One year ago today, rock icon David Bowie died at the age of 69.
Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, South London on January 8, 1947. His mother worked as a waitress and his father worked for a charity.
At the age of nine, Bowie’s father brought home a collection of American records, including some by artists like Elvis Presley, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Platters, Fats Domino and Little Richard.
It was Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” that had a particular impact on the young Bowie’s life.
He would later say, “I had heard God.”
Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” was also influential. “It really impressed me, the power of the music. I started getting records immediately after that.”
He also began performing, including dancing to songs by Elvis and Chuck Berry.
He began playing a plastic alto saxophone in 1961. A year later he would be seriously injured in a fight with a schoolmate over a girl. Doctors feared Bowie would be left blind in his left eye. He recovered slightly, although he was left with poor depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil. He and the classmate, George Underwood, remained friends. Underwood created artwork for some of Bowie’s early albums.
Bowie started playing in a band called the Konrads in 1962 at the age of 15. He moved from band to band and manager to manager over the next several years. His habit of firing managers would prove quite expensive in later years.
In 1967, he changed his stage name to David Bowie, in order to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. He took his new last name from American frontiersman Jim Bowie, despite the difference in pronunciation. He also released his self titled debut solo album that year.
In 1969, days ahead of the launch of Apollo 11, “Space Oddity” was released, which was his first hit, reaching the Top 5 in the UK. It reached No. 124 in the United States on its first release. It would be rereleased in 1973 and hit No. 15 in America. It was followed by another self-titled album.
Also that year he met Angela Barnett, whom he would marry, less than a year later. The marriage would produce a son, film director Duncan Jones. 1970 saw Bowie release the album, “The Man Who Sold the World.”
In 1971, he released his landmark album, “Hunky Dory,” which featured the single “Changes” and the song “Life on Mars.” Despite it’s moderate success at the time, “Hunky Dory” has consistently been rated among the greatest albums of all time.
In 1972, Bowie created the character of Ziggy Stardust, the definitive rock star, who also acts as a messenger for extra terrestrial beings. This might be his most influential phase, at the peak of the Glam Rock period. The album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” spawned the hits, “Starman,” “Suffragette City,” “Moonage Daydream,” and the closest thing to a title track the album has, “Ziggy Stardust.” He took the role of Ziggy Stardust so seriously that it began affecting his life off stage, leading him to doubt his sanity. In 1973, Ziggy Stardust “retired” during a show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.
The next year, Bowie moved to the United States where he worked on his next album “Diamond Dogs,” which veered more into soul and funk. Also at this time he fell into a deep cocaine addiction, leading to physical issues, paranoia and other emotional problems. Despite these issues, “Diamond Dogs,” and a live album were successful. In 1975, he released “Young Americans” the sound of which Bowie described as “plastic soul.” The album produced Bowie’s first No. 1 single in the U.S., “Fame,” which was co-written with John Lennon. He was also one of the first white acts to appear on “Soul Train,” where he performed “Fame” and “Golden Years.”
His next alter ego, the “Thin White Duke” was introduced on his next album “Station to Station.” The character featured immaculate taste in clothing, but was obviously troubled by the massive amounts of cocaine he was taking. The cocaine use eventually got so bad, Bowie decided to move back to Europe, where he recorded what is known as his Berlin Trilogy: “Low,” “Heroes,” and “Lodger.”
In 1981, he worked with Queen to write and record “Under Pressure.” The song was Bowie’s third No. 1 single and Queen’s second, after “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
In 1983, Bowie released his best-selling album “Let’s Dance,” which featured the title track, which went to No. 1 in the U.S., along with “China Girl,” and “Modern Love.”
In 1986, he appeared as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s film, “Labyrinth.” He also wrote five songs for the soundtrack.
In 1992, he married Iman, and the couple had a daughter in 2000.
Bowie continued releasing music for the rest of his life. His last album, “Blackstar” was released just before his death.
Our question, what blues guitarist played the solos on the single “Let’s Dance”?
It’s unofficially Houseplant Appreciation Day, National Bittersweet Chocolate Day; and Peculiar People Day.
It’s the birthday of singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who was born in 1943; singer Rod Stewart, who is 72; and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, who is 68.
This week last year, the top song in the U.S. was “Hello” by Adele.
The No. 1 movie was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” while the novel “Rogue Lawyer” by John Grisham topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.
Weekly question: Who was the first person to appear in a commercial for the iPhone?
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