The musician, actor and visual artist David Bowie has died in New York, age 69. He was recently the subject of a comprehensive retrospective exhibition at the V&A museum in Kensington. The show travelled and was a great insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), Bowie was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie’ in 1965 due to the popularity of the actor/singer Davey Jones of the Monkees. Bowie went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his later career. His musical heroes included Little Richard and Anthony Newley. Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.
David Bowie’s creativity from song writing, recording and producing to designing costumes, stage sets and album artwork were all part of his process. Working within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section will reveal the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance. His handwritten lyrics reveal word collages inspired by William Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ method of writing.
Bowies innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation; Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signalling a challenge of social traditions and inspiring people to shape their own identities.
Pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, the stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke were original and groundbreaking. Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation will remain an important legacy.
Bowie was a pioneering performer both on stage and in film,his key performances throughout his career influenced an entire generation. (David Bowie January 1947 – January 2016)
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