From his birthplace in London to his final home in New York, fans from all over the world gathered to mourn a star who, for many, is known as a legendary British art-rock icon. But David Robert Jones (known professionally as David Bowie) is more than just a pop star and singer. He was also a prolific songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, painter, actor and artist, among others. Even critics and other musicians deem him as an innovator particularly for his works in the 1970’s. It was in this Cold-War era when Bowie was trying to kick alcohol and drugs which also defined one of his most creative periods as an artist.
Born in Brixton, South London on January 1947, David Bowie lived there until he was 6 with his waitress mother and his father who worked for a children’s charity. Even as a student, he already displayed remarkable talent in music. He can play the guitar, keyboards, harmonica, sax, cello, drums to name just a few. Apart from music, he was exposed to the arts and design including layout and typesetting at an early age. This rich exposure early on in life perhaps also explains why Bowie used a wide variety of music styles from his earliest recording in the 1960’s. His ever-changing artistic expressions also moved the hearts of those coming from different backgrounds and culture.
His androgynous look was an iconic element of his image, especially during the 70’s and 80’s. In a 1972 interview, Bowie announced he was gay. But he was married twice (first in 1969 to Angela Barnett whom they had a son together and second to Somali-American model Iman whom they had a daughter) and later in life, remained ambiguous about his sexuality.
Last January 10, 2 days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final studio album, Blackstar, Bowie succumbed to cancer at his New York home. As a tribute to the star who has shaped the lives of many, we take a look back at his extensive career spanning more than 4 decades in film, music and various awards he received:
Bowies’s Greatest Hits:
‘Space Oddity‘ (1969)- The first song to feature fictional astronaut Major Tom released just weeks before the first moon landing. This song became Bowie’s first top 5 entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. It won him an Ivor Novello Special Award for Originality.
‘Ziggy Stardust‘ (1972)- Bowie re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It was Bowie’s breakthrough hit and is consistently ranked one of the greatest records of all time. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one aspect of his career defined by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation.
‘Rebel Rebel‘ (1974)- This was Bowie’s last single in the glam rock style that had been his trademark with songs like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Jean Genie”.
‘Fame‘ (1975)- The song that made Bowie a big hit in the U.S., ‘’Fame’’ reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1975. His new friend, John Lennon, sings backing vocals.
‘Heroes‘ (1977)- Bowie said the song was inspired by a pair of lovers by the Berlin Wall, his producer Tony Visconti and his German girlfriend. He performed this song at the wall in 1987, two years before it fell.
‘Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy‘ (1977) with Bing Crosby- This odd duet with Bing Crosby was originally recorded for the crooner’s TV special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Old Christmas.”
‘Ashes to Ashes‘ (1980)-The big reveal in this song is what happened to Bowie’s legendary character Major Tom — now a junkie, strung out and drifting to the stars. It gave international exposure to the underground New Romantic movement.
‘Let’s Dance‘ (1983)-Once again, Bowie reinvents himself 3 years after his New Romantic period. Much more upbeat than his previous works, “Let’s Dance” was produced by Nile Rogers of the disco band Chic, who was responsible for its slick ’80s vibe.
‘Lazarus‘ (2015)-The last song Bowie released is now a haunting final rendition from a man who knew he was dying. The line “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” is among its poignant lyrics.
Bowie on Film:
As an actor, Bowie’s career flourished from the late 1970s to the early 1980s and he worked with some of the greatest directors during this period.
‘The Man who Fell to Earth‘ (1976) Nicolas Roeg- Bowie’s breakout film role saw him use his skeletal, androgynous image to unsettling effect as an alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. For his performance in this science fiction film, he won a Saturn Award for Best Actor.
‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence‘ (1983) Nagisa Oshima- In a widely acclaimed performance, Bowie plays a rebellious POW in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in this WWII drama.
‘The Hunger‘ (1983) Tony Scott- In this vampire drama, Bowie plays the lover of a centuries-old vamp.
‘Labyrinth’ (1986) Jim Henson- As the androgynous Goblin King who was both threatening and alluring, Bowie added a dangerous, adult edge to this fantasy, puppet-filled film.
‘The Last Temptation of Christ‘ (1988) Martin Scorsese- In this controversial yet critically acclaimed film, Bowie played the role of Pontius Pilate.
For his songs and albums, Bowie was awarded nine Platinum album certifications in the UK, eleven Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. He was also honored with two Grammy Awards and three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male Artist twice and in 1996, the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Aside from receiving various prestigious awards from his specific songs, albums, music videos or film roles, Bowie sold an estimated 140 million records worldwide.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
In a 2002 BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie ranked number 29.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 39th on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock Artists of All Time.
He was also named a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in June 2013.
For all these and more, our team at 24Slides joins the entire world in paying tribute to one of the greatest legends of all time who has now ‘’gone to heaven’’. RIP David Bowie.