(b. 1947 – 2016)
One of Rock’s most enduring auteurs, David Bowie was notable for his influence, his eclecticism, and the knack for self reinvention he repeatedly displayed over a long and prolific career that saw him working in Glam Rock, Soul, Dance Pop, Electronica, Folk, and other genres.
Born David Robert Jones in London, Bowie showed his musical restlessness from the beginning. By the time be became a star in the early 70s, he’d already been kicking around the British music scene for several years, with stints as a mod Rock and Roller, a twee music-hall Popster, and a hippie troubadour. He had a hit single in Britain with the 1969 song “Space Oddity,” off his second album, but made his real splash in 1972, when he adopted the androgynous, sci-fi Ziggy Stardust persona and issued the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, helping to usher in the Glam Rock movement and achieving worldwide stardom.
The years that followed were remarkably fruitful ones for Bowie, whose run of 70s albums — Hunky Dory; Ziggy Stardust; Aladdin Sane; the all-covers Pin Ups; Diamond Dogs; the Soul-steeped Young Americans (which yielded a U.S. hit single in “Fame"); Station to Station; the electronic, Brian Eno-produced “Berlin trilogy” comprising Low, Heroes, and Lodger; and Scary Monsters — were as notable for their quality and invention as for Bowie’s stylistic shape-shifting. During that period, he also found time for a series of ambitiously staged concert tours, and to produce Lou Reed's Transformer, the Stooges' Raw Power and Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes.
Bowie followed that streak with a detour into Dance Pop that was hugely successful commercially. Co-produced by Nile Rogers of Chic, Let’s Dance, from 1983, became Bowie’s best selling album, riding the hit singles “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” and the title track (all of which received heavy video rotation on then-booming MTV). At the end of that decade, Bowie put his solo career on the back burner to form the Hard Rock quartet Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, and the band issued a pair of records: 1989’s Tin Machine and 1991’s Tin Machine II.
Bowie's commercial and critical stature dipped somewhat in the years that followed, and he laid low for a decade beginning in 2003, leading to speculation that he’d retired. But with no advance notice, he broke his silence in January 2013 with the dropping of a new record, The Next Day, recorded in secret and produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti. He performed no live shows to promote the record, and Visconti said at the time that Bowie would not perform live again, and would instead focus on making records.
Bowie released his final album, Blackstar, on January 8, 2016 — his 69th birthday. Two days later, the singer passed away after an 18-month battle with cancer.