Shape-shifting musician and movie star.
January 8, 1947
Although Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and GRAMMY Award winner David Bowie is best known as a popular musician, significant aspects of his work have promoted science fiction and fantasy to the mainstream. His breakthrough 1969 single “Space Oddity,” which tells the story of an astronaut’s possibly tragic mission, was broadcast by the BBC during its coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and lunar landing. The song bridged the science-focused world of the space race, rock ‘n’ roll, and popular culture.
Bowie’s 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tells the story of one of his numerous alter egos, Ziggy Stardust, a manifestation of an alien who brings a message of peace to Earth on the eve of its destruction. The 1974 album Diamond Dogs is heavily inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984 and describes a post-apocalyptic world.
As an actor Bowie has often explored the genres of the fantastic with three of his biggest roles spanning science fiction, horror, and fantasy. In his first leading film role Bowie leveraged his cultivated androgyny in the creation of an otherworldly alien visitor for the 1976 adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. In The Hunger (1983) he portrayed a vampire’s consort seeking eternal life. In Labyrinth (1986) his portrayal of the Goblin King Jareth was a signature role. In addition, Bowie recorded five songs on the film’s soundtrack.
David Bowie’s work in music and on screen frequently delves into the questions surrounding the meaning of human existence and identity. As an artist, he constantly looks beyond music for inspiration and influence, drawing on literature, art, film, and fashion to create works that break the boundaries of both genre and medium.