feature the hit "Boys Keep Swinging".
Despite the decline in both quantity and quality of Bowie's output in the 1980s, he still showed flashes of his previous talent, as well as embarking on a number of ambitious world tours. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980) included "Ashes To Ashes", revisiting the character of Major Tom from "Space Oddity". Lets Dance (1983), a slightly tepid soul/funk album with co-production Chic's Nile Rodgers, featured the singles "Modern Love" and "China Girl", the latter causing something of a stir due to its suggestive promotional video. Tonight featured collaborations with Tina Turner and a version of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows". Never Let Me Down (1987) was a further let down.
Since 1995 as David approached his 50's, albums were recorded such as "Outside", "Earthling", and "hours..." A re-release of "Christianne-F"(a soundtrack for same titled movie in his Berlin period) with the original "Heroes" track now mixed bilingual English_German appears in 2001. David Bowie was the first artist to release an advance single(Little Wonder from the album Earthling) on the Net before the CD was released. Today, with his wife, Iman, Bowie remains a dynamic ever-changing artist.
Bowie as actor
Whilst Bowie's first major acting role, in "The Man Who Fell To Earth" earned him many plaudits, since then his acting career has been patchy. In 1983, the film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, (based loosley on a novel by Laurens van der Post, The Seed and the Sower), was released, with Bowie appearing in the role of a newly-arrived Prisoner Of War (POW), with another famous musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto also appearing in the role of the camp commandant.
Mr Lawrence was well received but his next project, the rock musical Absolute Beginners (1986) was both a critical and box office disaster. The same year he appeared in the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth, playing the king of the goblins.
Along with numerous appearances as himself, he also appeared in: The Hunger, a modern vampire movie, with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon; Basquiat, a biopic of the artist, in which Bowie played Andy Warhol and Twin Peaks:Fire Walk With Me.