Legal name: David Robert Jones
David Bowie (/ˈboʊ.i/; born David Robert Jones, 8 January 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, and actor. He is also a painter and collector of fine art. Bowie has been a major figure in the world of popular music for over four decades, and is renowned as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He is known for his distinctive baritone voice as well as the intellectual depth and eclecticism of his work. Aside from his musical abilities, he is recognised for his androgynous beauty, which was an iconic element to his image, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in July 1969 when his song "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie's impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture." The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation.
In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977)—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. Low, "Heroes", and Lodger, the so-called "Berlin Trilogy" albums, all reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise. After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance, which yielded several hit singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. He has not toured since the 2003–04 Reality Tour and has not performed live since 2006. Bowie's latest studio album The Next Day was released in March 2013.
David Buckley says of Bowie: "His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure." In the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie was placed at number 29. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK, he has been awarded nine Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all time.