DAVID BOWIE by Dylan Jones


A Life
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A sweeping, gossipy biography of the chameleonic pop star in the form of an oral history, with input from dozens of collaborators, lovers, and admirers.

Bowie himself weighs in, too, as longtime music journalist and British GQ editor Jones (Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died, 2014, etc.) scored excellent access to Bowie and his cohort. However, Bowie’s contributions are mostly gnomic pronouncements—e.g., “my art has little to do with trends, and nothing at all to do with style.” For details (and dirt), Jones finds producers Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, who weigh in on Bowie’s approach to recording (game for anything but impatient); fashion and music journalists, who were wowed by his path-breaking 1970s performances; his first wife, Angie, who had an embattled relationship with the singer as he deeply indulged in sex and cocaine in the mid-’70s. (Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes recalls “so many girls coming and going one by one, nonstop.”) Bowie’s musical output after the early 1980s is generally dismissed as cravenly commercial and/or lazy, but Jones’ interlocutors tend to argue even Bowie’s miscues reflect the same seeking spirit that produced “Ziggy Stardust”; he just became more interested in acting and art collecting and had settled down with his second wife, Iman. Jones unearths quirky bits of Bowie-ana (he wanted to sing a duet with Mick Jagger from a space shuttle) and details his highly creative months preceding his death from cancer in 2016. But the occupational hazard of oral histories is that they lack broader context, and a hermetically sealed, accentuate-the-positive feel intensifies in closing pages thick with encomiums—though the author does make room for critic Paul Gorman’s assessment: “he made execrable records during 1984-1995, often wore terrible clothes, stupid makeup and had rotten haircuts.” Jones captures his subject’s transformations and the responses they provoked, but the tone is fan-friendly, assuming Bowie's greatness rather than arguing for it.

A dishy but overstuffed and overly praiseful portrait.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-451-49783-3
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2017


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