David Bowie

  • British singer songwriter musician born David Jones in 1947 in London England. Died in 2016 of liver cancer.
  • As a child, he was introduced to music, listening to Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and other popular American artists. In high school, he began to listen to modern jazz, and he studied the saxophone. At 15, he formed his first band, the Konrads, playing at gatherings and weddings. He left the band and joined the King Bees. A local agent signed Bowie to his first contract, and in 1964, his debut single was released – Liza Jane – credited to Davie Jones and the King Bees. Despite some promotion and radio play, the single did not sell.
  • Over the next 2 years, Bowie moved to the band the Manish Boys, then to the Lower Third, then to the Buzz. Four singles released with these groups were unsuccessful – Do Anything You Say, with the Buzz backing him, was the first credited to Bowie alone. By this time, Davie Jones was no more – he changed his name, using Bowie from the American pioneer James Bowie, to avoid confusion with Davy Jones from the Monkees. In 1967, he released the single The Laughing Gnome, and his debut studio album, the self titled David Bowie, a psychedelic album of theatrical-style tunes – both failed to chart, and Bowie withdrew from releasing music for 2 years.
  • Bowie immersed himself in dramatic arts for a year – he emerged from this intent on creating a unique persona. In July 1969, just prior to the Apollo 11 launch, he released the single A Space Oddity, and later that year, his second album was released, also titled David Bowie in the UK, and titled Man of Words/Man of Music in the U.S. (and later re-issued with the name A Space Oddity). The single reached #5 in the UK, and it was his first to chart in the U.S., at #124 (it later reached #15 when re-released in 1973). The record was a shift away from his previous rock and roll/blues style, to acoustic folk-rock.
  • Bowie formed a new backing band with a harder rock sound, and his third album, The Man Who Sold The World, was released in 1970. Bowie’s public image was androgynous, creating a curiosity that led to more attention. This evolved into the Ziggy Stardust character that he evoked for the next several years.
  • His breakthrough occurred with his 1971 album Hunky Dory. It was the first of 15 consecutive top 10 albums in the UK for Bowie. The album includes the singles Changes and Life On Mars? Changes was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016. The online magazine Pitchfork ranked Life on Mars? as the greatest song of the 70s.
  • Nine albums followed in the 70s. Bowie dominated music in the UK during this period – in America, he was not as popular, though he gained fans with each release. He had his first #1 single in the U.S. in 1975 – Fame, from the Young Americans album. John Lennon provided backing vocals and guitar to the song. Golden Years also was a top 10 hit that year, from the Station to Station album. Meanwhile, 10 singles were in the UK top 10 during this time. In 1976, a greatest hits album, called Changesonebowie, was released. It was his first platinum album in the U.S., peaking at #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Another notable album of the 70s was 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. It is ranked #35 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, and in 2017 it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
  • Bowie had 2 more platinum albums – Let’s Dance in 1983 and Tonight in 1984. The song Let’s Dance from the album of the same name was his only other #1 song in the U.S., and China Girl and Blue Jean from these albums were top 10 hits. See my November 19, 2017 Vintage Vinyl blog post on my thoughts on the Let’s Dance album.
  • From 1987 to his death in 2016, Bowie released 11 more studio albums. His final album, Blackstar, was released on his 69th birthday, 2 days before his death. It is his only album that topped the U.S. album chart. The album and title song won 4 Grammy awards, and was universally acclaimed by critics and fans. I cannot say enough good things about this album. See my March 31, 2017 AWESOME! blog for my thoughts on the music video for the song Lazarus from the album – stunning! The song also is featured in the Broadway musical Lazarus, which opened off-Broadway in December 2015 – Bowie’s last public appearance was at the premiere.
  • Bowie was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2006, and he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He was ranked #39 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Artist list, and he has 4 songs on Rolling Stone’s GOAT list – Heroes at #46, Changes at #128, Ziggy Stardust at #282, and Young Americans at #486.
  • Brilliant, innovative, showman – David Bowie is one of the all-time rock star idols. Yes…he was weird. But man…was he creative! Here a performance of one of his hits from the Let’s Dance album – Modern Love. One of my favorites!

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