From his humble beginnings as Space Oddity’s Major Tom, to his more experimental personas like Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie made it clear: he was never going to apologize for who he was, even when he was sporting a lycra jumpsuit and an orange mullet.
He was a master of reinvention, a fearless creative, and an artistic icon across the board. With a career spanning over six decades, David Bowie was, and will continue to be, one of music’s most memorable and influential icons.
Today, we celebrate the life and work of David Bowie, his enduring artistry, and the sounds that have shaped a generation.
1. “Space Oddity” (1969)
Before the mainstream success of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie introduced the world to Major Tom, a fictional astronaut and the protagonist throughout the Space Oddity album. Appropriately, Bowie released “Space Oddity” just weeks before the moon landing. He always was ahead of his time.
2. “Ziggy Stardust” (1972)
In the early ’70s, Bowie adopted the persona of Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous rock star alien who came to Earth to operate as a messenger for extra-terrestrials. His 1972 album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, solidified Bowie an international star, forever changing the landscape of rock’n’roll. Bowie’s alien persona translated to a leading role in the 1975 science fiction film, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
3. “Fame” (1975)
With John Lennon singing backup, 1975’s “Fame” made Bowie a household name in the United States. 25 years later, Bowie told Q Magazine about his views on fame, saying, “I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants.”
4. “Peace on Earth”/”Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby (1977)
David Bowie made one of his most unexpected appearances alongside Bing Crosby for the scripted television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. Bowie has since revealed that he agreed to the show because he knew his mother liked Crosby.
5. “Ashes to Ashes” (1980)
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Major Tom, you’ll find the answer in “Ashes to Ashes.” According to the song, Major Tom is “a junkie, strung out in the heavens high, hitting an all-time low.” Bowie later revealed that “Ashes to Ashes” was his way of bidding farewell to the seventies.
6. Let’s Dance (1983)
Bowie dove into the ’80s and took over with his synth-heavy classic, “Let’s Dance.” The feel-good song introduced Bowie to the younger generation — a testament to David Bowie’s timelessness. Bowie made a conscious departure from the song’s lyrics for the music video, which features an Aboriginal family struggling with Western imperialism. Similar themes can be found in Bowie’s 1977 hit, “China Girl.”
7. “Dancing In The Street” w/ Mick Jagger (1985)
Mick Jagger and David Bowie teamed up to remake the Mo-Town classic, “Dancing In The Street” to raise money for the Ethiopian famine relief. The song has since become one of Bowie’s most favored collaborations.
8. “Lazarus” (2016)
Producer and long-time friend, Tony Visconti, has confirmed that David Bowie planned his final message through his newly released album, Blackstar. In a statement on his Facebook, Visconti wrote, “His death was no different from his life — a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.” The words, “Look up here, I’m in heaven” are the first words sung on Bowie’s single off the album, “Lazarus.” Listening to this song now, it’s hard not to fight that lump in your throat.
(Image via Getty / Fotos International)