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  • Alex Thomson

MUSIC HISTORY 101: BOWIE

Both culturally and musically, David Bowie was one of the most influential artists of all time, spanning over 50 years and a huge variety of genres, his career is almost unparalleled. His songwriting brought a new sense of adventure to the 60's UK music scene.

In 1969, Bowie secured his first UK top 5 single, with the timeless classic Space Oddity. The single tells the story of Bowie’s first recurring character, Major Tom. Released just 9 days before Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Major Tom is often considered to represent Bowie and his struggles with drug abuse, with his 1980 single Ashes to Ashes stating, “We know Major Tom’s a junkie”. Some fans even theorise that Major Tom wasn’t even an astronaut, instead being a man on a fatal drug trip.

Known for his bright red hair and androgynous look, Ziggy Stardust is arguably Bowie’s most iconic character. Being a bisexual, alien, glam rock star, Ziggy brought a new wave of psychedelia to Bowie’s lyricism. “You're squawking like a pink monkey bird”. This era however, also exposed a more vulnerable side to Bowie’s music, especially in Rock and Roll Suicide.

Not only known for his music, Bowie was also a hugely influential figure in gender politics. Often in his live shows he would wear unisex outfits that would push the boundaries of what was socially acceptable at the time. This blurring of gender boundaries could hint as to why so many of his alter-egos were mystical and otherworldly, because aliens don’t have to conform to societies rules.

Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, was one of his most experimental projects. Knowing of his terminal cancer, Blackstar was Bowie’s theatrical goodbye, the theme of death running deeply through the lyrics.

Bowie’s death stopped the world in its tracks, his music touched millions of people across the globe. Hearing Bowie’s music for the first time when I was younger further cemented my love of music and playing guitar.