There’s no doubt that David Bowie can be credited with changing the course of music and establishing its connection with the visual arts. He’s considered one of the most influential musicians of all time, in league with the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. During his life, he was constantly pushing the boundaries, changing personas, and creating timeless music that remains relevant today. Although he is no longer with us, that doesn’t make his life any less interesting. So, hop in your rocket ship and head to Mars to learn some incredible details about David Bowie’s unbelievable life.
His Real Name Is David Robert Jones
David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in London on January 8, 1947. As an aspiring teenage musician, then-Jones felt that it was necessary to change his name. But this wasn’t necessarily because he wanted to. The already-famous lead singer of The Monkees was named Davy Jones, which felt too similar to the future legend.
Bowie’s manager proclaimed that “Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you,” so he changed his name to Bowie to avoid confusion. The name Bowie was inspired by the classic ‘Bowie’ knife.
His First instrument Was The Saxophone
From an early age, Bowie always had an interest in music and began playing the saxophone at the age of 13. His half-brother Terry, who was nine years older, was a major influence on him, introducing him to jazz, rock and roll music, and beat poetry.
Some of his musical idols at the time included John Coltrane and Charles Mingus as he began exploring music on his own. Unfortunately, his half-brother suffered from mental illness, which had a major impact on Bowie’s life. Terry committed suicide in 1985, inspiring Bowie’s song “Jump They Say.”
He Was An Advocate For Long-Haired Men
Although throughout his career Bowie was on television and in movie countless times, his first appearance on television had nothing to do with neither music or acting. Instead, he appeared on the small screen as the founder of The Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men.
The society made an appearance on the BBC show Tonight in 1964, where 17-year old Bowie defended men with long hair. In an interview with the London Evening News, Bowie explained, “Anyone who has the courage to wear their hair down to his shoulders has to go through [expletive]. It’s time we were united and stood up for our curls.”
He Was Teenage Friends With The Future Elton John
In his youth, David Jones became teenage friends with Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Little did the two know that they would grow up to become music icons David Bowie and Elton John. Their interest in music made them fast friends, yet after Bowie’s death, Elton John admitted that the two hadn’t talked much for 40 years due to their differences.
He commented saying that “We used to hang out together with Marc Bolan, going to gay clubs, but I think we just drifted apart […] He wasn’t my cup of tea. No; I wasn’t his cup of tea.”
His First Big Hit Was Released At The Perfect Time
Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bowie released his single “Space Oddity” on July 11, 1969. It was the opening track for his second studio album David Bowie and helped launch his career.
The release of the song couldn’t have had better timing because just nine days later the song was used by BBC to cover the Apollo 11 moon landing. BBC using Bowie’s song helped to make it his first hit, reaching No.1 in the UK, establishing him as a successful and respected musician.
His Eyes Were The Same Color
Contrary to popular belief, David Bowie didn’t have heterochromia, meaning that his eyes were two different colors. Instead, he had blue eyes but had anisocoria, leaving one of his pupils permanently dilated. This was the result of a fight with his friend George Underwood over a girl when they were 15 years old.
Underwood explained that his fingernail accidentally hit Bowie’s eye, causing the anisocoria. There were no hard feelings between the two and they even collaborated from time to time. There’s also no denying that Bowie’s condition definitely gave him a unique look.
He Was Childhood Friends With Peter Frampton
Bowie was three years older than Frampton, yet the two were close friends in their younger years. They both went to Bromley Technical School together where Frampton’s father was actually Bowie’s art teacher.
The two shared a connection with each other through music and remained close all the way up until Bowie passed away, collaborating with each other occasionally. Frampton explained that “He really introduced me, along with George Underwood, to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, people I wasn’t aware of at that age.”
His Alter-Ego Ziggy Stardust Made Him Go Crazy
While David Bowie is no stranger to changing his personality and style, Ziggy Stardust was by far his most popular. He toured under that alter-ego between 1972 and 1973 until he announced retiring the character for good at the last show of his tour.
During the show, he announced “Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do,” referring to Ziggy Stardust. We went on to reveal that Ziggy wouldn’t leave him alone for years and that it was seriously affecting his personality to that point that he thought he was losing his mind.
The Thin White Duke
In the years following the retirement of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie became the personae known as the Thin White Duke. It was during that time that he was experiencing some serious emotional issues on top of a hankering and detrimental drug addiction.
He was known for surviving solely off of mil and peppers and anyone that came into contact with him could tell that something seriously wrong was going on. According to the novel, Strange Fascination: David Bowie—The Definitive Story, in 1975, he lived in a “cocooned existence [in Los Angeles], disconnected from the real world.”
He Was A Huge Reader
Like most other geniuses of his kind, David Bowie was a notorious bookworm. It has been said that he would read about a book of a day which is beyond impressive considering his busy schedule. As part of an exhibition, “David Bowie Is,” the Art gallery of Ontario created a list of 100 of the artist’s favorite books.
Apparently, the list was rather random, not sticking to any particular time period or genre. Nevertheless, people had the opportunity to see what he like to read and maybe pick up the book themselves.
He Declined Being Knighted
Being from the UK and considering all of his accomplishments and contributions to literature and culture it was no surprise when Queen Elizabeth II offered a knighthood. However, in very a David Bowie Fashion, he declined the offer.
He explained his decision saying “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.” While people respected his opinion, Sir David Bowie does have a pretty nice ring to it.
A Lock Of His Hair Sold For An Unheard Of Amount Of Money
Just months after Bowie’s passing in 2016, a lock of his hair was sold at auction. The lock had been cut by a wig mistress and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London. At the auction, it sold for a whopping $18,750. The bidding started at $2000 and most people thought that it would be sold for a maximum of $4,000 although they were mistaken.
Before the auction, the director proclaimed “David Bowie changed music forever and fans are hungry for related precious objects that bring them closer to their favorite musician […] What brings you closer than a lock of hair?”
He Tried To Send A Pig Fetus To A Journalist At Rolling Stone
Back in the 1990s, Bowie was interviewed by Rolling Stone journalist David Wild. After Tom Petty had his interview with Wild, he sent the journalist a gift. Bowie figured it would only be polite for him to do the same.
However, his gift was a little out of the ordinary. He sent a pig fetus in a jar. According to Wild, the fetus never made it through the border police which he was rather glad it didn’t. Apparently, Bowie frequently checked for a few weeks asking if the fetus had arrived yet.
He Was Almost In A Movie Alongside Elizabeth Taylor
Amazingly, although not all that surprising, David Bowie almost had the opportunity to act in a movie with Elizabeth Taylor. The film was the 1976 film Bluebird, yet, after reading the script, he backed out from the film. But that wasn’t the only famous actor he almost shared the big screen with.
He also came extremely close to co-starring in the film The Eagle has Landed with Michael Caine. Rumor was that Bowie was actually very excited about the thought of this but wasn’t able to do it because of scheduling conflicts.
He Voiced A Character In a Spongebob Squarepants Special
One of the most interesting roles that Bowie played on television was the Atlantean King “Lord Royal Highness” in the 2007 television special Spongebob’s Atlantis Squarepantis.
Bowie couldn’t have been happier about the opportunity stating “I’ve hit the Holy Grail of animation gigs […] Yesterday I got to be a character on … tan-tara … SpongeBob SquarePants. Oh Yeah!! We, the family, are thrilled. Nothing else need happen this year, well, this week anyway.” This was just one of the numerous acting gigs Bowie was a part of during his life.
He Was Nominated For An MTV Award For His Appearance In Zoolander
While he didn’t have much of a role in the film, it didn’t mean that audiences didn’t love every second of it. His classic line “If nobody has any objections, I believe I might be of service?” has been repeated countless times by fans of the movie.
In the film, Bowie comes out of nowhere to judge the iconic “walk off” scene between Derek Zoolander played by Ben Stiller and Hansel McDonald Played by Owen Wilson. Nobody was expecting to see David Bowie in a movie like that but there he was.
He Hated English Tea
Hailing from the UK, it almost seems like heresy to be an Englishman and not like tea. Yet, a traumatic experience as a child led David Bowie to develop a phobia for English tea. Supposedly, when Bowie was just five years old, his parents took him on a boat trip down the Thames where he drank tea that had been steeping for seven years.
Needless to say, he was traumatized by the event and refused to drink English tea specifically for the rest of his life. However, he did admit that he was known to like Japanese tea on occasion.
He Helped Pave The Way For Streaming Music
In September 1996, David Bowie managed to become the first major artist to release a single “Telling Lies” on the Internet. This was a pretty big deal at the time and it took approximately 11 minutes to download. By 1998, he had announced he was going to release his own Internet service titled BowieNet.
Interestingly enough, years earlier, while other people thought that the impact of the Internet was highly exaggerated, he thought otherwise. He explained the deep ramifications that it would have both on the world and the music industry. He turned out to be right.
He Was Basically A Movie Star Too
Throughout his extensive career, Bowie appeared in more than 25 films. That’s more than a lot of professional actors can say for themselves. Not only was he in the movies, but people were actually impressed with his acting abilities.
Some of the notable films that he was featured in include The Last Temptation of Christ, The Man Who Fell From Earth, The Prestige, among numerous others. However, one of his most memorable roles was as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth. His success in acting helped to further demonstrate that Bowie was an artist down to his core.
His Legacy Continues
The iconic musician clearly had a major impact on the world. Following his death, numerous things were named after him to honor his legacy. After he passed away, astronomers created the “Bowie asterism” consisting of seven stars that were located near Mars.
The stars form the shape of a lightning bolt as a nod to his Aladdin Sane face paint. But that’s not all, an asteroid was then named after him along with a spider who is now called the Heteropoda davidbowie. As if he wasn’t already, now he’s really a starman.