Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in July 1969, when his song "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie's impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture." The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation.
In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977)—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. The so-called "Berlin Trilogy" albums all reached the UK top five and garnered lasting critical praise.
After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance, which yielded several hit singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. His last recorded album was Reality (2003), which was supported by the 2003–04 Reality Tour.
Buckley says of Bowie: "His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure." In the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie was placed at number 29. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK, he has been awarded nine Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all-time.
Buckley writes, "If Ziggy confused both his creator and his audience, a big part of that confusion centred on the topic of sexuality." Bowie declared himself bisexual in an interview with Michael Watts of Melody Maker in January 1972, a move coinciding with the first shots in his campaign for stardom as Ziggy Stardust. In a September 1976 interview with Playboy, Bowie said: "It's true—I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me."
In a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone, Bowie said his public declaration of bisexuality was "the biggest mistake I ever made", and on other occasions he said his interest in homosexual and bisexual culture had been more a product of the times and the situation in which he found himself than his own feelings; as described by Buckley, he said he had been driven more by "a compulsion to flout moral codes than a real biological and psychological state of being".
Asked in 2002 by Blender whether he still believed his public declaration was the biggest mistake he ever made, he replied:
"Interesting. [Long pause] I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners nor be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do."
Buckley's view of the period is that Bowie, "a taboo-breaker and a dabbler ... mined sexual intrigue for its ability to shock", and that "it is probably true that Bowie was never gay, nor even consistently actively bisexual ... he did, from time to time, experiment, even if only out of a sense of curiosity and a genuine allegiance with the 'transgressional'." Biographer Christopher Sandford says that according to Mary Finnigan, with whom Bowie had an affair in 1969, the singer and his first wife Angie "lived in a fantasy world [...] and they created their bisexual fantasy." Sandford tells how, during the marriage, Bowie "made a positive fetish of repeating the quip that he and his wife had met while 'fucking the same bloke' [...] Gay sex was always an anecdotal and laughing matter. That Bowie's actual tastes swung the other way is clear from even a partial tally of his affairs with women."
David Bowie: Starman by Paul Trynka
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (July 18, 2011)
Amazon: David Bowie: Starman
"Ziggy Stardust," "Changes," Under Pressure," "Let's Dance," "Fame," "Heroes," and of course, "Starman." These are the classic songs of David Bowie, the artist whose personas are indelibly etched in our pop consciousness alongside his music. He wrote and recorded with everyone from Iggy Pop to Freddie Mercury to John Lennon, sold 136 million albums, has one of the truly great voices, and influenced bands as wide-ranging as Nirvana and Franz Ferdinand.
Paul Trynka illuminates Bowie's seemingly contradictory life and his many reinventions as an artist, offering over 300 new interviews with everyone from classmates to managers to lovers. He reveals Bowie's broad influence on the entertainment world, from movie star to modern-day icon, trend-setter to musical innovator. This book will define Bowie for years to come.
Bowie: A Biography by Marc Spitz
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (October 5, 2010)
Amazon: Bowie: A Biography
Finally an expansive biography of one of the twentieth century’s greatest music and cultural icons
From noted author and rock ’n’ roll journalist Marc Spitz comes a major David Bowie biography to rival any other. Following Bowie’s life from his start as David Jones, an R & B—loving kid from Bromley, England, to his rise to rock ’n’ roll aristocracy as David Bowie, Bowie recounts his career but also reveals how much his music has influenced other musicians and forever changed the landscape of the modern era. Along the way, Spitz reflects on how growing up with Bowie as his soundtrack and how writing this definitive book on Bowie influenced him in ways he never expected, adding a personal dimension that Bowie fans and those passionate about art and culture will connect with and that no other bio on the artist offers.
Bowie takes an in-depth look at the culture of postwar England in which Bowie grew up, the mod and hippie scenes of swinging London in the sixties, the sex and drug-fueled glitter scene of the early seventies when Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust was born, his rise to global stardom in the eighties and his subsequent status as an elder statesman of alternative culture. Spitz puts each incarnation of Bowie into the context of its era, creating a cultural time line that is intriguing both for its historical significance as well as for its delineation of this rock ’n’ roll legend, the first musician to evolve a coherent vision after the death of the sixties dream.
Amid the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll mayhem, a deeper portrait of the artist emerges. Bowie’s early struggles to go from follower to leader, his tricky relationship with art and commerce and Buddhism and the occult, his complicated family life, his open romantic relationship and, finally, his perceived disavowal of all that made him a touchstone for outcasts are all thoughtfully explored. A fresh evaluation of his recorded work, as well as his film, stage and video performances, is included as well.
Based on a hundred original interviews with those who knew him best and those familiar with his work, including ex-wife Angie Bowie, former Bowie manager Kenneth Pitt, Siouxsie Sioux, Camille Paglia, Dick Cavett, Todd Haynes, Ricky Gervais and Peter Frampton, Bowie gives us not only a portrait of one of the most important artists in the last century, but also an honest examination of a truly revolutionary artist and the unique impact he’s had across generations.
David Bowie: Live In New York by Myriam Santos-Kayda
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: powerHouse Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2003)
Amazon: David Bowie: Live In New York
In October 2002, David Bowie performed the New York City Marathon Tour. Five different nights in five different venues in each of New York’s five boroughs. It was a tribute to New York, and a tribute to his fans. For the first time in over fifteen years, he let a photographer follow him on tour, capturing a David Bowie we've never seen before.
About the Marathon Tour, Bowie writes, “The last time I came through the Northeast it was on the Area 2 Tour. We played in amphitheaters, which are usually a good distance from the major cities. Marathon courses are strategically planned to bring the runners to the streets. I would like to repay the fans that traveled so far to see me by bringing my show to them. But most importantly, I could get home from all the gigs on roller skates.”
David Bowie: Live in New York is an intimate portrait of one of rock and roll's most exciting events of the decade.
More LGBT History at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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