by Jacob Peterson
On January 10th, David Bowie, a legend of music, passed away. After an eighteen month long battle with liver cancer, which he had kept secret from the public, Bowie died in his New York City apartment. As one of the most influential musicians in the world, Bowie remained active from the age of fifteen in 1962, until the release of his final album only two days before his death. With a career spanning over five decades, the man known as the Chameleon of Rock and Roll had quite the journey.
Born as David Robert Jones in Brixton, London, Bowie took an early liking to performance and music. He was a member of his school choir, as well as being described as “vividly artistic” by teachers in his movement and music classes. His interest in music was further peaked after listening to his father’s collection of records. These included the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Fats Domino. Bowie would later say that while listening to the song “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, he “had heard god”. He would later continue to study music, along with art and design, while also being introduced to jazz via his older brother.
Having begun his musical career in 1962, Bowie would play in his native U.K. for twelve years before his first tour of the U.S., becoming an international star after his album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”. Following this release, he would travel around the world , at one point having moved to three separate countries between 1974 and ‘76. During this time he would move between genres of music, going from classic rock to jazz and funk, and from there to electronic and pop. This ability to change and adapt to styles would help cement his legacy over the years.
Throughout his career, Bowie would come up with several personas, which led to his nickname as music's “chameleon”. These characters would often correlate with the style of music he was interested in at the time, such as “The Thin White Duke” being taken up around his time with jazz and funk, or “Berlin” while he was taking an interest in the German music scene. The personas were also created due to Bowie's admitted nervousness with performing in his early career.
Of course, Bowie's life and career was not without some controversy. During his time in America he would develop a cocaine habit, which came to a head during his time living in L.A. Being affected both mentally and physically, Bowie would look detached and borderline deranged during interviews, and in a few particular incidents he would make what many attributed to be pro-fascist comments. Bowie would later say this was the result of the mix of his addiction and the personas of the Thin White Duke, who Bowie would appear as in character. Eventually, he would move out of the states, and after taking some time to clean up, he returned as the character Berlin.
Though known mostly for his music career, Bowie was also fairly active as an actor, having taken roles even before his breakthrough in music. Some of his more prominent roles include Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1975), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Jareth the King of Goblins in Labyrinth (1986). He would also play Joseph Merrick in the the Broadway production of The Elephant Man, having played the role over one hundred times.
Known for always trying to stay active, even the diagnosis of cancer wasn’t enough to stop him from working. Bowie managed to release his final album, “Black Star”, only two days before his death. This work ethic, along with his amazing talent and ability to blend in with almost any genre of music,led to Bowie being one of the most well-known and prolific artists during his life. He will be missed.
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