The legendary pioneering musician has died at the age of 69 after fighting cancer for 18 months.
His representative confirmed that Bowie had died "peacefully" and was "surrounded by his family".
In recognition of the iconic singer, we look back at the different personas, which make Bowie the most enigmatic, unpredictable performer of his generation.
The chameleon of pop changed his colours immeasurable times. In a perpetual state of reinvention, David Bowie never failed to keep his fans guessing.
Born Davy Jones in Brixton in 1947 and bred in the leafy suburbs of Bromley, Bowie was the son of a waitress and a Barnardo’s charity promoter. A sandy-haired, cherub-cheeked teenager, Davy Jones considered becoming a monk and spent an entire year studying under a Tibetan lama. Eventually growing bored of Buddhism, he went on to study music and take up jazz on his plastic saxophone. Nevertheless, a series of unsuccessful post-rock‘n’roll bands left the aspiring star a little disheartened.
His first and arguably greatest alter ego was born when Bowie broke through into the mainstream with Ziggy Stardust. Face daubed with a lightening bolt and mullet hairstyle dyed crimson red, Ziggy Stardust was a bisexual rock star alien who acted as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings. Dressed in a multi-coloured Lycra jumpsuit, Bowie’s androgynous, wafer-thin doppelganger came to redefine an entire era of rock’n’roll. Widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time, it went on to sell an estimated 7.5 million copies worldwide. It’s worth noting that Ziggy Stardust’s arrival on the scene coincided with Bowie’s coming out. In an interview in the 1972 issue of Melody Maker, Bowie declared himself gay. Later, he announced he was bisexual in an interview with Playboy in 1976.
It was Major Tom who first propelled Bowie into the limelight. As the protagonist of ‘Space Oddity’, Major Tom helped establish Bowie as a solo artist to be reckoned with in 1969. A fictional astronaut, Major Tom has cut off all of his communication with planet Earth and floated into space. The character evolves throughout his career, making another appearance in the 1980 song ‘Ashes to Ashes’. Here Major Tom is obviously autobiographical. In the words of Bowie, “We know Major Tom is a junkie, strung out in the heavens high, hitting an all-time low”.
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie in 1960s
Davy Jones; life before David Bowie
David Bowie in 1964
David Bowie 'In Mime' at the Middle Earth Club, London, 1968
David Bowie in 1969
David Bowie performing his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1973
David Bowie in 1973
David Bowie, with his wife Angela (Angie) and his son Zowie, after receiving an award for his latest record "Ziggy stardust" in Amsterdam, 1974
David Bowie in the 1970s
David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, confirmed his death on Twitter
David Bowie in the 1980s
David Bowie gives a press conference presenting the Japanese movie 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence' directed by Nagisa Oshima, during the 36th International Film Festival in Cannes, 1983
David Bowie performs on stage during a concert in La Courneuve, 1987
David Bowie during his concert in West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany, 1987
David Bowie shakes hands with Princess Diana, 1993
David Bowie autographs copies of his newest album 'Outside' at the grand opening of a Herald Square music store 26 September 1995 in New York
David Bowie performs at the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens during a rock festival, 1996
David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman smile as they pose for photos after Bowie received a star on the world famous Walk of Fame 12 February in Hollywood, 1997
David Bowie getting ready to perform 'Earthling' at the Phoenix Music Festival in 1997
David Bowie on stage performing during the Tibet House Benefit Concert in New York City, 2001
David Bowie Meltdown concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London, June 2002
David Bowie performing during his concert at the Stravinski hall stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, 2002
David Bowie in 'Last Call with Carson Daly' TV programme taping in New York, 2003
David Bowie walks with his with wife Iman and daughter Alexandria (2) in New York, 2003
David Bowie performs on stage on the third and final day of 'The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival 2004' at Seaclose Park, in Newport, UK
David Bowie poses with a pig, 2004
David Bowie and Kate Moss at the 2005 CFDA Awards dinner party at the New York Public Library in New York City, 2005
David Bowie and model Iman arrive to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, 2008
David Bowie anf Tilda Swinton at the MoMA's 6th Annual Film Benefit in New York, 2013
Flowers are left below a mural of David Bowie on the wall of a Morley's store in Brixton on 11 January 2016
Aladdin Sane was a continuation of Ziggy Stardust. The protagonist of his sixth album, Bowie describes the alter ego as “Ziggy goes to America” because the album was inspired by his 1972 US tour. Later, he also told friends that the character was inspired by his brother Terry who was diagnosed with schitzophrenia. After all, the name is based on the pun ‘A Lad Insane’.
Thin White Duke
The darkest of all of Bowie’s alter egos, the Thin White Duke coincided with the peak of his cocaine usage. Although, on the surface, the Duke seemed more ordinary than Bowie’s former personas, at a closer look, he exhibited signs of real trauma. Bowie describes the Duke as, “A very Aryan, fascist-type; a would-be romantic with absolutely no emotion at all but who spouted a lot of neo-romance”. Dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a waistcoat, the Duke emerged at a time when Bowie said he lived on “red peppers, cocaine, and milk”.
Halloween Jack is Bowie’s first post-Ziggy persona. The lead character of his eighth studio album Diamond Dogs, Halloween Jack is a “real cool cat” who lives in the declining “Hunger City”. The album cover features Bowie as half man, half dog.
A break from his previous personas, Bowie played the lead in The Elephant Man on Broadway. Playing Joseph Merrick, Bowie’s performance was a sell-out and the opening night was attended by the likes of Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and David Hockney. Bringing a mystical, otherworldly element to the role, Bowie’s performance was widely praised.
- More about:
- David Bowie