Thursday, August 20, 2009
Who's that Queer?
Call him what you will, “Ziggy Stardust”, “The Thin White Duke”, but if you haven’t heard of David Bowie, then you haven’t been listening to music for the past four decades. Born David Robert Hayward-Jones (yeah, I think Bowie works better too), Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his musical accomplishments throughout the 1970s. He has been influenced by a variety of musicians and musical styles, and is known for the intellectual depth of his work and distinctive voice.
David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when the song "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK singles chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era as the flamboyant, androgynous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona epitomized a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation.
In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame", co-written with John Lennon, and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer identified as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. The so-called "Berlin Trilogy" albums all reached the UK Top Five.
In 1981, Bowie paired with Queen for the UK chart-topping single "Under Pressure", and reached a commercial peak in 1983 with the album Let's Dance, which yielded the hit singles "Let's Dance", "China Girl", and "Modern Love".
Bowie’s studio and performance success maintained momentum through the 1990’s. In 2003, Bowie was forced to take a break from the stage, after he suffered a minor heart attack as a result years of touring and heavy smoking. Despite his hiatus from the stage, Bowie contributed to several projects including the soundtrack for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which featured David Bowie songs performed in Portuguese by cast member Seu Jorge (who adapted the lyrics to make them relevant to the film's story). Bowie commented, "Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with."
In the past, Bowie’s sexuality has been a topic of discussion. He is currently married to Somalian-born Supermodel Iman Abdulmajid, but has openly talked about his bisexuality. In a 2002 interview with Blender Magazine; Bowie was posed with this question: "You once said that saying you were bisexual was 'the biggest mistake I ever made'. Do you still believe that?" His response:
“Interesting. [Long pause] I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that [bisexuality] became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”
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