David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie ( BOH-ee), was an English singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. A leading figure in the music industry, he is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Bowie was acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, and his music and stagecraft had a significant impact on popular music.
Bowie developed an interest in music from an early age. He studied art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. He released a string of unsuccessful singles with local bands and a solo album before achieving his first top five entry on the UK Singles Chart with "Space Oddity", released in 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of "Starman" and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie's style shifted towards a sound he characterised as "plastic soul", initially alienating many of his UK fans but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth and released Station to Station. In 1977, he again changed direction with the electronic-inflected album Low, the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that came to be known as the Berlin Trilogy. "Heroes" (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.
After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had three number-one hits: the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and "Under Pressure" (a 1981 collaboration with Queen). He achieved his greatest commercial success in the 1980s with Let's Dance (1983). Between 1988 and 1992, he fronted the hard rock band Tin Machine before resuming his solo career in 1993. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. He also continued acting; his roles included Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986), Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Andy Warhol in the biopic Basquiat (1996), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. He returned from a decade-long recording hiatus in 2013 with The Next Day and remained musically active until his death from liver cancer in 2016. He died two days after both his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar.
During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at over 100 million records worldwide, made him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Often dubbed the "chameleon of rock" due to his constant musical reinventions, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Rolling Stone ranked him among the greatest artists in history. As of 2022, Bowie was the best-selling vinyl artist of the 21st century.