On January 10, 2016, the music world was surprised and saddened to learn one of the biggest rock and roll icons of the last four decades had died. Due to his desire for privacy, the public was unaware that David Bowie had been diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months prior, and two days after his 69th birthday – and the release of his final studio album – he died of the disease at his New York home.
This special episode of the Documenting Popular Music, written and narrated by veteran journalist Robert Neil, takes a look at Bowie’s career, which began in the late 1960s, when his music wasn’t initially understood. However, the British performer’s unique way of presenting songs eventually caught on and led to a long and successful career that garnered millions of fans around the globe.
Bowie was more than a rock singer and songwriter, and his theatrical nature helped him produce albums that were more than simply music. There were back stories and avant-garde characters, such as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, which offered fans something they couldn’t find elsewhere.
And while he had a love for rock and roll, he was also drawn to blues, jazz, dance, grunge and a long list of other genres, which he incorporated into his music.
He also loved to put drama in his music, and that point was made clear on his last album, Blackstar, which deals with the subject of death, as Bowie seemed to write about his own ending in the same theatrical style he’d always loved.