Music Tidbits: David Bowie

David Bowie is a great musician with a wide variety of musical talent. He also has a heck of an interesting life story, with far more interesting details than I could actually include in this post.

David Bowie at the O'Keefe Center in Toronto, Canada (1976) Photo: jlacpo [Flickr]

“Bowie” is Loaded with Alter Egos
Although he was born David Robert Hayward-Jones in 1947, he had already decided to change his name to “Davie Jones” by the sixties. Unfortunately, this caused confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkeys, so he changed it to “David Bowie” in 1966. The inspiration for the last name came from the hero of the Alamo, Jim Bowie.

By 1972, he already became someone else, taking on the androgynous personality of Ziggy Stardust. This character helped Bowie get a foothold into stardom with the revolutionary themed album, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.

After Ziggy’s retirement, a new persona took over, known as “The Thin White Duke.” This character was based on the character Bowie played in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Unfortunately, The Thin White Duke was a rather negative character and, when mixed with excessive cocaine use, he caused quite a bit of a stir by saying and doing things to support fascism and Nazism. Since the Thin White Duke’s retirement, Bowie has had to work rather hard to distance himself from his statements of the time, and even donated $10,000 to the NAACP.

He’s Big on Collaborations
David Bowie has worked with some of the most cutting edge artists in the music industry, as well as some of the most highly-regarded musicians in modern history. One of his closest friends since the beginning was Iggy Pop, who Bowie helped get through some of the tougher times by recording the songs they co-wrote together once he was a household name. The two also toured together on multiple occasions and even lived together in West Berlin throughout a period of the eighties.

Some of the other big names he’s worked with include John Lennon, Lou Reed, Bing Crosby, Pete Townshend, Queen, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Peter Frampton, Trent Reznor, Toni Basil, Annie Lennox and actress-turned-singer Scarlett Johansson.

Bowie is a British National Treasure

David has been named number 29 out of 100 Greatest Britons. He is one of the ten best-selling musicians in UK pop history. He was previously offered the chance to be named as Commander of the British Empire in 2000 and a Knight in 2003, but he declined the opportunities. In 2003, the Sunday Express named Bowie as the second richest entertainer in the UK with over £510 million, but in 2005, the Sunday Times Rich List said he actually only had £100 million.

His Eye is Permanently Dilated

At the age of 15, Bowie and his friend George Underwood fought over a girl. George was wearing a ring and hit David in the eye, which resulted in David having to stay out of school for eight months so he could get multiple operations to protect his eyesight. He almost went blind from the incident and the pupil stayed permanently dilated, resulting in David’s having faulty depth perception. People commonly think his eyes are two different colors, but it only an illusion due to the extra blackness of the injured eye.

Even after the fight, David and George stayed friends and Bowie even hired Underwood to do the artwork on some of his early albums.

He Might be Bad Luck

David appeared on a show hosted by his friend Marc Bolan of T Rex in 1977. Shortly afterward, Bolan died in a car crash. For Christmas that year, he joined Bing Crosby in a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” Only one month after the record was complete, Crosby died. After that, Bowie was quoted as saying he was hesitant to be a guest artist anymore because, “everyone I was going on with was kicking it.”

He Really Gets His Kicks Acting

Aside from pretending to be other people in his concerts, he actually has always showed a big interest and aptitude in acting. His first major role was in the 1976 film, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Following the critical acclaim of that role, he expanded his acting resume by playing in the 1979 movie; Just a Gigolo; the 1980 Broadway production of The Elephant Man; the 1980 BBC’s adaptation of Baal; the 1986 film, Absolute Beginners; and his most famous role as the Goblin King in the Labyrinth. He’s since played in a number of movies including: The Last Temptation of Christ; The Linguini Incident; Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me; Basquiat; Gunslinger’s Revenge; Mr. Rice’s Secret; and The Prestige. He even received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 1997.

He’s Got A Revolving Door On His Closet

A common question people ask about David Bowie is “Is he gay or bi or not?” Unfortunately, this answer isn’t so clear. He seems to shed his sexuality as much as he changes his egos around.

In 1972, David outed himself in an interview with Melody Maker newspaper. Around this time, he also frequently fed on rumors that he and Iggy Pop were fooling around together. He repeated these rumors in a 1976 interview with Playboy, saying, “It’s true –I am a bisexual…I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

But then, he changed his tune. In a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone, he said, it was “the biggest mistake I ever made.” By 1993, he decided that he was always a “closet heterosexual” and that “it wasn’t something I was comfortable with at all.”

By 2002, he seemed to decide that being bisexual had more to do with where he was trying to sell records, saying “I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual…I felt that [bisexuality] became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”

The Life Aquatic With David Bowie

The soundtrack for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou featured cast member Seu Jorge singing a number of David Bowie songs with tracks slightly altered lyrics to fit the movie’s plot. Bowie later remarked, “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with"

Sources #1, #2, #3

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David Bowie’s 1999 VH1’s Storytellers was just released on DVD, but you can see this footage of him performing “Always Crashing in the Same Car” for free only at

Never even knew this existed, pretty amazing footage!
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