One of the great enigmas of popular music and certainly the most mercurial, Bowie underwent a veritable odyssey of career moves and minor crises before establishing himself as a major performer. After spending several years in the late 60s as an all-around music-hall entertainer, he recast himself as a hippie singer/songwriter, then recorded a mix of metal and pop before emerging into superstardom with his Ziggy Stardust persona. His persona has taken on many forms as his music has evolved - folksinger, androgyne, alien, decadent, blue-eyed soul man, and modern rocker.
David Jones took up the saxophone at age 13, and when he left Bromley Technical High School to work as a commercial artist. Three years later, he had started playing in bands, three of which each recorded a single.
In 1966, after changing his name to David Bowie (after the knife) to avoid confusion with the Monkees' Davy Jones, a fellow Brit, he recorded three singles for Pye Records, then signed in 1967 with Deram, issuing several singles. He started his own mime troupe, Feathers, in 1968. After they broke up, Bowie helped start the experimental Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969. To finance the project, he signed with Mercury. Man of Words, Man of Music included "Space Oddity," its release timed for the U.S. moon landing. It became a European hit that year but did not make the U.S. charts until its re-release in 1973.
Bowie started changing his image in late 1971. Enter Ziggy Stardust, Bowie's projection of a doomed messianic rock star. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972, which charted at 75, and the re-release of Man of Words as Space Oddity the same year, which went to 16, which made Bowie into the star he was portraying. After 1973's Aladdin Sane broke Bowie in the U.S., he produced albums for Lou Reed and Iggy and the Stooges, and wrote and produced Mott the Hoople's glitter anthem "All the Young Dudes."
"Fame," cowritten in 1975 by Bowie, John Lennon, and Alomar, was Bowie's first American #1. Station to Station, released in 1976 and went to number 3, another album of "plastic soul" recorded with the Young Americans band, was his highest charting album and featured his second Top Ten single, "Golden Years." Settling later in Berlin, he lived in semi-seclusion, painting, studying art, and recording electronic music hits like "Heroes" with Brian Eno.
In 1983 Bowie signed one of the most lucrative contracts in history, and moved from RCA to EMI. Let's Dance #4 in 1983, his first album in three years, returned him to the top of the charts. Produced by Nile Rodgers with Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar, the album was a slick revision of Bowie's soul-man posture. It contained three Top Twenty singles -- "Let's Dance" (#1), "China Girl" (#10), and "Modern Love" (#14) -- which were supported with another set of innovative videos.
Bowie formed Tin Machine in 1989. The band included Bowie discovery Reeves Gabrels on guitar, along with Hunt Sales and Tony Sales, who had worked with Bowie on Iggy Pop's Lust for Life album and tour in the Seventies. The group debuted with a series of club dates in New York and Los Angeles.
In 1992 Bowie married Somalian supermodel Iman. A popular touring and recording act throughout the 90s, he announced the launch of his own independent label ISO in 2001; his first release, Heathen, matched Bowie with his old hitmaking producer Tony Visconti for the first time in over two decades. In 2003 Bowie toured the U.S.