Bowie, David

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bowie, David

David Bowie, 1947–, British rock and roll singer and songwriter, b. Brixton as David Robert Jones. 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 has been 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, in collaboration with the innovative producer Brian Eno, the influential electronic albums Low (1977), Heroes, (1977), and Lodger (1979). Bowie himself was a record producer during these years.

He has 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). Bowie's commercial peak came in 1983 with the release of the album Let's Dance and its hit single "China Girl." During the rest of the decade he released a number of comparatively conventional recordings, and in the late 80s formed his own band, Tin Machine. Bowie resumed his solo career during the 1990s, releasing several albums, e.g., Black Tie White Noise (1993), Outside (1995), Earthling (1997), hours … (1999), and Reality (2003). He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

See biography by P. Trynka (2011).

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