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David Bowie

David Bowie

David Bowie was born David Jones on 8th January 1947 and became one of the most influential musicians of his time, constantly re-inventing his persona and sound, from the 1960s hippy of Space Oddity, through Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke to his later incarnation as a soulful rocker.

Where before, artists and groups either evolved their musical style and appearance or remained unchanging, David Bowie seemed to be in permanent revolution. He defied any label. Music, fashion, sexuality: all were Bowie’s playthings. He was truly an artistic chameleon.

He went on to study Buddhism and mime, and released his first album, the World of David Bowie, in 1967, but it was the title track of his second album, Space Oddity, which aroused more than passing interest. The atmospheric tale of an abandoned astronaut, Major Tom, orbiting the Earth, Space Oddity became a hit in 1969, the year of the first Moon landing. Initially a hit throughout Europe, it took four years to “break” the United States.

 

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David Robert Jones  (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (was an English singer-songwriter and actor. A leading figure in the music industry, Bowie is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He was acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music.

Born in Brixton, South London, Bowie developed an interest in music as a child. He studied art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. “Space Oddity”, released in 1969, was his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chart. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of Bowie’s single “Starman” and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie’s style shifted towards a sound he characterised as “plastic soul”, initially alienating many of his UK fans but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg, and released Station to Station. In 1977, he further confounded expectations with the electronic-inflected album Low, the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that came to be known as the “Berlin Trilogy”. “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes”, its album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and “Under Pressure”, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance; its title track topped both the UK and US charts. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. He also continued acting; his roles included Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus with The Next Day. He remained musically active until his death from liver cancer at his home in New York City, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar (2016).

During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at over 100 million records worldwide, made him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Rolling Stone placed him among its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and named him the “Greatest Rock Star Ever” after his death in 2016.

Ziggy Stardust

Bowie followed up this initial success with The Man Who Sold the World, a complex album, whose title track has been covered by artists as diverse as Lulu and Nirvana.

His second album of 1971, Hunky Dory, was arguably Bowie’s first great work. Its 11 songs, including the haunting Life on Mars? and Oh, You Pretty Things, redefined serious rock for the 1970s generation.

And a line from Hunky Dory’s final track, The Bewlay Brothers, seemed to perfectly sum up David Bowie, “chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature”.

The following year saw the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a superbly-executed concept album which included hits like Starman, Suffragette City and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. The album’s huge popularity and the accompanying tour, featuring Bowie as the sexually ambiguous Ziggy, brought him worldwide stardom.

By now married to the former Angie Barnett (divorced in 1980) and with a young son, Zowie (now film director Duncan Jones), Bowie was a hedonist of breathtaking scale, living a rock and roll lifestyle fuelled by drink, drugs and vigorous bisexuality.

Aladdin Sane

Having killed off Ziggy, 1973 brought Aladdin Sane, which cemented Bowie’s reputation in the United States. Songs like Cracked Actor explored the dark, seedy, side of fame, while Jean Genie was an old-fashioned rocker. As well as writing and performing, Bowie now branched out, producing Lou Reed’s Transformer album and writing and producing Mott the Hoople’s hit single, All the Young Dudes.

Berlin sojourn

While he was touring with his next album, the apocalyptic Diamond Dogs, David Bowie recorded the Young Americans album in Philadelphia. This dalliance with “plastic soul” continued on the album Station to Station and brought Bowie hits including Golden Years, Knock on Wood and his first US number one single, Fame, co-written with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar.

But, once more, David Bowie changed direction, moving to Berlin and working on a triptych of albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger. Produced in collaboration with Brian Eno, these dense works were perhaps the most experimental of Bowie’s career, mixing electronic sounds and avant-garde lyrics to produce a radical, and influential, song cycle.

The late 1970s saw Bowie concentrating on acting, starring in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth and opposite Marlene Dietrich in the lamentable Just a Gigolo. The critically acclaimed Lodger album was followed by Scary Monsters, notable for its groundbreaking video accompaniment and the single Ashes to Ashes, which updated the story of Major Tom.

Actor and web pioneer

1983 saw a new, driven, David Bowie return to form with the Let’s Dance album. Hits like China Girl and Modern Love, coupled with the spectacular Serious Moonlight world tour, introduced Bowie to a whole new generation. And his 1985 duet with Mick Jagger, a cover version of Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancin’ in the Street, was a major factor in the success of the Band Aid project and its accompanying Live Aid concert.

Bowie returned to acting, playing the lead in The Elephant Man on Broadway as well as typically exotic characters in the films Cat People and The Hunger.

The late 1980s were dominated by Bowie’s involvement with his new band, a postmodernist heavy metal outfit, Tin Machine.

This project, which was designed to allow Bowie to re-examine his rock ‘n’ roll roots, produced two albums of questionable quality and was panned by the listening public and critics alike.

The 1990s saw David Bowie flirting with drum-and-bass on the Earthling album, setting up his own highly popular website and debuting on Wall Street with the Bowie Bond, sales of which netted him $55m.

The 2002 album Heathen saw a long-awaited return to form for the indefinable master of rock style, and the man who, throughout his long and varied career, influenced everyone from Iggy Pop to Boy George.

After a decade without a studio album he released The Next Day in 2013, surprising fans who thought he had retired. It became his first UK number one for 20 years.

His last album, the critically acclaimed Blackstar, was released on his 69th birthday, just days before his death.

David Bowie Backing Tracks – 1984   …   Absolute Beginners … All The Madmen … All  The Young Dudes … Andy Warhol … An Occasional Dream … Ashes To Ashes … As The World Falls Down … Be My Wife … Bewlay Brothers … Big Brother … Black Country Rock … Blackstar … Black Tie White Noise … Blue Jean … Boss Of Me … Boys Keep Swinging … Cactus … Cat People … Changes … China Girl … Cygnet Committee … Dancing Out In Space … Dancing In The Street … Day In Day Out … Dead Men Walking … Diamond Dogs … Dirty Boys … DJ … Drive in Saturday … Eight Line Poem … Fame … Fashion …Fill Your Heart … Five Years … God Knows I’m Good … Golden Years … Hallo Spaceboy … Hang Onto Yourself … Heat … Helden … Heroes … How Does The Grass Grow … I Can’t Read … I’d Rather Be High … I’ll Take You There … I’m Afraid Of Americans … It Ain’t Easy … Jean Genie … John I’m Only Dancing … Jump They Say … Knock On Wood … Kooks … Lady Grinning Soul … Lady Stardust … Laughing Gnome … Lazarus … Let’s Dance … Letter to Hermione … Life On Mars … Little Wonder … Little Wonder  … London Boys … Love Is Lost … Loving The Alien … Magic Dance … Man Who Sold The World … Mars … Memory Of A Free Festival … Modern Love … Moonage Daydream … Never Let Me Down … New Killer Star … No Plan … Oh You Pretty Thing … Panic In Detroit … Peace On Earth … Port Of Amsterdam … Prettiest Star … Queen Bitch … Quicksand … Rebel Rebel … Reflektor … Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide … Scary Monsters … Seven … Slow Burn … So She … Song For Bob Dylan … Sorrow … Soul Love … Sound And Vision … Space Oddity … Starman … Stars Are Out Tonight … Station To Station … Suffragette City … Supermen … Teenage Wildlife … The Next Day … This Is Not America … Thursday’s Child … Time … Tonight … TVC 15 … Uncle Arthur … Underground … Under Pressure … Unwashed and Slightly Dazed … Valentine’s Day … When I Live My Dreams … Where Are We Now … Width Of A Circle … Wilde Eyed Boy From Free Cloud … Wild Is The Wind … Word On A Wing … You Do The Love … You Feel So Lonely You Could Die … Young Americans … You Will Set The World On Fire … Ziggy Stardust …

 

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