David Bowie

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

David Bowie 1947–

(Born David Jones) British songwriter, singer, musician, and actor.

Bowie is the prototypical early 1970s rock performer. Along with T. Rex, he brought "glitter rock" to the concert stage, entrancing his audience with his space-age, androgynous costumes and socially conscious lyrics. Ever since, he has been a controversial figure, idolized by some, denounced by others.

Bowie received his first commercial recognition with "Space Oddity" in 1969. The song pointed the way to his future recordings—the ethereal music combined clever, sensitive lyrics and a good deal of commentary concerning modern culture. After "Space Oddity," Bowie's rock became progressively harder, and in 1972 he produced what most critics believe to be his masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. A loosely structured "concept" album, Ziggy chronicles the life and times of a rock star who comes from outer space, attempting to save earth from its inevitable destruction ("Five Years") and ending with his own death ("Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"). The album became enormously successful, and can be seen as the turning point in Bowie's career. It enabled him to fulfill his ideas concerning the combination of theater and rock, but his outrageousness onstage in the guise of Ziggy nearly overshadowed his lyrics. Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs gave Bowie new personas to work with, but they were less successful.

Young Americans was as controversial as his past albums, but was heavily based in rhythm-and-blues, and signaled a return to his early days. Still, the title song and "Fame" (written with John Lennon) are both personal statements and satiric social commentaries. Once again, Bowie changed his mask with Station to Station, becoming the "thin white duke" and combining ambiguous lyrics with beautiful melodies and highly charged pop. Bowie has concerned himself more recently with writing short, unusual pop tunes and long, sinister-sounding instrumentals. Both Low and

(The entire section is 473 words.)