With over 140 million of his albums sold, it’s not a stretch to say that David Bowie achieved massive success as a musician. His various reinventions and stylistic changes over a career spanning some 5 decades kept his music at the top of charts across the globe. Whether you like his music or not, you’d have a hard time arguing that David Bowie wasn’t a creative and impactful musician.
Born David Robert Jones in January of 1947, Bowie displayed a penchant for imaginative interpretations and artistic aptitude early on. When he was 9 years old, his dancing during his music classes was praised by his teachers as “vividly artistic.” He picked up a love of jazz music in the early 1960’s and began to take saxophone lessons from a local teacher.
Bowie formed his first band at the age of 15, but his aspirations to pop stardom made him want more than his bandmates could give, and he jumped from group to group. He finally got his big break in 1969 with the release of “Space Oddity,” a top 5 hit in the UK. Other chart toppers would follow over the years, including “Fame,” “Let’s Dance,” his collaboration with Queen “Under Pressure,” and various others.
It’s impossible to try and summarize David Bowie’s musical style by looking at any single song or decade: the very essence of his style was its continuous change. From his alter ego Ziggy Stardust to his Tin Machine era, Bowie constantly reinvented himself and pushed the boundaries of pop music. He allowed himself, and by extension his music, to be deeply impacted by world events. After 9/11, he allowed the feelings of despondency and fear to echo through his new works. Bowie continued making music up until his death from liver cancer in 2016, releasing his album 2 days before his untimely passing.
In terms of his creative process, Bowie was a master of free association. He’d list out any assortment of words and form a narrative from the distinct imagery that they brought to mind. He also associated with some of his most eminent contemporaries, including Mick Jagger and the band Queen. Bowie was a firm believer in the idea that teamwork and collaboration could create some of the most creative artwork. David Bowie kept the music world and his fans on their respective toes with his unbridled creative talents. He forever changed the face of pop music, and his music will continue to set the standard for what it means to be musically innovative for decades to come.