Bowie, David

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bowie, David

David Bowie, 1947–2016, British rock-and-roll singer and songwriter who successfully, merged rock, art, and fashion, b. London as David Robert Jones. After singing with five different bands in the mid-1960s, he scored his first hit with "Space Oddity" (1969), in which he assumed the role of astronaut Major Tom. A student of mime, the tall, slender, theatrical Bowie was the ultimate pop chameleon. During the 1970s, the height of his fame, he created a number of characters, most famously the androgynous alien/glam rock star Ziggy Stardust, featured in concert, film, and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). His other 70s albums include Hunky Dory (1971), Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975, in which he initiated his "Thin White Duke" persona), and, while living in Berlin, in collaboration with producer Brian Eno, the influential electronic albums Low (1977), Heroes, (1977), and Lodger (1979). Bowie also was a record producer during these years.

Bowie's commercial peak came in 1983 with the release of the album Let's Dance and its hit singles, the title track and "China Girl." During the rest of the decade he released a number of comparatively conventional recordings, and in the late 1980s formed his own band, Tin Machine. Bowie resumed his solo career during the 90s, releasing several albums including Black Tie White Noise (1993), Outside (1995), Earthling (1997), hours … (1999), and Reality (2003). In 2013 his comeback album, The Next Day, was well received; his last album, Blackstar (2016), was a collaboration with a jazz quartet. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Bowie also had a successful acting career, starring in such films as The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983), and Basquiat (1996) and in the Broadway production of The Elephant Man (1981). The off-Broadway musical Lazarus (2015), a sequel to his 1976 film, was co-written by him and built around his songs.

See D. Jones, David Bowie, A Life (2017), a biography told through interviews; biography by P. Trynka (2011).

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