David Bowie was an English rock star known for dramatic musical transformations, including his character Ziggy Stardust. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. David Bowie was born in South London's Brixton neighborhood on January 8, 1947. His first hit was the song "Space Oddity" in 1969. The original pop chameleon, Bowie became a fantastical sci-fi character for his breakout Ziggy Stardust album. He later co-wrote "Fame" with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, which became his first American No. 1 single in 1975. An accomplished actor, Bowie starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Shortly after releasing his final album, Bowie died from cancer on January 10, 2016.
Who Was David Bowie?
David Bowie was born in South London's Brixton neighborhood on January 8, 1947. His first hit was the song "Space Oddity" in 1969. The original pop chameleon, Bowie became a fantastical sci-fi character for his breakout Ziggy Stardust album. He later co-wrote "Fame" with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, which became his first American No. 1 single in 1975. An accomplished actor, Bowie starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Shortly after releasing his final album, Bowie died from cancer on January 10, 2016.
Early Years Known as a musical chameleon for his ever-changing appearance and sound, David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, South London, England, on January 8, 1947. David showed an interest in music from an early age and began playing the saxophone at age 13. He was greatly influenced by his half-brother Terry, who was nine years older and exposed young David to the worlds of rock music and beat literature.
Pop Star By early 1969, Bowie had returned full time to music. He signed a deal with Mercury Records and that summer released the single "Space Oddity." Bowie later said the song came to him after seeing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey: "I went stoned out of my mind to see the movie and it really freaked me out, especially the trip passage."
The song quickly resonated with the public, sparked in large part by the BBC's use of the single during its coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The song enjoyed later success after being released in the United States in 1972, climbing to number 15 on the charts.
Bowie's next album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970), further catapulted him to stardom. The record offered up a heavier rock sound than anything Bowie had done before and included the song "All the Madmen," about his institutionalized brother, Terry. His next work, 1971's Hunky Dory, featured two hits: the title track that was a tribute to Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan; and "Changes," which came to embody Bowie himself.
Bowie had been building up to something like Ziggy Stardust for a while. But the root inspiration for the album’s theme went deep into his past.
During the mid-Sixties, Bowie had met pioneering British rocker Vince Taylor, who had recorded the 1959 classic “Brand New Cadillac” (later covered by the Clash on London Calling). After too many drugs and an emotional breakdown, Taylor had joined a cult and decided that he was an alien god on Earth.
Bowie’s fascination with space travel and science fiction had already surfaced in such songs as “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars?” but he was being drawn toward something grander in scope. “Until that time,” he later said, “the attitude was ‘What you see is what you get.’ It seemed interesting to try to devise something different, like a musical where the artist onstage plays a part.”
He began developing a character based on Taylor, as well as on other eccentrics like Texas “psychobilly” singer Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. “He always described how he’d take bits and pieces from all over the place, put them in a melting pot and they’d come out being him,” said producer Ken Scott.
Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,
And the spiders from Mars.
He played it left hand
But made it too far
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's band
Now Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick 'em by smiling
He could leave 'em to hang
'Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.
So where were the spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls
With just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?
Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo
The kid was just crass, he was the nazz
With God given ass
He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar
Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band.
Ziggy played guitarListen to "Ziggy Stardust"
This song is about what it is like to be famous. Bowie gave his thoughts on the subject in a 2003 interview with Performing Songwriter magazine: "Fame itself, of course, doesn't really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant. That must be pretty well known by now. I'm just amazed how fame is being posited as the be all and end all, and how many of these young kids who are being foisted on the public have been talked into this idea that anything necessary to be famous is all right. It's a sad state of affairs. However arrogant and ambitious I think we were in my generation, I think the idea was that if you do something really good, you'll become famous. The emphasis on fame itself is something new. Now it's, to be famous you should do what it takes, which is not the same thing at all. And it will leave many of them with this empty feeling. Then again, I don't know if it will, because I think a lot of them are genuinely quite satisfied. I know a couple of personalities over in England who are famous for being famous, basically. They sort of initially came out of the pop world, but they're quite happy being photographed going everywhere and showing their kids off and this is a career to them. A career of like being there and turning up and saying, 'Yes it's me, the famous girl or guy' (laughs). It's like, 'What do you want?' It's so Warhol. It's as vacuous as that. And that to me, is a big worry. I think it's done dreadful things to the music industry. There's such a lot of rubbish, drivel out there."
Fame makes a man take things over
Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame puts you there where things are hollow (fame)
Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane (fame)
Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, (fame) what you need you have to borrow Fame
Fame, (fame) it's mine, it's mine, it's just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime (fame)
Is it any wonder I reject you first?
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool? (fame)
Fame, bully for you, chilly for me
Got to get a rain check on pain (fame)
Fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Fame, fame, fame
Fame, what's your name?
David Boowie is unarguably fashion's king of self-invention. Mod teenager, hippy with dishevelled curls, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke - Bowie changed his style more dramatically than any other musician in history. His transformations brought about seismic cultural shifts, changing the definition of what it meant to be a popular rock star. For Bowie clothes were a way of projecting self-expression, a powerful tool in communicating individuality at its most extreme, glittering and creative.
Sexually ambiguous, but desirable to both men and women, his Ziggy Stardust persona - in all its flame-haired, colourful sparkling glory - is still one of the most enduring and iconic images of popular culture and has been replicated countlessly since, including in Vogue May 2003 issue with Kate Moss assuming the famed role.
Bowie pushed boundaries to the highest degree - sporting eye patches, shaving his eyebrows, covering his face with vibrant make-up, wearing costumes so tight he gave Mick Jagger competition. There wasn't much he didn't try, from one-legged catsuits, voluminous tie-dye suits to embroidered dress coats.
March 2013 saw Bowie come to the forefront once again, with the release of his first album in over 10 years and the Victoria and Albert Museum's dedicated retrospective. Here, we look back at the style of one of history's most irreverent and revolutionary zeitgeists and rediscover why Bowie will always be king.
As a legend both in name and practice, David Bowie was a man of many faces — literally. A fashion and beauty chameleon, the musical hero did much, much more for pop culture than just provide the world with decades of incredible music. In fact, Bowie’s ever-changing sense of style and character was one of his defining traits; switching from lightning-bolt-clad Ziggy Stardust to a pastel suit-wearing, clean cut version of his every day self.
Alter egos were all part of the act, and Bowie managed to pull them off with ease. Working closely with designers including Kansai Yamamoto and Yves Saint Laurent throughout his career, Bowie collaborated with fellow creatives to ensure his looks always met the mark. Regardless of the phase in his career or style, the singer took risks, played with colour and always pushed the boundaries — whether it be within the realm of gender, stage presence or red carpet fashion. Whatever he did, it was bound to get attention.
Below, we’ve rounded up our favourite style moments from the icon, from his heeled boots and skintight dresses to his nonchalant suits and severe hats, so that you too, can take some sartorial inspiration from the legend that was David Bowie.
Iman and Bowie
The 1992 marriage between an international music superstar and one of the world’s most recognized supermodels appeared to be a celebrity union made in tabloid heaven. But far from the salacious headlines and marital revelations celebrity journalists predicted, the marriage between David Bowie and Iman Abdulmajid proved to be a stable, long-lasting love affair played out far from the glare of the media spotlight.
“You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is,” Bowie once reportedly said of his marriage.
The couple met in 1990 at a dinner party. Iman had recently retired from modeling and her hairdresser introduced her to the British singer-songwriter. For Bowie, it was love at first meeting. “My attraction to her was immediate and all-encompassing,” he told Hello! magazine in 2000. “I couldn’t sleep for the excitement of our first date. That she would be my wife, in my head, was a done deal. I’d never gone after anything…with such passion in all my life.”
Her effect on the usually unflappable and smooth Bowie was intense. “I found her intolerably sexy,” Bowie said during an interview with Entertainment Tonight when asked about their initial meeting. “I think I did something really corny the next day. I think I invited her to afternoon tea somewhere.” According to Iman, Bowie told her he was nervous, simply saying “tea?” as a question. “He doesn’t drink tea; he never drinks tea. He had coffee,” she recalled of their first date.