There is yet to be created a category able to define everything about him. David Bowie. He is as an artist: singer, actor, songwriter, record producer, painter, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, collector of fine art, innovator. He's done it all and continues to do so, at 68 years-old, more chameleonic than ever and still shaping the industry after four decades. There's a website - supbowie.com - that tells you what he was doing at your age. Type in 20, and he was releasing his debut album, self-titled; type in 34, and he was creating the mega hit "Under Pressure" with Queen.
Born David Jones in 1947 in Brixton, he started playing saxofone at age 13 and became Bowie in 1966. Three years later, "Space Oddity" would be his first real hit, climbing to number 5 in the United Kingdom. He was then experimenting with cinema, acting, Tibetan Buddhism, and mime. "The man who sold the world", in the following year, is credited as the inception of heavy metal;
"Hunky Dory", which includes the single "Life On Mars," and "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars" became instant classics in 1971 and 1972.
The Ziggy Stardust persona, an androgynous alien rock star, stunned the industry and bred a kind of live show that was unheard of. His ginger hair, heavy makeup, futuristic clothes and staggering on stage performances propelled Bowie to the superstar, almost mythical status.
It's safe to say that David Bowie's music and imagery inspired everyone from the 70's on, with vivid influence in the likes of The Cure, Motley Crue, The Killers, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson and Artic Monkeys.
His discography is extensive, 25 albums, and has so many classics it is hard to just point a few out, from "Heroes" to "Let's dance." His acting career has also been prolific, with roles in almost 30 flicks. The first one, as Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth", is still considered his best. His Jareth the Goblin King in "Labyrinth" has also earned much praise. He was the subject of over a dozen documentaries, which started in the 70's.
In 1993, after a six-years hiatus, he returned to music with "Black Tie White Noise" followed by three more albums in the next 4 years - a rather impressive feat for any artist. 1999's "Hours" had an interesting twist, featuring a song with lyrics written by a fan upon the "Cyber Song" competition. It was the early days of the peer-to-peer sharing of music online and the album was even available for download before it hit the stores. After two more albums, Bowie took the longest break of his career, ten years, before coming back with 2013's "The Next Day."
His latest project is "Lazarus", a stage show that recovers his alien character from 1976's "The Man who fell to Earth." New songs are to be expected in the show, to be directed by Ivo van Hove.