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David Bowie

David Bowie

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Also Known As: David Robert Jones, Ziggy Stardust Died: January 10, 2016
Born: January 8, 1947 Cause of Death: Cancer
Birth Place: South London, England, GB Profession: singer, songwriter, actor, music producer, producer, painter, commercial artist in advertising agency

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Hailed by many as the founding father of "glam rock," David Bowie defied rock star conventions and blurred the lines between music and performance art. Embracing the avant-garde, Bowie created futuristic, androgynous characters to represent the music he released in the form of seminal rock albums such as Space Oddity (1969), The Man Who Sold the World (1970), and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). A musical chameleon, Bowie reinvented his persona with every album and live performance, from the decadent Ziggy Stardust, to the enigmatic Thin White Duke, and helped pioneer several genres of music, including New Wave, industrial, and electronic. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducteeâ¿¿s constant reinvention and love of theatrics also influenced artists like Madonna and Lady Gaga, while his enormous talent allowed him to enjoy equal success as an actor, working with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch. Renowned for exploring the fringes of pop music, Bowie carved a successful career out of change, and retained his reputation as an experimental artist as well as a true music icon. After more than a decade of musical silence, marked by health concerns,...

Hailed by many as the founding father of "glam rock," David Bowie defied rock star conventions and blurred the lines between music and performance art. Embracing the avant-garde, Bowie created futuristic, androgynous characters to represent the music he released in the form of seminal rock albums such as Space Oddity (1969), The Man Who Sold the World (1970), and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). A musical chameleon, Bowie reinvented his persona with every album and live performance, from the decadent Ziggy Stardust, to the enigmatic Thin White Duke, and helped pioneer several genres of music, including New Wave, industrial, and electronic. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducteeâ¿¿s constant reinvention and love of theatrics also influenced artists like Madonna and Lady Gaga, while his enormous talent allowed him to enjoy equal success as an actor, working with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch. Renowned for exploring the fringes of pop music, Bowie carved a successful career out of change, and retained his reputation as an experimental artist as well as a true music icon. After more than a decade of musical silence, marked by health concerns, David Bowie returned with an iconoclastic new album, The Next Day, in 2013, followed by an even more experimental release, Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2015. Sadly, David Bowie died following an 18-month battle with cancer only two days later, on January 10, 2015, at his home in New York City.

He was born David Jones on January 8, 1947 in London, England, the son of a charity promotions officer and a cinema usherette. He took up playing the saxophone at 13 and sang in the Burnt Ash Junior School choir. The young Bowie was heavily influenced by the records his father played at home, which were mostly American artists like Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. His older half-brother, Terry Burns, also introduced the teenage Jones to modern jazz, sparking an increasing interest in avant-garde culture. Jones formed his first band, The Konrads, at 15. After being signed to a management contract by Leslie Conn, the business partner of Beatles publisher Dick James, Jones released his first single "Liza Jane" in 1964, credited to Davie Jones and the King Bees. The single and its two follow-ups were unsuccessful, and the partnership between Jones and Conn ended.

Tired of being confused with British actor and pop singer Davy Jones (soon to become an international superstar in The Monkees), Jones adopted the stage name David Bowie, after American frontiersman Jim Bowie and his namesake knife. Bowie's first single under his new name, a stomping mod rocker with shades of The Who called "Can't Help Thinking About Me," was his first truly great song, but it was only moderately more successful than its predecessors. Signing to Deram Records, Bowie released his self-titled debut album on June 1, 1967. A collection of Broadway-style pop and folk-rock songs that bears little resemblance to the music he released later in his career, David Bowie failed to garner attention. Becoming disillusioned with pop music, Bowie spent a few weeks at a Scottish monastery, then apprenticed in dancer Lindsay Kempâ¿¿s avant-garde theater and mime group. He formed his own mime troupe called Feathers in 1968 before establishing the experimental Beckenham Arts Lab a year later. To fund his artistic endeavor, Bowie signed with Philips/Mercury and released the psychedelic folk track "Space Oddity." Released as a single to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing, "Space Oddity" became a major British hit single, reaching the Top 5. Although the subsequent album, like his debut also titled David Bowie, was not a commercial success, it emboldened Bowie to refocus his musical career. Bedecked in a controversial sleeve that featured the lithe Bowie reclining in a dress, third album The Man Who Sold the World featured a heavier rock sound, courtesy of a nascent version of the backing band Bowie would later dub The Spiders from Mars, featuring guitarist Mick Ronson. The Man Who Sold the World and its lighter follow-up Hunky Dory (1971) have retroactively been seen as the birth of "glam rock," a genre that also included Bowieâ¿¿s friend and artistic rival Marc Bolan, who fronted the band T. Rex. The early 1970s saw a rise in popularity for glam rock stars like Bowie and Bolan, typified by their outrageous stage costumes, gender-bending personalities, and guitar-driven music. Bowie's declaration of his bisexuality in a 1972 interview made him the figurehead of the outrageous scene. Around the same time, two American proto-punk artists â¿¿ Iggy Pop and the Velvet Undergroundâ¿¿s Lou Reed â¿¿ inspired Bowie to come up with the concept of "the ultimate pop idol," which became the blueprint for a character he created named Ziggy Stardust.

In 1972, Bowie released the artfully crafted concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The recordâ¿¿s futuristic theme told the story of a doomed Messiah-like rock star named Ziggy Stardust, a human-like alien who was Earthâ¿¿s last hope. Onstage, Bowie embodied the Ziggy Stardust character; from his striking fiery red hair and futuristic jumpsuits to his sparkly platform boots, he emerged as a bona fide rock star. The albumâ¿¿s success paved the way for Bowieâ¿¿s subsequent releases, including Aladdin Sane (1973), the Mod-influenced covers album Pin Ups (1973), and Diamond Dogs (1974), all dealing with themes of post-apocalyptic worlds, gender-bending anti-heroes, and mankindâ¿¿s self-destruction. Midway through a 1974 American tour, Bowie visited Philadelphiaâ¿¿s Sigma Sound Studios and began working on songs for his next album. The sessions resulted in the R&B-influenced Young Americans (1975), Bowieâ¿¿s departure from his glam rock phase. Dressed in baggy Oxford trousers, hair trimmed, and sans makeup, Bowie worked with a new band that included future R&B hitmaker Luther Vandross singing back-up vocals and co-writing tracks. The album also included the single "Fame," co-written with Bowie's new guitarist Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, which became Bowieâ¿¿s first No. 1 single in the U.S.

Bowieâ¿¿s success in America led him to move to Los Angeles to explore new artistic ventures. He made his acting debut in 1976, starring in Nicolas Roegâ¿¿s "The Man Who Fell to Earth" as an extraterrestrial being who crash lands on Earth. Even though there was no official film soundtrack because of contractual disputes with the studio, Bowieâ¿¿s 10th album Station to Station (1976) and its Thin White Duke persona bared a striking resemblance visually and musically to his character in "The Man Who Fell to Earth." Troubled by his worsening cocaine addiction, Bowie moved to Europe that same year. His taste in music also shifted once again, leaving behind soul and funk and moving into the ambient electronic sounds of Berlin, Germany. Bowie recorded some of his most acclaimed work in the late 1970s with producer Tony Visconti and fellow trailblazer Brian Eno, collectively called the Berlin Trilogy. Even though the three albums â¿¿ Low, "Heroes", and Lodger â¿¿ were not commercially successful at the time, their influence on various post-punk music genres is immense.

Leaving his longtime musical home RCA Records, the 1980s brought Bowie to the forefront of mainstream music, first with the hit "Under Pressure," a collaboration with British art rockers Queen, followed by the 1983 smash album, Let⿿s Dance, which yielded the Top 20 singles "Let⿿s Dance," "China Girl," and "Modern Love." Co-produced by Nile Rodgers and featuring Texan blues-rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, the album turned Bowie into an international pop star, fueled by his stylish music videos receiving heavy rotation on MTV. Bowie further added to his acting résumé, playing a 150-year-old vampire in Tony Scott's stylish thriller "The Hunger" (1983); a World War II prisoner of war in the drama "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" (1983); an evil goblin king in Jim Henson's fantasy adventure "Labyrinth" (1986); and Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese⿿s "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988). After a disappointing pair of solo albums, Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down Again, Bowie ended the decade by forming Tin Machine, his first group since recording as a solo artist in the early ⿿70s. Intended as a "back-to-basics" project for the rocker, Tin Machine⿿s debut album earned positive reviews for its stripped down rock format and insightful lyrics, but the follow-up Tin Machine II (1991) was widely panned.

Over a decade after his divorce from first wife Angela Bowie (mother of their son Duncan Jones, who became a respected screenwriter and director), Bowie married Somali-born actress and supermodel Iman in 1992. That same year, Bowie played a mysterious FBI agent in David Lynchâ¿¿s drama "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992). The decade saw more transformations in Bowieâ¿¿s musical style, fusing soul, jazz and hip-hop in the album Black Tie White Noise (1993), moving on to industrial sounds with Outside (1995), and championing electronic music with Earthling (1997). After the release of Hours (1999) and Heathens (2003), Bowie took an 11-year break from music following the birth of his second child, daughter Alexandria, and a 2004 heart attack requiring an emergency angioplasty. Aside from occasional collaborations and one-off appearances, including a hilarious cameo on the Ricky Gervais series "Extras" (HBO 2005-07) and a small role as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (2006), Bowie remained quiet until January 8, 2013, his 66th birthday. Early that morning, Bowie announced the surprise release of his all new album The Next Day. Widely critically acclaimed upon its release, the album proved to be a major artistic success. He followed it the next year with his first career-spanning compilation, Nothing Has Changed, which included the daring free jazz-influenced single "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)." Bowie's final album, Blackstar, was released to near-unanimous critical acclaim on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2015. To the shock of his fans worldwide, Bowie died two days later, on January 10. According to a family spokesman, he had been battling cancer in private for 18 months.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Bandslam (2009)
4.
 August (2008)
5.
 Glastonbury (2006)
7.
 Prestige, The (2006)
8.
 Il Mio West (2005) Jack Sikora
9.
 Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003) Himself
10.
 Zoolander (2001) (Cameo Appearance)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1967:
Apprenticed in Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe, exchanging musical scores for pantomime lessons
1969:
Scored feature debut with a bit part in "The Virgin Soldiers"
1975:
Scored first American Number One single, "Fame," co-written with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar
1977:
Released the experimental album <i>Low</i>, the start of his celebrated "Berlin trilogy" completed by <i>"Heroes"</i> and <i>Lodger</i>
1982:
Appeared in BBC-TV production of Bertolt Brecht's "Baal"
1986:
Co-starred as Jareth, King of the Goblins, in Jim Henson's "Labyrinth"
1996:
Portrayed Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel's "Basquiat"
2002:
Released experimental album <i>Heathen</i> to positive reviews
2006:
Cast as an inventor and electrical wizard in the Christopher Nolan-directed "The Prestige"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Bromley Technical High School: -

Notes

Pulled a no-show at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Received an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts in May 1999.

In July 1998, formally announced plans to launch a high-speed Internet service provider at www.davidbowie.com.

In December 2001, due to his frustration with the "corporate structure" of his longtime record label Virgin Records, announced formation of own independent music company.

"The three or four years that followed 'Let's Dance' were for me particularly tough about reevaluating what I wanted. I thought, 'Who are these people? They kind of look like a Phil Collins audience.' Suddenly, I had all these people for whom the songs on the radio--'China Girl', 'Modern Girl' and 'Let's Dance'--had become my oeurve. That was all they knew of me, and it was MOR [middle of the road] enough that it encouraged this enormous audience. And I started thinking, What kind of music would they like? I was bastardizing who and what I am and didn't know how to break out of it." --David Bowie in GQ, January 1997.

"Ever since I discovered the Dadaists I related to them. They became my family. I could see the sense of their nonsense. These were fellow uncles and aunts. The idea that they completely deconstructed the world around them and destroyed every orthodoxy and said with glee that art is shit and art is dead and art no longer exists--was a triumphal rebelliousness of an extreme order . . . For me, it was the joy of recreating the gleeful mischief of the Dada era and applying it to rock. That kind of juxtaposition, that synthesis, always excites me because it takes two known ingredients and produces a third totally new thing. You don't stick with communism and you don't stick with capitalism--you take the best of both and create a new way, a new system that has no name. That's really what I think my work does. I create the little monsters of our time." --Bowie in Interview, February 1997.

"About 15 or 16 years ago, I really got pretty tired of fending off questions about what I used to do with my [penis] in the early 70s. My suggestion for people with prurient interests is to go through the 30 or 40 bios on me and pick out the rumor of their choice." --Bowie quoted in Us, November 1995.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Angela Bowie. Actor. Married on March 20, 1970; divorced in 1980; mother of Joey Bowie.
companion:
Melissa Hurley. Dancer. Born c. 1967.
wife:
Iman. Model, actor. Married on June 6 1992; proposed in November 1991; Somalian; formerly married to NBA star Spencer Haywood with whom she has a daughter, Zulekha born c. 1988; mother of Bowie's daughter Alexandria.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Hayward Stenton Jones.
mother:
Margaret Mary Burns. Died in 2001.
brother:
Terry Jones. Institutionalized; inspired Bowie's song "All the Madmen"; Bowie claims generations of insanity in his family.
son:
Zowie Duncan Heywood Bowie. Born c. 1971; was studying philosophy as of fall 1995.
step-daughter:
Zulekha Haywood. Born c. 1988.
daughter:
Alexandria Zahra Jones. Born on August 15, 2000; mother, Iman.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side With David Bowie" G.P. Putnam's Sons

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