Born David Robert Jones on the 8th of January, 1947 in Brixton, south London. David Jones took to music early in his life, and though his singing voice was deemed only adequate, he excelled in his (newly introduced) music and movement classes as a very imaginative dancer. As he grew and developed, he struggled to establish himself as his own man in a time when so much amazing music was being written. He toyed with new and different stage names (not liking the fact that as Davy or Davie Jones he was often confused for the lead singer of the Monkees). He had a very (VERY) brief stint as one Tom Jones, but in the end, he opted to name himself after the once-prolific and deadly in it’s simplicity: Bowie knife. In his words, it was “the ultimate American knife. It is the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions.”
In his time, Bowie released 27 studio albums, 9 live albums, 46 compilation albums, 5 EPs, 111 singles including 5 UK number one hits and 3 soundtracks. Additionally he also released 13 video albums and 51 music videos. Additionally, Bowie has 39 actor credits on IMDb. Indeed, he wore many hats in the industry, including but not limited to singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, painter and actor.
But you see… that is just a series of facts and numbers that span a career that lasted over five decades. What you cannot quantify with numbers is his affect on the world. Bowie had a style and penuche that did not lack for controversy. He brought us the character of Ziggy Stardust and inadvertently came to represent the gay rights movement as he was often thought of as either gay or bi-sexual. This was corroborated when he first declared himself gay (Melody Maker, 22 January, 1972) and later bi-sexual (Playboy, September 1976) and ultimately – heterosexual (Rolling Stone, 1983). He was married more than once but is purported to have had a romantic entanglement with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. (Here, you can watch the most homoerotically charged music video of all time:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G4jnaznUoQ. Go watch, we’ll wait.)
Either way, Bowie played with the rules of social conduct in volatile times the same way he played with the conventions of music. He brought a whole new sound into being that no one had really ever heard before, and in a world full of the Beatles and the Monkees, he seemed to bridge the gap between pop and rock.
I was too young to grow up within the context of Bowie’s music, but my parents were fans (as well as fans of the Beatles, the Monkees, Billy Joel, Elton John and for some inexplicable reason, Linda Ronstadt) and I grew up such titles as “Fame”, “Heroes”, and “Under Pressure” (and was sufficiently outraged when Vanilla Ice blatantly ripped off the bass riff) and as I grew older developed an extreme respect for what he did for the music industry. I listed above the IMDb actor credits to his name, but IMDb has another category: Soundtrack. And in this category, Mr. David Robert Jones of Brixton, south London has 452 credits. Hang one, let me spell that out for greater impact: FOUR-HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO credits. That means 452 movies, television episodes, shorts, WHATEVER paid that man money to use his music. Talk about an impact.
I will leave you with a benediction and a quote. Rest in peace, Ziggy Stardust. You brought about positive change in the world and made the youth of several very powerful nations take one look at what you were wearing and go… “Huh.”
And, the quote:
“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”