Fabled innovator in popular music
A five-decade trailblazer as singer, songwriter, actor and record producer
David Robert Jones was born in London on Jan. 8, 1947. As a teenager, he played saxophone and sang the blues, inspired by the jazz he heard in London's West End. By the sixties, he renamed himself David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees' lead singer, Davy Jones. But this change was fairly small when compared to the distinctive personas adopted by the chameleon-like Bowie throughout his 40-year career; such as the androgynous Ziggy Stardust or the ill-fated Major Tom. These enigmatic transformations helped define him as an icon and extended his influence not only in music but art, fashion and pop culture as well.
His diverse body of work includes memorable songs such as "Changes," “Fame," “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” “Under Pressure,” and “Young Americans.” Bowie’s signature anthem, "Space Oddity," from the album of the same name that he cannily re-released shortly before the Apollo 11 mission in 1973, was performed in space by a Canadian astronaut at the International Space Station in 2013.
Although Bowie is known first and foremost as a pioneer of the glam-rock genre, his range as an artist was vast. During his life, he was a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter, and actor. His influence spread to a broad range of musicians that includes rockers, punks, hip-hop artists, and pop stars. He counted household names like Queen, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop among his collaborators. In perhaps his most surprising matchup, Bowie joined with iconic crooner Bing Crosby in recording “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” a 1977 Christmas carol that remains a fixture on many holiday playlists. Bowie's 1977 albums Low and Heroes, both collaborations with Brian Eno, were the basis for symphonies by the renowned composer Philip Glass.
As an actor, Bowie worked with Marlene Dietrich in her last movie, Just a Gigolo, and director Nicolas Roeg’s eerie 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth quickly became a cult favorite. He also appeared in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Labyrinth and as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. In the 1980s, he captivated Broadway audiences as the lead in The Elephant Man; and was lauded by critics and fans for his haunting, poignant performance.
In 1992, Bowie married supermodel Iman, and his Black Tie White Noise album released the following year, was inspired by their wedding. In 1998, proving his masterful ability to remain on the forefront of media, he launched his own Internet service provider, Bowienet. Combining elements of an interactive fan club and music streaming service, the network predated behemoths like Twitter, Spotify, and Second Life. Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2006. His 1972 landmark release The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Bowie died in January 2015, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of Blackstar, his 25th studio album. He left the world a legacy of music, with 25 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, 39 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (including seven top 10’s) and countless other accolades.