David Bowie has died.
A unique star, singular and brilliant, forever etched into the history of rock and pop, was taken from the world by cancer, just a few hours after celebrating his 69th birthday and releasing what would be his final album, Blackstar.
David Bowie has died on the 10th of January 2016 after an 18-month battle with cancer. News that began to circulate only 48 hours after his 69th birthday, which was suitably celebrated with the release of Blackstar , his 25th and final studio album... This was not a "rock legend" like any other. Passing through decades, fashions and pop culture effortlessly, Bowie earned his reputation as a musical chameleon, successfully reinventing himself on a constant basis... Whether glam, new wave, funk or soul, disco or electro... Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane of the Thin White Duke, he invented and reinvented, metamorphosed and transformed. He travelled around the world, from London to New York via Berlin. A geographical, physical, intellectual, dense and quite fascinating mix of elements that made David Bowie a world icon of modern culture and a pioneer of pop music.
He dominated for decades in popular culture and music. The boy born under the name of David Jones in London on the 8th January 1947 went on to great things in the 70s and 80s literature. A Fan of literature, jazz and theatre, the young man began to search for the music inside of him. In 1971, with the album HunkyDory, former model David Jones now goes by David Bowie , and fully assumes his colourful ambitions and emphasizes the complexity and plurality of his style: androgynous look, scandalous attitudes, complex arrangements, veneration for the great icons of the time (Warhol and Dylan are openly mentioned). Musically, the wealth of diverse and truly unique melodies, a firework guitar display signed Mick Ronson (Queen Bitch), an ominpresence of piano (Oh ! You Pretty Things, Life On Mars?) and well-licked guitar frets (Quicksand). The album Space Oddity, which was released in the same period, is another masterpiece of eclecticism in what was an impressive beginning to his career.
In 1972, with Ziggy Stardust, everything changes! A flood of glamrock, the invention of doubles (Ziggy here and later the Thin White Duke, Halloween Jack, Aladdin Sane, etc) and exuberance to the death, the most legendary Bowie is at the heart of this precursor concept album. One might say it was ahead of its time, but the mutant Ziggy shocked both musically and visually. A sustained delirium that oozes from the very pen of its author, here was erected a tower of Babel where Oscar Wilde, science fiction, Vince Taylor and a whole bunch of idols and ideas collide, like in the attic of the Lewis Carroll's Alice ... The androgynous aspect to Bowie can be felt in this electrical and at times sexual rock and roll (Moonage Daydream). Ziggy Stardust offre surtout des compositions renversantes comme Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Rock’n’Roll Suicide or perhaps Suffragette City, which foreshadowed punk.
Walking in the shoes of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane (another personality invented by our schizophrenic) brings substance to his glam rock. Ronson's shaggy lead guitar ( The Jean Genie ) is offset by more calm tracks where the piano of Mike Garson holds down the fort (Lady Grinning Soul and Aladdin Sane). This great baroque and decadent cabaret David Bowie welcome once again a barrage of mismatched textures, strange creatures and various fragrances. This decade is that of the advent of disco and its derivatives, and Bowie could hardly miss such a phenomenon. With Diamond Dogs in 1974 and, above all, Young Americans the following year, soul and funk sneak into his rock sound.
This 'groovy' Bowie would be rapidly eclipsed by a much colder Bowie, cerebral and experimental. Always ready to reinvent himself, follow the trends (or create them...), and question everything, he flies out to Berlin where things are really moving. In the company of ex-Roxy Music man Brian Eno, he conceives his famous berlin trilogy, beginning with Low (Heroes and Lodger to follow). With the wonderful Low, everything starts with a strange soul baroque instrumental with electronic textures. Capable of producing futuristic soul music (Sound And Vision), from a somber and mysterious symphony (Warszawa), a new-wave minimalism close to a science-fiction film soundtrack (Art Decade) or disjointed and cubic rock and roll (Breaking Glass).
Heroes, which appears among the notable candidates, adopts a similar approach, but under a warmer light. Surrounded by crazy machines (again controlled by Eno) and UFO guitars (signed Robert Fripp, former King Crimson), David Bowie channels his experiments with electronic flavor ( Neuköln ) in compositions with some of his most successful melodies ( Heroes, The Beauty And The Beast, the Lion Joe ). Heroes is, above all, the cult album that will mark new-wave music the most.
After this pioneering Berlin trilogy, the Briton leaves behind the certain coldness (but certainly not the madness) of his experience of all genres with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), released in 1980.
Between modern funk (Fashion and its angular groove) and revisiting new wave (Ashes To Ashes), here he paints a new rainbow in the sky, still as dense and totally in tune with the various trends of the time. A perfect link between the 70's and 80's, this neo punk cabaret contains especially powerful compositions, and is daring in form. Always in search of the unexpected, the Thin White Duke even took a post-Television song by Tom Verlaine ( Kingdom Come ), invited Pete Townshend of The Who to play over Because You're Young , and, on over half the tracks, invited Robert Fripp to play some crazy guitar sequences.
Three years on from Scary Monsters, Bowie put his heart and soul into the MTV era with what was one of his biggest commercial successes, with fans not tiring of his efficient funky pop hit machine and new wave discoid. Produced by Nile Rodgers of Chic, Let’s Dance welcomed great Texan guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and boast some great hits like China Girl (co-written 5 years earlier with Iggy Pop cinq ans plus tôt avec Iggy Pop for The Idiot) or the energetic Modern Love. The Thin White Duke sings like never before and his single Let’s Dance resonates in dancefloors across the globe... Even for the not-so-hardcore fans of the genius, who might claim that Bowie followed the easy path of pop soul, Let’s Dance carries its name well and has aged like a fine wine. A year later, the album Tonight, and especially the single Blue Jean saw the icon continue to surf on his success.
For David Bowie, the 90s take place in cruise control. Eager for new experiences, but aware that rap and grunge attract young audiences more, he is conscious of being of less interest to the crowds. He begins to experiment with a more electronic rock, as is demonstrated on Black Tie White Noise in 1992, Outside in 1995, Earthling in 1997 and 'Hours...' in 1999. Thereafter, the anecdotal will take over until 2013. A rumour suggests that Bowie is at death's door when he releases The Next Day, an earth-shattering comeback. At 66 years old, the Thin White Duke signs off on an album that manages to be both very contemporary and very bowiesque.
Hardly time to digest everything else before he presented us with the fascinating Blackstar, his 25th studio album which was released on the very day of his 69th birthday. Once more we are spurred to announce that Bowie continues to surprise and delight with an experimental work that ranks among his most audacious and protean (we think, at times, of Station To Station). 48 hours after the album release, the news of his death swept through the world of rock. The star today is him. Eternal and undeniably immortal.
The discography of David Bowie on Qobuz
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