On 10 January 2016, English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, painter, and actor David Bowie died from liver cancer at his New York home two days after releasing the album Blackstar on his 69th birthday. His first UK Top 40 single was the 1969 ‘Space Oddity’ which became a UK No.1 in 1975, plus Bowie scored over 50 other UK Top 40 hits including five No.1’s. Bowie has also scored two US No.1 singles, the 1975 ‘Fame’ and 1983 ‘Let’s Dance’. Plus two albums with Tin Machine in 1991 and 1992.
His music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music and during his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million worldwide, made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists.
At the age of 17 David Bowie was interviewed on a BBC programme as the founder of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men. He complained: “It’s not nice when people call you darling and that”.
After Terry Burns, his half-brother, introduced him to modern jazz, his mother gave him a plastic alto saxophone in 1961, which he learnt to play.
Bowie’s debut release was the 1964 single “Liza Jane” by Davie Jones & the King Bees.
When he was 17, Bowie (who was then still David Jones) loved meeting his friend Reginald Kenneth Dwight (later Elton John) at the Soho’s Giaconda Café in London, to talk about music.
In the late 60’s, Bowie appeared in a Lyons Maid ice cream commercial.
David Bowie recorded two Bruce Springsteen songs: ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City’ and ‘Growing Up’, after seeing Bruce play live in New York in 1972.
David Bowie’s right pupil is permanently dilated – due to his friend George Underwood punching him in the eye during a fight over a girl in 1962. Underwood and Bowie remained good friends with Underwood doing artwork for some of Bowie’s earlier albums.
Bing Crosby recorded his last ever single with David Bowie. Their duet version of “The Little Drummer Boy” was recorded for Christmas 1977. It was a hit five years later.
The line “Look at those cavemen go” in ‘Life On Mars’ is a reference to the song “Alley Oop”, a one-off hit in 1960 for American doo-wop band The Hollywood Argyles.
David Bowie was the final guest on Marc Bolan’s ITV music show, Marc, in 1977, when he performed ‘Heroes’ as well as a duet with Bolan, ‘Standing Next To You’, which was prematurely terminated when Bolan fell from the stage, much to Bowie’s amusement. After the show, the pair recorded demos together which were never finished because Bolan was killed in a car crash a week later.
David Bowie’s schizophrenic half-brother Terry Burnes killed himself after lying down on the railway lines at Coulsdon South station, London. He was killed instantly by a passing train. He was 47.
David Bowie’s fictional character Major Tom has appeared in three Bowie hits – Space Oddity (1969), Ashes To Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1996).
Other artists named after David Bowie songs include Simple Minds, (after a lyric from his song “Jean Genie”), The Kooks, after “Kooks” from his album Hunky Dory, and Warsaw (later Joy Division), after “Warszawa.”
David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is about Vince Taylor, who wrote Brand New Cadillac, which was covered by The Clash.
David Bowie has been in 10 bands – The Konrads, The Hooker Brothers, The King Bees, The Manish Boys, The Lower Third, The Buzz, The Riot Squad, The Hype, Tin Machine and Tao Jones Index.
During a gig by David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour in Glasgow, Scotland, six fans, who arrived at the venue in wheelchairs, amazingly sprang to their feet as David and group took to the stage!
David Bowie played sax on Dib Cochran & The Earwigs 1970 single “Universal Love.”
In the early 80’s, Bowie danced with Princess Diana at a concert by jazz singer George Melly.
David Bowie won Video of the year for “China Girl” at the first MTV Video awards in 1984. The song, co-written by Bowie and Iggy Pop during their years in Berlin, first appeared on Pop’s album The Idiot released in 1977.
Bowie provided the voice of the long-nosed, blue-skinned, stiletto-sporting Atlantean King “Lord Royal Highness” in the 2007 animated TV movie SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis.
David Bowie was the best-selling act of 1973 in the UK.
In 1974 David Bowie turned down an offer from the Gay Liberation group to compose ‘the world’s first Gay National Anthem.’
The Manish Boys, (featuring David Bowie) auditioned for the UK television talent show Opportunity Knocks.
Guitarist Peter Frampton was Bowie’s friend at school – his dad was head of the art department. He’s gone on to play guitar with Bowie many times during his career.
In the late 60’s, The Beatles’ Apple Records turned down the offer to sign ‘new artist’ David Bowie.
The track “Move On”, from the album Lodger, is a backwards rewrite of his “All The Young Dudes.”
“Let’s Dance”, his fourth UK No.1 featured blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. A US No.1 hit, it was Bowie’s first single to reach No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
The original plan for Bowie and Mick Jagger’s appearance at Live Aid was to perform a track together live, with Bowie performing at Wembley Stadium and Jagger at John F. Kennedy Stadium, until it was realized that the satellite link-up would cause a half-second delay that would make this impossible unless either Bowie or Jagger mimed their contribution, something neither artist was willing to do.
“Under Pressure” evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with Queen when recording at a studio in Montreux, Switzerland. The video for the song features neither Queen nor David Bowie due to touring commitments.
Bowie was offered a knighthood from the Queen in 2003 but turned it down. He told The Sun, “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”
The original title for “Ashes to Ashes” was “People Are Turning to Gold.” The music video for the song cost £250,000, and at the time the most expensive music video ever made.
Bowie appeared in over 25 films throughout his life, including The Last Temptation of Christ, Basquiat, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners and The Prestige.
The last song Bowie performed on stage before his retirement from live performances in Nov 2006 was “Changes”, during his three-song set at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Bowie made guest appearances with many artists including Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, Iggy & the Stooges, Steeleye Span, Placebo, Tina Turner, Adrian Belew, Mick Ronson, Pet Shop Boys, Reeves Gabrels, Goldie, Earl Slick and Arcade Fire.
His image appears on every single one of his album covers – except the UK release of The Buddha Of Suburbia and his final album, Blackstar.
Bowie’s first US No.1 was his single “Fame” in 1975. It was co-written by John Lennon and features the former Beatle on backing vocals.
The David Bowie exhibition at London’s V&A in 2013 was the fastest-selling in the museum’s history. It featured more than 60 stage costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973) and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997).
In 2013, David Bowie’s first album in a decade became the fastest-selling of the year, hitting the No.1 spot in the UK in its first week of release. ‘The Next Day’ was the 66-year-old’s first No.1 since 1993’s ‘Black Tie White Noise’ and sold 94,000 copies in the first week.
His twenty-fifth and final studio album Blackstar was released worldwide on 8 January 2016, coinciding with Bowie’s 69th birthday and became Bowie’s only album to top the Billboard 200 in the United States.