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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Bowie: Pop's most enduring star
David Bowie
David Bowie has been a popular act on this year's festival circuit
David Bowie - who is recuperating after emergency heart surgery - has spent more than three decades as one of the world's most influential pop musicians.

Arguably, at 57, he is the only artist of his generation to have near-universal respect from fans and musicians of all ages.

But at the end of the 1960s, his career was looking distinctly washed up.

Born David Jones in Brixton, south London, in 1947, his family later moved to the suburb of Bromley, where Bowie took up the saxophone as a teenager.

At school, he acquired what became a trademark feature - an injury in a playground fight left him with a paralysed pupil and different-coloured eyes.

His early musical style was influenced by the mod fashions of the mid-1960s, as he sang and played sax with local bands around south London.

As his career developed, and he began to play London venues like the Marquee and the 100 Club, he went through a number of backing bands - the King Bees, the Manish Boys, the Lower Third and the Buzz.

The rise of the Monkees - featuring Davy Jones - saw him change his name to David Bowie in 1965. A subsequent contract with Decca Records imprint Deram helped him win publicity, but few record sales.

David Bowie in the mid-1970s
The singer's career has been marked by image changes


The autumn of 1969 saw his career achieve lift-off with Space Oddity, released to coincide with the US Apollo missions to the moon.

It reached number five in the UK singles chart, but follow-up The Prettiest Star flopped. Bowie entered the 1970s looking like a one-hit wonder.

Undeterred, he changed management and completed his first major album, The Man Who Sold The World.

Featuring a darker, heavier sound - aided by Mick Ronson on guitar - its themes included sexual perversion, mental illness and nihilism.

The follow-up, Hunky Dory which included tracks such as Changes and Life on Mars, was lighter in tone.

But it was 1972's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, featuring the singer as a rock star whose rise and fall coincided with the end of the world, which completed Bowie's transformation into a global star.

The track Starman saw him return to the charts, and there he stayed - with a world tour assisting a further album, Aladdin Sane.


But on 3 July, 1973, the rock world was stunned by Bowie's retirement - announced on stage in London. He was referring to the retirement of Ziggy Stardust alone, but the surprise announcement caused headlines around the world.

David Bowie
The chameleon-like Bowie became a fashion icon in the 1970s

In 1974, Bowie adapted George Orwell's novel 1984 to create the concept album Diamond Dogs, which formed the basis of a lavish tour around North America. Shortly afterwards, he moved from London to Hollywood.

The reissued Space Oddity went to number one in the UK in 1975, while Fame - featuring the voice and production talents of John Lennon - topped the US charts in the same year.

But fame took its toll. As his marriage fell apart, Bowie began to rely heavily on cocaine. His performance in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth received mixed reviews.

In May 1976 he returned to the UK for the first time in two years, allegedly giving a Nazi salute at Victoria station in London.

This fascination with fascist imagery was encapsulated in the Thin White Duke character, which featured on his Station to Station album in the same year.

Bowie relocated to Berlin to work with Brian Eno and Iggy Pop, where his minimalist, synthesised follow-up Low proved a great influence on the electronic bands of the early 1970s.


The 1980s began with Bowie taking the starring role in the Broadway production of The Elephant Man, as his Scary Monsters album nudged him closer to music's mainstream.

He also collaborated with Queen and Bing Crosby, and took on more film roles - in The Hunger and Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence.

David Bowie
Bowie is fondly remembered for his Ziggy Stardust days
Let's Dance, released in 1983, was his most commercial, upbeat work yet. Its accompanying Serious Moonlight tour saw him play to two million people.

But as the 1980s wore on, speculation increased that Bowie had lost his creative touch. In 1989, he formed a band, Tin Machine, to play low-key club gigs - but met with a lukewarm response.

However, the re-release of his back catalogue on CD reminded the public of the strength of his work, and 1993's Black Tie, White Noise album saw him return to the spotlight.

His personal life settled down, with his marriage to Somalian model Iman in 1992.

Still his attempts to push musical boundaries continued to flounder. Outside, his 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno, was not well received, nor was the industrial-rock album Earthling.

He launched the first artist-created internet service provider, Bowienet, in 1998, and sold bonds on the New York money markets.

Recent years have seen Bowie at ease with both his back catalogue and performing new material, content to appear with acts he had inspired - including Suede's Brett Anderson and Placebo.

His 2002 album Heathen saw him collaborate with Tony Visconti, one of his producers from his 1970s glory days. Its 2003 follow-up, Reality, was also well-received.

His curtailed European tour - including stopovers at many of the continent's top festivals - is proof of Bowie's enduring popularity.

Bowie in emergency heart surgery
09 Jul 04  |  Entertainment
Bowie cancels 11 European dates
30 Jun 04  |  Entertainment
Pain forces Bowie into hospital
28 Jun 04  |  Entertainment


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