Remembering David Bowie’s golden years


David Bowie, the iconic musician and performer, died after an 18-month battle with cancer on Jan. 10. Two days before his death, Bowie celebrated his 69th birthday, as well as the release of his 27th studio album, Blackstar.

Bowie’s career transcended that of a typical rock musician. He was constantly evolving musically and developing a new persona with each album he made.

In one decade he managed to take on one persona after another, from psychedelic folk-rocker, to the androgynous orange-haired alien Ziggy Stardust, to the sophisticated soul man, the Thin White Duke, and finishing up the ’70s as an experimental art-rocker.

However, it is the glam-rocking alien, Ziggy, that he will be remembered for the most.

Bowie was born David Robert Jones on Jan. 8, 1947 to working-class parents in the London suburb of Brixton. By 13, he was already interested in rock and jazz music and took up the saxophone so he could start his own band. Throughout his late teens, Bowie played in several bands, but it was when he went solo that he was really noticed.

At 20, Bowie released his first album titled simply, David Bowie. The album charted poorly in the U.K. and didn’t reach the charts at all in the U.S. With his second release, Space Oddity, two years later in 1969, his fate would change. The album’s title track about a space mission gone wrong became the icon’s first hit.

Over the next two years he saw moderate success from his albums The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory, which featured the hit single “Changes”.

However, it was in 1972 that Bowie came into his own, ironically by pretending to be someone else, an alien rock god named Ziggy Stardust. This androgynous look was something completely new to the rock world and would take other performers a decade to work up the courage to copy it.

In ’72, Bowie came out in Melody Maker as gay, although had been married two years earlier to Angela Barnett, with whom he had a son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Bowie. These claims stirred up controversy, but they helped take gay culture to the mainstream.

It wasn’t just the gay culture that Bowie was identified with, but the “outsider” world. People who never had a voice had discovered someone that they could look up to, someone who wouldn’t submit to trends, but would set them instead.

While the typical ’70s rock star would have been suited up in leather vests and bell-bottoms, Bowie was an anomaly with his orange mullet and painted face. His feminine look the polar opposite of Robert Plant’s masculine persona. Bowie-Collage2

Despite the fame that Ziggy had brought him, Bowie decided to kill the persona after a year. For most artists this could have been a career-ending move, but not for Bowie.

He slowly transformed into the cocaine-fuelled Thin White Duke, an elegant blue-eyed soul prodigy who gave the world hits such as “Young Americans” and “Golden Years”.

However, this was another short-lived identity, as he would move to Berlin and began collaborating with art-rock god Brian Eno on three groundbreaking albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger, later dubbed the “Berlin trilogy”.

While innovative musically, the Berlin albums sold poorly compared with his earlier work.

After finally kicking his cocaine habit, Bowie entered the ‘80s a new man. He had just won full custody of his son, Duncan, after divorcing his first wife, Angela. Bowie also had commercial success for the first time in four years with the release of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980, which contained the hit-single “Ashes to Ashes”, but this success was nothing compared to what was around the corner. In 1983, Bowie abandoned his experimental sound for the more radio-friendly tone of his next album Let’s Dance, which he co-produced with Chic guitarist, Nile Rodgers. The three singles “China Girl”, “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love” were all chart-toppers.


His next two albums, Tonight and Never Let Me Down were also done in the pop fashion, but were panned critically.

In the ’90s Bowie’s work again took another direction as he began experimenting with electronic and industrial music.

In 1996, the singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

In 2000, he became a father once again when his second-wife Iman, gave birth to their daughter Alexandria.

He returned to art-rock with 2002’s Heathen and continued with Reality, released the following year. Bowie’s touring days ended in 2004 after suffering a heart attack while performing on stage.

Bowie put out The Next Day in 2013, his first album in a decade, which received universal acclaim and made it to the top of the charts in the U.K.

His follow up album, Blackstar, was released three years later, two days before his  death. The album went to the No. 1 spot in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 chart, a first in the singer’s career.

Aside from his music, Bowie will also be remembered for the many films he appeared in over the years, from Nicolas Roeg’s gritty sci-fi The Man Who Fell to Earth to Jim Henson’s fantastic Labyrinth.

Musicians as diverse as Madonna, Kanye West, and Iggy Pop have spoken about the influence Bowie had on their careers and music.

“David’s friendship was the light of my life,” Iggy Pop tweeted. “I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”

Since his death, many tributes have been paid with murals to the legendary performer in London, Brussels, Detroit and Dublin. On Jan. 12 the David Bowie cover band, Holy Holy, led by long-time Bowie producer, Tony Visconti, played a tribute concert at the Toronto’s Opera House to nearly 900 people, according to CBC.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” Visconti posted on Facebook the morning of Jan 11. “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”