David Bowie is one of the most protean figures in rock music, one of the ten highest-selling acts in British pop history, and a subject of perennial fascination even when artistically lying low. It is a decade since the last major biography, and now Marc Spitz considers afresh Bowie's remarkable life and music. From south London beginnings immediately after the war, Bowie embarked on a life of endless self re-invention: first he took the surname of an American frontiersman and joined the nascent sixties R&B scene in London among bands like Manfred Mann and the Stones. By the early seventies he had become the androgynous, white-faced waifs of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Then there was the lounge-lizard classiness of the Thin White Duke, followed by his pensive, austere Berlin period, and subsequently the raucous racket-making aberration of his Tin Machine phase. Along the way he became a distinguished film actor in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. But now that Bowie, happily married to Iman, is into his sixties, has he said goodbye to his musical career, or is he just biding his time before another yet another unexpected and wrong-footing renaissance?
One thing is for sure: this succession of alter egos has always been symptomatic of a restless musical creativity and endless quest for innovation. His astonishing run of canonical albums, from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust through Young Americans and Low to Scary Monsters, and countless classic tracks of which Changes, Sound and Vision and Space Oddity are just a taste, span psychedelia, glam-rock, 'plastic soul', electronic and industrial influences to disco, pop and even heavy metal. Now, Marc Spitz has talked to those who know or have worked with Bowie to produce an even-handed, thoroughly researched and quirkily readable portrait of an enigmatic and elusive individual, for whose recent musical silence we are all the poorer.
Marc Spitz is a music journalist, author and playwright. Spitz's writings on rock n' roll and popular culture have appeared in Spin (where he was a Senior Writer) as well as The New York Times, Maxim, Blender, Harp, Nylon and the New York Post. He is currently the music blogger for Vanity Fair and a regular contributor to Uncut magazine. He has authored two novels and has written several biographies, including Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue, Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times and Music of Green Day, and BOWIE: A Biography.