Remembering David Bowie
He was the Starman who was a bit of a Space Oddity. He was Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, and the man who sold the world. When he commanded us to put on our red shoes and dance, we happily complied.
David Bowie died on Sunday, at the age of 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer. The news of his death came as a shock, at a time when his fans still thought things were hunky dory and were rejoicing at the release of his latest – and final – album Blackstar, last Friday, on what was his 69th birthday.
The official statements on Bowie’s official social media accounts read: “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Born David Robert Jones in Brixton, Britain, in 1947, Bowie is one of the most influential musicians of all time. His over four-decade-long career began with the release of his “debut” album Space Oddity in 1969, before punching through orbit with his fourth album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars in 1972.
With the release of that album, Bowie gained a reputation as a master of reinvention, creating the androgynous and other-worldly alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, and even performing live shows as Ziggy.
After Ziggy Stardust, Bowie went on to achieve critical and commercial success with his subsequent releases. Aladdin Sane, released in 1973, became his first ever No. 1 album in Britain, and he scored his first ever US No. 1 single in 1975 with Fame (co-written with John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar).
With 1976’s Station To Station, he reinvented himself again, this time as the “Thin White Duke” in the album’s title track. The album, which hit No. 3 in the US album charts, coincided with a bad patch of Bowie’s life, in which his drug habit became a major problem.
To help in his rehabilitation, Bowie moved to Berlin, Germany and produced what is known amongst fans as the “Berlin trilogy” of albums – 1977’s Low and Heroes (of which the title track became one of his most recognisable tunes) and Lodger in 1979.
The 1980s was another successful decade for Bowie, beginning with the release of the British No. 1 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980 (which produced another major hit, Ashes To Ashes), and collaborating with Queen on Under Pressure in 1981.
In 1983, he scored his second and final US No. 1 with Let’s Dance.
Bowie also dabbled in acting throughout his career, making his feature film debut in 1976 with The Man Who Fell To Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg. He also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), played Andy Warhol in 1996’s Basquiat and made a cameo as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige in 2006.
One of his most iconic roles, however, was in 1986’s cult favourite Labyrinth, where he played Jareth the Goblin King.
After eschewing his solo career for a frankly anonymous stint with a band called Tin Machine in the early part of the 1990s, Bowie scored another hit with his comeback solo album, 1993’s soul-infused Black Tie White Noise, and followed that up with the equally successful Outside (1995) and Earthling (1997).
In 2003, while touring to promote his latest album Reality, Bowie suffered a heart attack, and kept a low profile for much of the decade, until he surprised fans by releasing The Next Day out of the blue in 2013.
His first British No. 1 hit album since Black Tie White Noise, the album gave fans hope of more new Bowie music to come. That hope was realised with the release of Blackstar last Friday.
Two days later, he was gone.
Rest in peace, Mr Bowie. May your star shine on in that great gig in the sky.