As one of Britain's most notable exports, remaining relevant has never been a concern for David Bowie—well after his own notes ring from the last chapters of his musical career, his influence alone has, and will continue to, change and shape the way performers worldwide approach their art and their image. Born David Jones in London, England on January 8th, 1947, his began his music career as a saxophonist in several mod bands (including the Manish Boys, featuring then-session player Jimmy Page), and he changed his name to David Bowie following the success of Davy Jones of the Monkees. Following a few singles, his first album was 1967's David Bowie, after which he spend time at a Buddhist monastery in Scotland and served as an apprentice in a mime troupe, starting his own troupe in 1968 called Feathers. In order to finance the founding of Beckenham Arts Lab the following year, he released Man of Words, Man of Music, which featured "Space Oddity"—a tune that was a hit in Europe but wouldn't hit in the US until four years later.
It was as a mime at some T. Rex concerts (he and Marc Bolan were friends) that Bowie met guitarist Mick Ronson and producer/bassist Tony Visconti, both of whom he partnered with to produce ___'s The Man Who Sold the World and 1971's Hunky Dory (which featured keyboardist Rick Wakeman of Yes), his first two pop masterpieces. The most iconic phase of his shape-shifting career followed: Styling himself as a bisexual alien rock star, he called himself Ziggy Stardust and, with a new backing band featuring Ronson, the Spiders from Mars, released glam-rock benchmark The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972, which made him a star abroad in the USA as well as his home country of England. He re-released Man of Words as Space Oddity, and Aladdin Sane followed in 1973, and his work as a producer took off with Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power, Lou Reed's Transformer, and Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" (which he also wrote).
Disbanding the Spiders from Mars following Pin Ups, Bowie would record 1974's Diamond Dogs, featuring "Rebel Rebel," and became a champion of soul sounds, recording 1975's Young Americans in Philadelphia, which featured his first number one hit in America, "Fame." His career would take a darker turn with his brief move to Los Angeles, where he recorded Station to Station, adopting the gaunt, druggy "Thin White Duke" persona that earned him some controversy upon his return to England. He would then move to Berlin and sober up, working with Brian Eno on a strong, experimental series of records: 1977's Low and "Heroes", as well as the NYC-recorded Lodger in 1979, each of which were influenced by electronic and Krautrock musical currents in Germany. 1980's Scary Monsters would be the final LP of what's generally acknowledged as Bowie's classic period, and wouldn't be followed up until 1983 with mega-hit album Let's Dance and the subsequent Serious Moonlight tour.
During the 1980s, he would act in many movies, including 1986 cult classic Labyrinth, but his albums--Tonight and Never Let Me Down--were critical flops. He would reissue much of his RCA catalog in the late '80s alongside the Sound + Vision box, and briefly formed a band called Tin Machine, who would release two albums. His solo release schedule would assume a more ordinary pace in the '90s, with 1993's Black Tie White Noise, The Buddha of Suburbia and Eno collaboration Outside in 1995, for which he would tour with Nine Inch Nails as an opener. The techno-influenced rock of 1997's Earthling were received rather coolly, but surrounding the release of 1999's Hours… and 2002's Heathen, he'd found new ways to reconnect with his fans via the internet. Heathen and its follow-up, 2003's Reality, saw him working once again with Visconti. With the Portuguese covers of several classic Bowie hits on the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in 2004, his music would reach a new young audience, whose taste he shared in many ways with his collaborations with hip groups the Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio.
Read more about David Bowie in Crawdaddy!:
"David Bowie: Young Americans"
"David Bowie Interview: The Man Who Fell to Earth"