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His youth - The 60’s: His debut - 1970-1975: Rise to success - 1976-1980: The Berlin era -

 1980-1989: Bowie the superstar - 1989-1991: Tin Machine - 1992-1999: Electronica -

1999-present: Neoclassicist Bowie



His youth

David Robert Jones was born on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, London, England to a father from Doncaster in Yorkshire and a mother from an Irish family; Bowie's parents were married shortly after his birth. He lived at 40 Stansfield Road in Brixton until he was six years old, when his family moved to Bromley in Kent (now part of Greater London). He was educated at Bromley Technical High School in Keston, Bromley (as was Peter Frampton, whose father Owen was head of the Art department) and lived with his parents until he was eighteen.

When Bowie was age fifteen, his friend George Underwood, wearing a ring on his finger, punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. Bowie was forced to stay out of school for eight months so that doctors could conduct operations in attempts to repair his potentially-blinded eye. Underwood and Bowie remained good friends; Underwood went on to do artwork for Bowie's earlier albums. Doctors could not fully repair the damage, leaving his pupil permanently dilated. As a result of the injury, Bowie has faulty depth perception. Bowie has stated that although he can see with his injured eye, his colour vision was mostly lost and a brownish tone is constantly present. The colour of the irises is still the same blue, but since the pupil of the injured eye is wide open, the colour of that eye is commonly mistaken to be different. 


The 60’s: His debut

Bowie's interest in music was sparked at the age of nine when his father brought home a collection of American 45s, including Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and, most particularly, Little Richard. Upon listening to "Tutti Frutti", Bowie would later say, "I had heard God". His half-brother Terry introduced him to modern jazz and Bowie's enthusiasm for players like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane led his mother to give him a plastic saxophone for Christmas in 1959. Graduating to a real instrument, he formed his first band in 1962, the Konrads. He then played with various blues/beat groups, such as The King Bees, The Manish Boys, The Lower Third and The Riot Squad in the mid-1960s, releasing his first record, the single "Liza Jane", with the King Bees in 1964. His early work shifted through the blues and Elvis-esque music while working with many British pop styles.

During the early 1960s, Bowie was performing either under his own name or the stage name "Davie Jones", and briefly even as "Davy Jones", creating confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. To avoid this, in 1966 he chose "Bowie" for his stage name, after the Alamo hero Jim Bowie and his famous Bowie knife. During this time, he recorded singles for Parlophone under the name of The Manish Boys and Davy Jones and for Pye under the name David Bowie (and The Lower Third), all without success.

Bowie released his first album in 1967 for the Decca Records offshoot Deram, simply called David Bowie, an amalgam of pop, psychedelic, and music hall. Around the same time he issued a novelty single utilizing sped-up Chipmunk-style vocals, "The Laughing Gnome", with the B-side "The Gospel According to Tony Day". None of these managed to chart, and he would not cut another record for two years. His Deram material from the album and various singles was later recycled in a multitude of compilations.

Bowie's first flirtation with fame came in 1969 with his single "Space Oddity", written the previous year but recorded and released to coincide with the first moon landing. This ballad told the story of Major Tom, an astronaut who becomes lost in space, though it has also been interpreted as an allegory for taking drugs. It became a Top 5 UK hit. The corresponding album, his second, was originally titled David Bowie, which caused some confusion as both of Bowie's first and second albums were released with that name in the UK (in the U.S. the second album bore the title Man of Words, Man of Music). In 1972, this album was re-released by RCA Records as Space Oddity.

Bowie met his first wife Angela in 1969. According to Bowie, they were "fucking the same bloke" (record executive Calvin Mark Lee). Angie's sense of fashion and outrage has been credited as a significant influence in Bowie's early career and rise to fame. They married on 19 March 1970 at Bromley Register Office in Beckenham Lane, Kent, England where she permanently took his adopted last name.


1970-1975: Rise to success

Their son was born on 30 May 1971 and named Zowie (Zowie later preferred to be known as Joe/Joey, although now he has reverted to his legal birth name - Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones).

In 1970, Bowie released his third album, The Man Who Sold the World, rejecting the acoustic guitar sound of the previous album and replacing it with the heavy rock backing provided by Mick Ronson, who would be a major collaborator through 1973. Much of the album resembles British heavy metal music of the period, but the album provided some unusual musical detours, such as the title track's use of Latin sounds and rhythms. The song provided an unlikely hit for UK pop singer Lulu and would be performed by many groups over the years, including Nirvana. In the original UK cover of the album, Bowie is seen in a dress, an early example of him exploiting his androgynous appearance. In the U.S., the album was originally released in completely different cartoon-like cover which did not feature Bowie.

His next record, Hunky Dory in 1971, saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of "Space Oddity", with light fare such as the droll "Kooks" (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie). Elsewhere, the album explored more serious themes on tracks such as "Oh! You Pretty Things" (a song taken to UK #12 by Herman's Hermits' Peter Noone in 1971), the semi-autobiographical "The Bewlay Brothers", and the Buddhist-influenced "Quicksand". Lyrically, the young songwriter also paid unusually direct homage to his influences with "Song for Bob Dylan", "Andy Warhol", and "Queen Bitch", which Bowie's somewhat cryptic liner notes indicate as a Velvet Underground pastiche. As with the single "Changes", Hunky Dory was not a big hit but it laid the groundwork for the move that would shortly lift Bowie into the first rank of stars, giving him four top-ten albums and eight top ten singles in the UK in eighteen months between 1972 and 1973.

Bowie's androgynous persona was further explored in June 1972 with the seminal concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which presents a world destined to end in five years and tells the story of the ultimate rock star, Ziggy Stardust. The album's sound combined hard rock elements of The Man Who Sold the World with the lighter pop of Hunky Dory and the fast-paced glam rock pioneered by Marc Bolan's T. Rex. Many of the album's songs have become rock classics, including "Ziggy Stardust," "Moonage Daydream," "Hang on to Yourself," and "Suffragette City."

The Ziggy Stardust character became the basis for Bowie's first large-scale tour beginning in 1972, where he donned his famous flaming red hair and wild outfits. The tour featured a three-piece band representing the "Spiders from Mars": Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, and Mick Woodmansey on drums. The album made #5 in the UK on the strength of the #10 placing of the single "Starman". Their success made Bowie a star, and soon the six-month-old Hunky Dory eclipsed Ziggy Stardust, when it peaked at #3 on the UK chart. At the same time the non-album single "John, I’m Only Dancing" (not released in the U.S. until 1979) peaked at UK #12, and "All the Young Dudes", a song he had given to, and produced for, Mott The Hoople, made UK #3.

Around the same time Bowie began promoting and producing his rock and roll heroes. Former Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed's solo breakthrough Transformer was produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson. Iggy Pop and his band The Stooges signed with Bowie's management, MainMan Productions, and recorded their third album, Raw Power, in London. Though he was not present for the tracking of the album, Bowie later performed its much-debated mix.

The Spiders From Mars came together again on Aladdin Sane, released in April 1973 and his first #1 album in the UK. Described by Bowie as "Ziggy goes to America", all the new songs were written on ship, bus or trains during the first leg of his US Ziggy Stardust tour. The album's cover, featuring Bowie shirtless with Ziggy hair and a red, black, and blue lightning bolt across his face, has been labeled as "startling as rock covers ever got." Aladdin Sane included the UK #2 hit "The Jean Genie", the UK #3 hit "Drive-In Saturday", and a rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together". Mike Garson joined Bowie to play piano on this album, and his solo on the title track has been cited as one of the album's highlights.

Bowie's later Ziggy shows, which included songs from both Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, as well as a few earlier tracks like "Changes" and "The Width of a Circle", were ultra-theatrical affairs filled with shocking stage moments, such as Bowie stripping down to a sumo wrestling loincloth or simulating oral sex with Ronson's guitar. Bowie toured and gave press conferences as Ziggy before a dramatic and abrupt on-stage "retirement" at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973. His announcement – "Of all the shows on this tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest, because not only is it the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do. Thank you." – has been preserved in a live recording of the show, belatedly released under the title Ziggy Stardust - The Motion Picture in 1983 after many years circulating as a bootleg.

Pin Ups, a collection of covers of his 1960s favourites, was released in October 1973, spawning a UK #3 hit in "Sorrow" and itself peaking at #1, making David Bowie the best-selling act of 1973 in the UK. By this time, Bowie had broken up the Spiders from Mars and was attempting to move on from his Ziggy persona. Bowie's own back catalogue was now highly sought: The Man Who Sold the World had been re-released in 1972 along with the second David Bowie album (Space Oddity), while Hunky Dory's "Life on Mars?" was released as a single in 1973 and made #3 in the UK, the same year Bowie's novelty record from 1967, "The Laughing Gnome", hit #6.

1974 saw the release of another ambitious album, Diamond Dogs, with a spoken word introduction and a multi-part song suite ("Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)"). Diamond Dogs was the product of two distinct ideas: a musical based on a wild future in a post-apocalyptic city, and setting George Orwell's 1984 to music ("1984", "Big Brother", "We Are the Dead").

Bowie also made plans to develop a Diamond Dogs movie, but didn't get very far. He mentioned later that there was some footage completed with scenes of havoc with people on roller skates, but it has remained unseen. Bowie had planned on actually writing a musical to 1984, but his interest waned after encountering difficulties in licensing the novel. He used some of the songs he had written for the project on Diamond Dogs.

The album — and an NBC television special, The 1980 Floor Show, broadcast at around the same time — demonstrated Bowie headed toward the genre of soul/funk music, the track "1984" being a prime example. The album spawned the hits "Rebel Rebel" (UK #5) and "Diamond Dogs" (UK #21), and itself went to #1 in the UK, making him the best-selling act of that country for the second year in a row. In the US, Bowie achieved his first major commercial success as the album went to #5.

To follow on the release of the album, Bowie launched a massive Diamond Dogs tour in North America from June to December 1974. Choreographed by Toni Basil, and lavishly produced with theatrical special effects, the high-budget stage production broke with contemporary standard practice for rock concerts by featuring no encores. It was filmed by Alan Yentob for the documentary Cracked Actor. The documentary seemed to confirm the rumors of his cocaine abuse, featuring a pasty and emaciated Bowie nervously sniffing in the backseat of a car and claiming that there was a fly in his milk.

Bowie commented that the resulting live album David Live ought to have been called "David Bowie Is Alive and Well and Living Only In Theory," presumably in reference to his addled and frenetic psychological state during this period. Nevertheless the album solidified his status as a superstar, going #2 in the UK and #8 in the US. It also spawned a UK #10 hit in a cover of "Knock on Wood".

After the opening leg of the tour, Bowie mostly jettisoned the elaborate sets. Then, when the tour resumed after a summer break in Philadelphia for recording new material, the Diamond Dogs sound no longer seemed apt. Bowie cancelled seven dates and made changes to the band, which returned to the road in October as the Philly Dogs tour.

For Ziggy Stardust fans who had not discerned the soul and funk strains already apparent in Bowie's recent work, the "new" sound was considered a sudden and jolting step. 1975's Young Americans was Bowie's definitive exploration of Philly soul — though he himself referred to the sound ironically as "plastic soul." It contained his first #1 hit in the US, "Fame", co-written with John Lennon (the ex-Beatle who also contributed backing vocals) and one of Bowie's new band members, guitarist Carlos Alomar. It was based on a riff Alomar had developed while covering The Flares' 1961 doo-wop classic "Footstompin'," which Bowie's band had taken to playing live during the Philly Dogs period. One of the backing vocalists on the album is a young Luther Vandross, who also co-wrote some of the material for Young Americans. The song “Win” featured a hypnotic guitar riff later taken by Beck for the track/live staple "Debra" off his Midnite Vultures album. Despite Bowie's unashamed recognition of the shallowness of his "plastic soul," he did earn the bona fide distinction of being one of the few white artists to be invited to appear on the popular "Soul Train." Another violently paranoid appearance on ABC's The Dick Cavett Show (December 5, 1974) seemed to confirm rumors of Bowie's heavy cocaine use at this time.

Young Americans was the album that cemented Bowie's stardom in the U.S.; though only peaking there at #9, as opposed to the #5 placing of Diamond Dogs, the album stayed on the charts almost twice as long. At the same time, the album achieved #2 in the UK while a re-issue of his old single "Space Oddity" became his first #1 hit in the UK, only a few months after "Fame" had achieved the same in the US.

Station to Station (1976) featured a darker version of this soul persona, called The Thin White Duke. Visually the figure was an extension of Thomas Jerome Newton, the character Bowie portrayed in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Station to Station was a transitional album, prefiguring the Krautrock and synthesizer music of his next releases, while further developing the funk and soul music of Young Americans. By this time Bowie had become heavily dependent on drugs, particularly cocaine; many critics have attributed the chopped rhythms and emotional detachment of the record to the influence of the drug, to which Bowie claimed to have been introduced in America. His emotional disturbance and megalomania at this time reached such a fever pitch that Bowie refused to relinquish control of a satellite, booked for a world-wide broadcast of a live appearance preceding the release of Station to Station, at the request of the Spanish Government, who wished to put out a live feed regarding the death of Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco. Additionally, Bowie was withering physically after having lost an alarming amount of weight.

Nonetheless, there was another large tour, The 1976 World Tour, which featured a starkly lit set and highlighted new songs such as the dramatic and lengthy title track, the ballads "Wild Is the Wind" and "Word on a Wing", and the funkier "TVC 15" and "Stay". The core band that coalesced around this album and tour — rhythm guitarist Alomar, bassist George Murray, and drummer Dennis Davis — would remain a stable unit through the 1970s. Guest players included lead guitarist Earl Slick, Adrian Belew and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band keyboardist, Roy Bittan. The tour was highly successful but also entrenched in controversy, as the media claimed that Bowie was advocating fascism. The accusation was false and had resulted from a misinterpretation of Bowie's essentially anti-Fascist message.

With the album at #3 in the US--his greatest success there ever--and the single "Golden Years" becoming a transatlantic top ten hit, Bowie hit a commercial peak while his sanity — by his own later admission — became twisted from cocaine: he overdosed several times during the year.

In 1974, Bowie had a year-long affair with French model Amanda Lear, who had been previously engaged to Bryan Ferry and pictured on Roxy Music's 1973 album For Your Pleasure. Bowie played an important part in getting Lear's career in music started.

1976-1980: The Berlin era

Bowie's interest in the growing German music scene, as well as his drug addiction, prompted him to move to West Berlin to dry out and rejuvenate his career. Sharing an apartment in Schöneberg with his friend Iggy Pop, he co-produced three more of his own classic albums with Tony Visconti, while aiding Pop with his career. With Bowie as a co-writer and musician, Pop completed his first two solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life.

Bowie joined Pop's touring band in the spring, simply playing keyboard and singing backing vocals. The group performed in the UK, Europe, and the US from March to April 1977.

The brittle sound of Station to Station proved a precursor to Low, the first of three albums that became known as the "Berlin Trilogy." Low was recorded with Brian Eno as an integral collaborator but, despite widespread belief, not the album's producer. Journalists often mistakenly give Eno production credits on the trilogy but, in fact, Bowie and Tony Visconti co-produced, with Eno co-writing some of the music, playing keyboards, and developing strategies. Bowie stressed in 2000: "Over the years not enough credit has gone to Tony Visconti on those particular albums. The actual sound and texture, the feel of everything from the drums to the way that my voice is recorded is Tony Visconti." Visconti said at the time, "Bowie wanted to make an album of music that was uncompromising and reflected the way he felt. He said he did not care whether or not he had another hit record, and that the recording would be so out of the ordinary that it might never get released".

Partly influenced by the Krautrock sound of Kraftwerk and Neu! and the minimalist work of Steve Reich, Bowie journeyed to Neunkirchen near Cologne to meet the famed German producer Conny Plank. Plank was considered a revolutionary producer in German rock in the era, but had no interest in working with Bowie and refused him entry to the studio. Bowie and his team persevered, however, and recorded new songs that were relatively simple, repetitive and stripped-down, a perverse reaction to punk rock, with the second side almost wholly instrumental. (By way of tribute, proto-punk Nick Lowe recorded an EP entitled Bowi.) The album provided him with a surprise #3 hit in the UK when the BBC picked up the first single, "Sound and Vision", as its 'coming attractions' theme music. Low is renowned for being far ahead of its time, and Bowie himself has said "cut me and I bleed Low". The album was produced in 1976 and released in early 1977.

The next record, Heroes, was similar in sound to Low, though slightly more accessible. The mood of these records fit the zeitgeist of the Cold War, symbolized by the divided city that provided its inspiration. The title track, a story of two lovers who met at the Berlin Wall, is one of Bowie's most-covered songs.

Also in 1977, Bowie appeared on the Granada music show Marc, hosted by his friend and fellow glam pioneer Marc Bolan of T. Rex, with whom he had regularly socialized and jammed before either achieved fame. He turned out to be the show's final guest, as Bolan was killed in a car crash shortly afterward. Bowie was one of many superstars who attended the funeral.

For Christmas 1977, Bowie joined Bing Crosby, of whom he was an ardent admirer, in a recording studio to do "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy", a version of "Little Drummer Boy" with a new lyric. The two singers had originally met on Crosby's Christmas television special two years earlier (on the recommendation of Crosby's children — he had not heard of Bowie) and performed the song. One month after the record was completed, Crosby died. Five years later, the song would prove a worldwide festive hit, charting in the UK at #3 on Christmas Day 1982. Bowie later remarked jokingly that he was afraid of being a guest artist, because "everyone I was going on with was kicking it", referring to Bolan and Crosby.

Bowie and his band embarked on an extensive world tour in 1978 (including his first concerts in Australia and New Zealand) which featured music from both Low and Heroes. A live album from the tour was released as Stage the same year. Songs from both Low and Heroes were later converted to symphonies by minimalist composer Phillip Glass. 1978 was also the year that saw Bowie narrating Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.

1979's Lodger was the final album in Bowie's so-called "Berlin Trilogy", or "triptych" as Bowie calls it. It featured the singles "Boys Keep Swinging", "DJ" and "Look Back in Anger" and, unlike the two previous LPs, did not contain any instrumentals. The style was a mix of new wave and world music, including pieces such as "African Night Flight" and "Yassassin". A number of tracks were composed using the non-traditional Bowie/Eno composition techniques: "Boys Keep Swinging" was developed with the band members swapping their instruments while "Move On" contains the chords for an early Bowie composition, "All The Young Dudes", played backwards. This was Bowie's last album with Eno until Outside in 1995.

In 1980, Bowie did an about-face, integrating the lessons learnt on Low, Heroes, and Lodger while expanding upon them with chart success. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) included the #1 hit "Ashes to Ashes", featuring the textural work of guitar-synthesist Chuck Hammer, and revisiting the character of Major Tom from "Space Oddity". The imagery Bowie used in the song's music video gave international exposure to the underground New Romantic movement and, with many of the followers of this phase being devotees, Bowie visited the London club "Blitz" — the main New Romantic hangout — to recruit several of the regulars (including Steve Strange of the band Visage) to act in the video, renowned as being one of the most innovative of all time.

While Scary Monsters utilized principles that Bowie had learned in the Berlin era, it was considered by critics to be far more direct musically and lyrically, reflecting the transformation Bowie had gone through during his time in Germany and Europe. By 1980 Bowie had divorced his wife Angie, curbed the drug abuse of the "Thin White Duke" era, and radically changed his conception of how music should be written. The album had a hard rock edge that included conspicuous guitar contributions from King Crimson's Robert Fripp, The Who's Pete Townshend, and Television's Tom Verlaine. As "Ashes to Ashes" hit #1 on the UK charts, Bowie opened a three-month run on Broadway starring as The Elephant Man on September 23, 1980.

David and Angela separated after eight years of marriage and divorced on February 8, 1980, in Switzerland. The marriage has been cited as one of convenience for both.


1980-1989: Bowie the superstar

In 1981, Queen released "Under Pressure", co-written and performed with Bowie. The song was a hit and became Bowie's third UK #1 single. In the same year Bowie made a cameo appearance in the German movie Christiane F. Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, the real-life story of a 13 year-old girl in Berlin who becomes addicted to heroin and ends up prostituting herself. Bowie is credited with "special cooperation" in the credits and his music features prominently in the movie. The soundtrack was released in 1982 and contained a version of "Heroes" sung partially in German that had previously been included on the German pressing of its parent album. The same year Bowie appeared in the BBC's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play Baal. Coinciding with transmission of the film, a five-track EP of songs from the play was released as David Bowie in Bertolt Brecht's Baal, recorded at Hansa by the Wall the previous September. It would mark Bowie’s final new release on RCA, as 1983 saw him change record labels from RCA to EMI America.

Bowie scored his first truly commercial blockbuster with Let's Dance in 1983, a slick dance album co-produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers. It was a departure from Scary Monsters for which Bowie received a bit of inside criticism; rather than revolting against 1980s dance music, he had in fact joined the scene. The title track went to #1 in the United States and United Kingdom and many now consider it a standard.

The album also featured the singles "Modern Love" and "China Girl", the latter causing something of a stir due to its suggestive promotional video. "China Girl" was a remake of a song which Bowie co-wrote several years earlier with Iggy Pop, who recorded it for The Idiot. In an interview by Kurt Loder, Bowie revealed that the motivation for recording "China Girl" was to help out his friend Iggy Pop financially, contributing to Bowie's history of support for musicians he admired. Let's Dance was also notable as a stepping stone for the career of the late Texan guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played on the album and was to have supported Bowie on the consequent Serious Moonlight Tour. Vaughan, however, never joined the tour after various disputes with Bowie. Vaughan was replaced by the Bowie tour veteran Earl Slick. Frank and George Simms from The Simms Brothers Band appeared as backing vocalists for the tour. The Serious Moonlight Tour was a huge success, and a single performance at the US Festival actually earned Bowie a million dollars on its own.

Bowie's next album was originally planned to be a live album recorded on the Serious Moonlight Tour, but EMI demanded another studio album instead. The resulting album, 1984's Tonight, was also dance-oriented, featuring collaborations with Tina Turner (and Iggy Pop), as well as various covers, including one of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows". Critics labeled it a lazy effort, dashed off by Bowie simply to recapture Let's Dance's chart success, partially due to the fact most of the tracks were either covers or rerecordings of earlier material. Yet the album bore the transatlantic Top Ten hit "Blue Jean" whose complete video - the 21-minute short film Jazzin' for Blue Jean - reflected Bowie's long-standing interest in combining music with drama. This video would win Bowie his only Grammy to date, for Best Short Form Music Video. It also featured "Loving the Alien", a remix of which was a minor hit in 1985. The album also has a pair of dance rewrites of "Neighborhood Threat" and "Tonight", old songs Bowie wrote with Iggy Pop which had originally appeared on Lust for Life.

In 1985, Bowie performed several of his greatest hits at Wembley for Live Aid. At the end of his set, which comprised "Rebel Rebel", "TVC 15", "Modern Love" and 'Heroes', he introduced a film of the Ethiopian famine, for which the event was raising funds, which was set to the song "Drive" by The Cars. At the event, the video to a fundraising single was premièred – Bowie performing a duet with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones on a version of "Dancing in the Street", which quickly went to #1 on release. In the same year Bowie worked with the Pat Metheny Group on the song "This Is Not America", which was featured in the film The Falcon and the Snowman. This song was the centerpiece of the album, a collaboration intended to underline the espionage thriller's central themes of alienation and disaffection.

In 1986, Bowie contributed several songs to as well as acted in the film Absolute Beginners. The movie was not well reviewed but Bowie's theme song rose to #2 in the UK charts. He also took a role in the 1986 Jim Henson film Labyrinth, as Jareth, the Goblin King who steals the baby brother of a girl named Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly), in order to turn him into a goblin. Bowie wrote five songs for the film, the script of which was partially written by Monty Python's Terry Jones.

Bowie's final solo album of the 80s was 1987's Never Let Me Down, where he ditched the light sound of his two earlier albums, instead offering harder rock with an industrial/techno dance edge. The album, which peaked at #6 in the UK, contained hit singles "Day In, Day Out", "Time Will Crawl", and "Never Let Me Down". Although a commercial success, it drew some of the harshest criticism of Bowie's career, condemned by some critics as a "faceless" piece of product. Bowie himself later described it as "my nadir" and "an awful album".

Bowie decided to tour again in 1987, supporting the Never Let Me Down album. The Glass Spider Tour was preceded by nine promotional press shows before the 86-concert tour actually started on 30 May 1987. In addition to the actual band, that included Peter Frampton on lead guitar, five dancers appeared on stage for almost the entire duration of each concert. Taped pieces of dialogue were also performed by Bowie and the dancers in the middle of songs, creating an overtly theatrical effect. Several visual gimmicks were also recreated from Bowie's earlier tours. Critics of the tour described it as overproduced and claimed it pandered to then-current stadium rock trends in its special effects and dancing. However, fans that saw the shows from the Glass Spider Tour were treated to many of Bowie's classics and rarities, in addition to the newer material.

In August of 1988, Bowie portrayed Pontius Pilate in the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.

1989-1991: Tin Machine

In 1989, for the first time since the early 1970s, Bowie formed a regular band, Tin Machine, a hard-rocking quartet, along with Reeves Gabrels, Tony Sales, and Hunt Sales. Tin Machine released two studio albums and a live record. The band received mixed reviews and a somewhat lukewarm reception from the public, but Tin Machine heralded the beginning of a long-lasting collaboration between Bowie and Gabrels.

The original album, Tin Machine (1989), was a success, holding the number three spot on the charts of the UK. Tin Machine launched its first world tour, featuring a now unshaven David Bowie and additional guitarist Eric Schermerhorn, that year. Despite the success of the Tin Machine venture, Bowie was mildly frustrated that many of his ideas were either rejected or changed by the band.

Bowie began the 1990s with a stadium tour, in which he played mostly his biggest hits. The Sound + Vision Tour (named after the “Low” single) was conceived and directed by choreographer Edouard Lock of the Quebec contemporary dance troupe La La La Human Steps, with whom Bowie collaborated and performed on stage and in his videos.

Though he surprised no one when he later reneged on that promise and also on the promise that his set in each country would be focused on the favorite hits voted by phone poll in that country - an idea quickly jettisoned when a campaign by the British magazine NME resulted in a landslide in favor of The Laughing Gnome, it is true that his later tours generally featured few of those hits, and when they appeared, they were often radically reworked in their arrangement and delivery.

Bowie's negative press-image continued when the cover of Tin Machine's second album became unusually controversial, due to the presence of naked statues as its cover art. The coverage only seemed to invite unrelated negative commentary about Bowie to further permeate the public discourse.

After the less successful second album Tin Machine II and the complete failure of live album Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby, Bowie tired of having to work in a group setting where his creativity was limited, and finally disbanded Tin Machine to work on his own. But the Tin Machine venture did show that Bowie had learned some harsh lessons from the previous decade, and was determined to get serious about concentrating on music more than commercial success.


1992-1999: Electronica

Bowie married his second wife, the Somali-born supermodel Iman Abdulmajid, in 1992. The couple has a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones (known as Lexi). He also has a stepdaughter, Zulekha, by Iman's first marriage. The couple makes their home in Manhattan and London.

In 1992 he performed his hit "Heroes" and "Under Pressure" (with Annie Lennox) at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. 1993 saw the release of the soul, jazz and hip-hop influenced Black Tie White Noise, which reunited Bowie with Let's Dance producer Nile Rodgers. Though considered by some critics to be musically far superior to Let's Dance, the public was still unsure whether or not it was ready to be receptive of Bowie again. The album, however, met the number one spot on the UK charts with singles such as "Jump They Say" (a top 10 hit), and "Miracle Goodnight".

Undaunted, Bowie explored new directions on albums such as The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), based on incidental music composed for a TV series. The album still contained some of the new elements introduced in Black Tie White Noise, except with more of a twist in the direction of alternative rock. The album's odd success later led to a 1994 re-release in the United States, and Bowie hails it as being an album of entirely his own, original, and newly created work. The album was further re-released in the UK in 2007, after being unavailable for many years, and with fans paying very high prices on eBay for copies.

The ambitious, quasi-industrial release Outside (1995), supposed to be the first volume in a subsequently abandoned non-linear narrative of art and murder, reunited him with Brian Eno. The album introduced the characters of one of Bowie's short stories, and was quite an interesting success. The album put Bowie back into the mainstream scene of rock music with its singles such as "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", "Strangers When We Meet"/"The Man Who Sold The World" and "Hallo Spaceboy". "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" featured in the closing credits of the movie Se7en, while "I'm Deranged" featured on the soundtrack of David Lynch's Lost Highway.

In September 1995, Bowie began the Outside Tour with Gabrels again joining Bowie as his live band's guitarist. In a move that was equally lauded and ridiculed by Bowie fans and critics, Bowie chose Nine Inch Nails as the tour partner (Trent Reznor also contributed a remix of "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" for the single release of the track). NIN and Bowie toured as a co-headlining act; Reznor has gone on record numerous times as being heavily influenced by Bowie. The Outside Tour continued without NIN into Europe until 20 February 1996, with a further European/Japanese festival tour in summer 1996.

On January 17, 1996, David Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the eleventh annual induction ceremony.

Receiving some of the strongest critical response since Let's Dance, was Earthling (1997), which incorporated experiments in British jungle and drum and bass and included a single released over the Internet, called "Telling Lies". There was ultra-sustained energy in this album, along with lesser experiments in techno drum rhythms, while still holding to Bowie's own musical concepts.

Singles such as "Little Wonder" were the forefront of the album. There was a corresponding world tour, which was fairly successful. Bowie's track in the Paul Verhoeven film Showgirls, "I'm Afraid of Americans" was remixed by Trent Reznor for a single release. The video's heavy rotation (also featuring Reznor) contributed to Bowie's newfound relevancy in the late 1990s and his overall image restoration.

On January 9, 1997, Bowie played a concert at Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 50th birthday (although his birthday was the previous day). Guest performers included Billy Corgan, Frank Black, Sonic Youth, Robert Smith of The Cure, Placebo and Lou Reed whose 1972 album Transformer Bowie co-produced with Mick Ronson.


1999-present: Neoclassicist Bowie

In 1998, David Bowie had reunited with Tony Visconti to record a song for The Rugrats Movie called "(Safe in This) Sky Life". Although the track was edited out of the final cut, and did not feature on the film's soundtrack album, the reunion led to the pair pursuing a new collaborative effort. "(Safe In This) Sky Life" was later re-recorded and released as a single b-side in 2002 where it was retitled "Safe". Amongst their earliest work together in this period, was a reworking of Placebo's track "Without You I'm Nothing", from the album of the same name - Visconti overseeing the additional production required when Bowie's harmonized vocal was added to the original version for a strictly limited edition single release.

1999 found Bowie composing the soundtrack for a computer game called "Omikron: The Nomad Soul". David Bowie and his wife, Iman, made appearances as characters in the game. That same year, re-recorded tracks from the game and new music was released in the album Hours... featured "What's Really Happening", the lyrics for which were written by Alex Grant, the winner of Bowie's "Cyber Song Contest" Internet competition. This album presented Bowie's exit from heavy electronica, with an emphasis on more live instruments, and, through songs like "Thursday's Child" and "Survive", a thematic move into Bowie's sense of his own aging and sentimentality. After this album, Bowie's guitarist, Reeves Gabrels, quit working with Bowie, feeling that the music was becoming "too soft".

Plans surfaced after the release of Hours... for an album titled Toy, which would feature new versions of some of Bowie's earliest pieces as well as three new songs. Sessions for the album commenced in 2000, but the album was never released, leaving a number of tracks, some as yet unheard, on the editing floor.

In October 2001, Bowie opened The Concert for New York City with a cover of Paul Simon's "America" performed on omnichord and then launched into a rocking version of "Heroes" dedicated to his local ladder. Also in 2001 he made two guest appearances on the Rustic Overtones album Viva Nueva!.

Bowie and Visconti continued collaboration with the production of a new album of completely original songs instead. The result of the sessions was the 2002 album Heathen, notable for its dark and atmospheric sound and Bowie's largest chart success in recent years. Heathen was nominated for the 2002 Mercury Prize and included a cover of the Pixies song "Cactus", which was another offshoot of Bowie's consistent interest in the band. Singles for "Slow Burn" (which featured guitar by Bowie's old friend, Pete Townshend), "I've Been Waiting for You", and "Everyone Says 'Hi'" were released along with numerous B-sides featuring pieces from the Toy sessions and "Safe", a reworking of "Sky Life". The songs "Afraid" and "Uncle Floyd" (retitled "Slip Away") from Toy were also released as album tracks as songs reminiscent of an earlier style. It was also at this time that Bowie recorded "Gemini Spacecraft" exclusively on Top of the Pops.

2002 also saw Bowie curate the annual Meltdown festival in London. Amongst the acts selected by Bowie to perform were Phillip Glass, Television and The Polyphonic Spree. Bowie himself played a show at the Royal Festival Hall which notably included a rare performance of his experimental opus Low in its entirety.

In September 2003, Bowie released a new album, Reality, and announced a world tour. A Reality Tour was the best-selling tour of the following year. However, it was cut short after Bowie suffered chest pain while performing on stage in the northwestern German town of Scheeßel on June 25, 2004. Originally thought to be a pinched nerve in his shoulder, the pain was later diagnosed as an acutely blocked artery; an emergency angioplasty was performed in Hamburg.

He was discharged in early July 2004 and continued to spend time recovering. Bowie later admitted he had suffered a minor heart attack, resulting from years of heavy smoking and touring. The tour was cancelled for the time being, with hopes that he would go back on tour by August, though this did not materialize. He recuperated back in New York City.

In October 2004, Bowie released a live DVD of the tour, entitled A Reality Tour, of his performances in Dublin, Ireland on 22 November and 23 November 2003, which included songs spanning the full length of Bowie's career, although mostly focusing on his more recent albums.

During the tour, Bowie was hit in his damaged left eye with a lollipop stick while performing in Oslo, Norway. Bowie was reported to have stopped the concert and to have yelled "You fucking wanker! You little fucker!" at the lollipop thrower. He later resumed the concert and apologized to the crowd for his response.

Still recuperating from his operation, Bowie worked off-stage and relaxed from studio work for the first time in several years. In 2004, a duet of his classic song "Changes" with Butterfly Boucher appeared in Shrek 2. The soundtrack for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou featured David Bowie songs performed in Portuguese by cast member Seu Jorge (who adapted the lyrics to make them relevant to the film's story). Most of the David Bowie songs featured in the film were originally from David Bowie (debut album), Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Diamond Dogs.

Despite hopes for a comeback, in 2005, Bowie announced that he had made no plans for any performances during the year. After a relatively quiet year, Bowie recorded the vocals for the song "(She Can) Do That", co-written by Brian Transeau, for the movie Stealth. Rumours flew about the possibility of a new album, but no announcements were made. In April 2005, film writer and director Darren Aronofsky revealed Bowie was working on a rock opera adaptation of the comic book Watchmen.

David Bowie finally returned to the stage on September 8, 2005, alongside The Arcade Fire, for the nationally televised event Fashion Rocks, his first gig since the heart attack. Bowie has shown interest in the Montreal band since he was seen at one of their shows in New York City nearly a year earlier. Bowie had requested the band to perform at the show, and together they performed the Arcade Fire's song "Wake Up" from their album Funeral, as well as Bowie's own "Five Years". He joined them again on September 15, 2005, singing "Queen Bitch" and "Wake Up" from Central Park's Summerstage as part of the CMJ Music Marathon.

Bowie contributed back-up vocals for TV On The Radio's song "Province" from their album Return to Cookie Mountain. He made other occasional appearances, as in his commercial with Snoop Dogg for XM Satellite Radio. He appeared on Danish alt-rockers Kashmir's 2005 release, No Balance Palace, which was produced by Tony Visconti. The album also featured a spoken word performance by Lou Reed, making it the second project involving both Bowie and Reed in two years, since Reed's 2003 The Raven.

On February 8, 2006, David Bowie was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In November, Bowie performed at the Black Ball in New York for the Keep a Child Alive Foundation alongside his wife, Iman, and Alicia Keys. He duetted with Keys on "Changes", and also performed "Wild is the Wind" and "Fantastic Voyage".

For 2006, Bowie once again announced a break from performance, but he made a surprise guest appearance at David Gilmour's May 29, 2006 concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He sang "Arnold Layne" and "Comfortably Numb", closing the concert. The former performance was released, on December 26, 2006, as a single.

In May 2007, it was announced that Bowie would curate the High Line Festival in the abandoned railway park in New York called the High Line where he would select various musicians and artists to perform.

David Bowie died of cancer on January 10, 2016, two days after the release of his last album, Blackstar, that was also the day of his 69th birthday.

Richard Dion



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