Remembering David Bowie
On Jan. 10, 2016, music legend David Bowie died at 69 after a battle with cancer. But his legacy lives on. In honor of what would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday on Jan. 8, take a look back at his unparalleled life.
In the mid-1960s, David Bowie began to make a name for himself with early Davy Jones projects. The future superstar dropped singles including “Liza Jane” and “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving” in 1964 and 1965, years before the release of his debut studio album.
Accompanied by the Buzz, Bowie hit the UK’s Wembley Studios for a television performance in 1966. That same year, he would record David Bowie, his debut studio album that would arrive in stores in 1967.
In 1969, Bowie entered the albums charts stateside for the first time with the release of his sophomore studio album. Led by the track “Space Oddity,” the project earned Bowie his intergalactic image and his first hit single.
Photographed at a party in Los Angeles, Bowie spent 1971 becoming a bona fide star. He readied his critically acclaimed 1971 album Hunky Dory, toured in promotion of the project, and teased his now-famous chameleon abilities.
The early 1970s introduced Bowie as fans know him. The musician played with androgyny and gender-bending, bringing a style few had seen to the international stage. He became a legend with the 1972 release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, following-up with Aladdin Sane just months later.
Bowie rose to fame with many of the greats, fighting for chart positions with the likes of Janis Joplin, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder (photographed here with the artist in the mid-1970s).
Bowie brought Ziggy Stardust to the people throughout 1972 and 1973. The performer kicked off the international Ziggy Stardust Tour in England in January 1972, and hit cities across the globe including New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Glasgow, before the run of shows wrapped back in England in July 1973.
Bowie recruited an equally famous face for the promotion of his 1973 album Pin Ups. A collection of covers, the record was introduced with a out-there photoshoot of the artist with British model Twiggy.
Bowie married model Mary Angela Barnett in 1970, welcoming their son Duncan one year later. The two divorced in 1980,
Bowie continued to evolve image with the 1974 release of Diamond Dogs. Pictured here as a part of the artwork for the album, the singer was as glam as ever.
Soon after the Ziggy Stardust Tour came to a close, Bowie hit the road once more for 1974’s Diamond Dogs Tour. Taking the performer across North America, the run helped to solidify Bowie’s star power stateside.
Continuing what was perhaps his busiest decade, Bowie kept churning out music with the 1975 release of Young Americans and 1976’s gold-selling Station to Station. That same year, Bowie hit the big screen in The Man Who Fell to Earth, adding to his already-packed résumé.
Bowie found himself live from New York in 1979, and made his Saturday Night Live debut as the musical guest on an episode hosted by Martin Sheen. He came to the program after wrapping his Isolar world tour and dropping his Lodger album.
In the early 1980s, a newly divorced Bowie went through another style and music evolution. Following the 1980 release of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) Bowie went more than a few months without releasing an album of new music for the first time in years. He returned to the airwaves with 1983’s Let’s Dance — a platinum-selling effort. He was hardly stagnant during that time, however, as he collaborated with Queen and continued his acting career.
Bowie satiated fans with the 1984 release of Tonight, mixing up his schedule with a big-screen appearance in 1985’s Into the Night alongside Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Dan Aykroyd.
After a few years away, Bowie picked up his touring schedule again in 1987. He began the worldwide Glass Spider Tour in May of that year, making stops in Paris, New York City, London, and Madrid as he promoted the ’87 album Never Let Me Down.
The man who was once Ziggy Stardust became Jareth the Goblin King for Jim Henson’s 1986 feature film Labyrinth. Bowie headlined the fantasy flick, working with costars Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, and Shelley Thompson, among others.
Bowie teamed up with his personal friend and contemporary Mick Jagger in the 1980s. The two recorded a version of Martha and the Vandellas’s “Dancing in the Street,” releasing the single to raise money for Live Aid.
Then-worthy of greatest hits albums many times over, Bowie kicked off his international Sound+Vision Tour in March 1990. An accompaniment to his 1989 box set Sound + Vision, the tour played to fan favorites and included such hits as “Fame” and “Let’s Dance.”
One of the longest runs of his career, Bowie’s Sound+Vision Tour hit four continents. Accompanied by a small touring band, Bowie gave some of his first hints of slowing down as he promoted the shows.
Expanding his range with the formation of Tin Machine, Bowie collaborated with new musicians to release self-titled projects. Made up of Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, Tony Sales, and Hunt Sales, Tin Machine toured and recorded together from 1988 until 1992.
Back to his solo career, Bowie spent 1992 exploring a new sound with the recording his Black Tie White Noise album. That same year, he married his second wife, famed model Iman.
As he continued to act with the early ’90s releases of The Linguini Incident and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Bowie took the time to join other big names at the The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in honor of his late collaborator in April 1992. He teamed up with Annie Lennox to perform “Under Pressure.”
As only he could, Bowie celebrated his 50th birthday with a massive blowout concert in 1997. Fresh off the recording of Earthling, he played New York City’s Madison Square Garden to ring in his half-century on the planet. (Hear more about Bowie’s 50th birthday in EW’s original story about the show from 1997.)
In the midst of promoting ‘Hours…’, Bowie spent time with Jagger in London in December 1999. Jagger supported his friend at one of the final stops of Bowie’s The Hours… Tour, which made limited stops throughout the second half of the year.
Bowie met a new generation of fans in June 2000, playing to a packed crowd at the Glastonbury Festival. Performing singles off of The Hours…, Bowie had recently made the transition to television with the horror series The Hunger. That same year, he became a father for the second time as wife Iman gave birth to a daughter Alexandria.
Photographed here at The Concert for New York City following 9/11, Bowie spent much of the year working on his Heathen album, and recording tracks intended for an album that never saw an official release.
Bowie saw success with the 2002 release of Heathen, which included the singles “Slow Burn” and “Everyone Says ‘Hi.'” He toured in support of the record in the latter half of the year, bringing decades of his music worldwide.
During the Heathen tour, Bowie brought back music from decades prior, performing tracks off of his 1970s album, Low. It was a nostalgia EW highlighted in the magazine’s review of the album, writing at the time, “On Heathen, Bowie longs to return to that period… The album reunites him with Tony Visconti, the producer who worked on nearly every Bowie record between 1975’s Young Americans and 1980’s Scary Monsters. During that period, Bowie buried his Ziggy Stardust costume once and for all, and the two men (on the later work in particular) mixed haunted-house rock, streaking-comet noise, Europop, and brittle psyche, making for Bowie’s most artistically fertile period. He didn’t simply look like he was on the edge; he sounded that way as well.”
Bowie released one of his final studio albums of new material in 2003. The performer dropped Reality in September of that year and embarked on a worldwide tour that lasted nearly a year. Bowie’s last high-profile run, A Reality Tour hit cities across the globe from October 2003 through July 2004.
2004 was one of the last years that Bowie performed live, pictured here onstage at the UK’s The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival. He was joined at the festival by The Who, Jet, Snow Patrol, and others.
In the midst of a 10-year hiatus from releasing new music, Bowie supported his wife at the 2005 CFDA Awards. (Here, he’s pictured with supermodel Kate Moss at the event.) That same year, he continued to debut compilation albums and made a few live appearances.
Following an appearance in 2001’s Zoolander, Bowie made headlines in 2005 when he signed on to play Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. He appeared in the Oscar-nominated feature with Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, and Scarlett Johansson.
Much of the mid-2000s were spent celebrating Bowie’s earlier work. 2007 saw the release of The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987, followed soon after by the compilation iSelect and two live albums.
Pictured with his son Duncan Jones at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Bowie supported the director at the premiere of his movie Moon. The singer was also doing his own big-screen work, starring in 2008’s August.
Bowie slowly eased back into music in the late 2000s, prepping for work on his next album. Pictured here with Iman at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom for Keep A Child Alive’s 6th Annual Black Ball, Bowie released a live album and brought new life to “Space Oddity.”
The beginning of the decade was devoted to the recording and production of The Next Day. Bowie spent years on the project, finally breaking his 10-year music hiatus to release new tracks. Pictured with Iman at a gala in New York City, the two celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary in 2011.
In 2013, Bowie was officially back. He saw his greatest chart success in decades with the March release of The Next Day, also earning critical praise for the effort. He returned to the singles charts with “Where Are We Now?” and filmed visuals to accompany the long-awaited new music.
Just days before his death at the age of 69, Bowie dropped his 25th studio album, Blackstar. Released on the musician’s 69th birthday, the seven-track record earned an A- from EW, celebrated as a collection that is “strange and unnerving, almost wraithlike, but beautiful too.”