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David Bowie – Biography

The Starman hitmaker died in 2016

Singer and Musician David Bowie attends the 2010 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on June 7, 2010 in New York City
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
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"I have had an extraordinary life," said the late David Bowie, who died from cancer in January 2016. "I've got nothing but thanks for everything I've been allowed to do, got away with, survived."

David Bowie's early life

David Robert Jones was born in Brixton on January 8, 1947, to Hayward Stenton Jones, and Peggy Jones, a one-time waitress and nanny whose history of mental illness would haunt the chameleon-like star throughout his life. Uneventful teenage years apart from a school-yard fight over a girl which left him with a permanently dilated right eye gave no hint of the future personality that would forever alter the face of international music.

The rock star-to-be was launched upon his now legendary creative journey at the age of 15 by half-brother Terry. Nine years older than David, it was Terry who introduced his younger sibling to rock and roll, Buddhism, the writings of Jack Kerouac and jazz. Slim, blonde-haired and androgynous, David soon became heavily involved in the London music scene, working at a Soho advertising agency during the day and appearing in a number of bands by night.

David Bowie's career

By 1966, David Jones had changed his name to Bowie, after the hunting knife, and begun recording under the guidance of manager Kenneth Pitt. With the 1969 release of Space Oddity used by the BBC in its coverage of the moon landing, despite its content about a man being lost in space David hit the spotlight. He followed up with his first full-fledged album, The Man Who Sold The World in 1971 and went on to do collaborations with everyone from Brian Eno to John Lennon. The epitome of reinvention, during the 1970s David developed a series of iconic personalities including the glittery Ziggy Stardust and elegant Thin White Duke which helped further boost him towards superstardom. Among these invented personas, however, David almost lost his own as he struggled with increasing drug problems. During the latter part of the decade, in an attempt to leave his demons behind him, the man behind the glam fled to Berlin where, through the early Eighties, he embarked upon a new phase in his life. He divorced his wife Angie, whom he had married in 1969, and had played a major role in developing his personality and career, taking custody of the couple's son Zowie.

Shedding his glam rock persona and adopting blond coiffure and pleated trousers, David went on to the most commercially successful period of his musical life, releasing the international disco hit Let's Dance in 1983. Having starred in the film The Man Who Fell To Earth in 1976, he also furthered his celluloid career with roles in several acclaimed movies while also managing to conquer both his alcohol and drug dependency. Devastated by the suicide of his brother Terry in 1985, David decided to turn his back on what he called his "middle of the road" audiences in order to focus on more personally gratifying projects. And while he joked that records produced in the new style only sold "around 45 to 47 copies" his alternative-rock band Tin Machine actually sold upwards of two million albums in the late 1980s the results garnered much critical acclaim.

In 1990, the legendary musician, who had just split with his girlfriend of two years, Melissa Hurley, met Somalian-born model Iman over dinner at a mutual friend's house. The following year, David proposed in the city of light with a version of Doris Day's April In Paris. The couple were married in 1992 and celebrated their union with a pair of his-and-hers tattoos Iman bears a Bowie knife, a reflection of David's showbiz moniker, while he had an ode to his bride tattooed on his left leg. An eagerly awaited daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, was born in August 2000 and these days the man who was once synonymous with musical cutting-edge is happily mellow.

"I think the last ten years have slowly become the most rewarding period of my life," he admitted. "I like where I'm at and I'm very comfortable. I like being who I am, who I'm with and what I'm doing. I seem to have found an equilibrium in my life." David Bowie died in January 2016 aged 69 from cancer.

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