David Bowie: the Illustrated Biography
|The release of “The Next Day,” David Bowie’s first album in ten years, has catapulted him back to the top of the charts in what Andy Gill has called “the greatest comeback in rock ‘n roll history” in his 5-star review in the Independent.
Born David Jones in Brixton, South London in 1947, David Bowie as been a major figure in popular music for some five decades, during which time his name has become synonymous with experimentation and reinvention. Both musical magpipe and innovator, all too often Bowie has been described as "The Chameleon of Pop," but while he has presented us with a variety of striking onstage personas and musical styles, Bowie's exploration of themes such as existential angst, spirituality and otherness remain constant throughout his song writing. In this light, Bowie's career could be seen as a continued quest for authenticity through artifice, rather than a succession of self-reinventions. He has successfully incorporated a degree of theatricality in his performances rarely encountered in rock, and his inventive approach in the studio has also seen him carve out a successful career as an arranger and producer. In addition, Bowie's fascination with a wide range of creative pursuits has allo wed him to enjoy considerable acclaim as an actor on both stage and screen, and won him praise as a painter of some talent.
During the 1960s, David struggled to find his niche, restlessly moving from one band to another before finally scoring a major hit with "Space Oddity" in 1969, but it would be several years before he cemented his reputation with the alter-ego of Ziggy Stardust; an androgynous proto-punk rocker that turned David Bowie into a household name and one of the most commercially successful artists of the early 1970s. By the middle of the decade, Bowie had broken through in America with his blue-eyed "plastic soul," but the radical change in direction came at the cost of alienating many of his original fans, a gamble compounded by the minimalist experimentation of "The Berlin Trilogy" - a trio of albums recorded with Brian Eno in the late 1970s. During the early 1980s, Bowie reached a commercial peak with the LP Let's Dance, but two follow-up albums left him looking for a new direction, which prompted the formation of the uncompromising (and much criticized) Tin Machine. His musical passions reignited, in the 1990s Bowie continued to confound expectations by releasing albums infused with industrial rock and drum and bass, while more recently LPs such as 2002's Heathen Reality in 2003, have been cited as being amongst his best works.
Bowie's success has not always come easily, or consistently, but his determination, inimitable style and a willingness to take risks for his art, coupled with his wit, charm and intelligence, have secured him an enduring and unique place in the history of popular music and mark him out as a true cultural icon.