Music & Musicians

David Bowie's career highlights

David Bowie poses for a portrait dressed as 'Ziggy Stardust' in a hotel room in 1973 in New York City.
Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

British rock legend David Bowie died on Sunday, aged 69, following an 18-month battle with cancer. 

Bowie rose to fame in the early 1970s and was renowned as an innovative songwriter and performer. As the world says goodbye to the artist, CNBC takes a look back at his illustrious career.

— By CNBC's Matt Clinch and Kalyeena Makortoff on January 11, 2016. 


A posed portrait of David Bowie circa 1965, who was born Davie Jones.
CA | Redferns | etty Images

Bowie's birth name was David Robert Jones and he was born on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, South London. 

He renamed himself in 1966 to avoid confusion with the lead singer of  U.S. rock band, The Monkees.

Bowie saw little commercial success in the 1960s until "Space Oddity," which peaked at no. 5 in the U.K. charts in 1969.

Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie performs on stage on his Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane tour in London, 1973.
Michael Putland | Getty Images

Bowie adopted the persona of Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s. The alter ego proved an instant classic and the one for which he is most remembered. 

"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars" came to define the glam rock era in the U.K. and launched Bowie into the global spotlight.

Bowie was at the time signed to RCA records and had made his first trip to the U.S.


David Bowie with dyed red hair and a mustard yellow suit, circa 1974.
Terry O'Neill | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

The rock legend's music became increasingly soulful and by the mid-1970s he had established himself in the U.S., bolstered by his world tours. His single "Fame" in 1975 became his first number one single in the States.

View more: David Bowie dies aged 69

The Thin White Duke

David Bowie performs on stage at Ahoy on the Thin White Duke tour on 13th May 1976 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Gijsbert Hanekroot | Redferns | Getty Images

His next persona had Bowie impeccably dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat.

After recording his "Station to Station" album as The Thin White Duke, his drug use and deteriorating health saw him relocate from Los Angeles to West Berlin. 

The following years of isolation saw him collaborate with legendary producers Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, and rock singer Iggy Pop, and spawned the smash hit "Heroes."


Actors David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in a scene from the movie 'Labyrinth', 1986.
Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection | Getty Images

Bowie embraced the movie industry and starred alongside Jennifer Connelly in Jim Henson's "Labyrinth" in 1986.  

He also appeared and sometimes starred in movies like "The Last Temptation of Christ", "The Man Who Fell To Earth", "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" and David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me."

Tin Machine

Ke.Mazur | WireImage | Getty Images

Bowie continued to reinvent himself during the 1980s. His music video for "Ashes to Ashes" in 1980 became one of the most iconic of the decade and he teamed up with producer Nile Rogers for 1983's "Let's Dance."

By the end of the decade, he had joined English-American hard rock band Tin Machine, which released two studio albums.


Annie Lennox and David Bowie perform 'Under Pressure' at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness at Wembley Stadium in London, England on April 20, 1992.
Kevin Mazur Archive | WireImage | Getty Images

The 1990s saw yet more incarnations that included a brief flirt with "drum and bass" music. 

In 1997, he invented Bowie Bonds, which allowed people to invest in his future earnings. It raised $55 million for Bowie, according to reports at the time.

He performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in London, in 1992.

Latest album

Singer David Bowie receives the Webby Lifetime Achievement award during the 11th annual Webby Awards in 2007.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

After a quiet patch in the 2000s, Bowie released his first new studio album in 10 years in 2013, called "The Next Day." It was hailed as a return to form by music critics and saw the singer return to the top of the charts.

Bowie's last album, "Blackstar" was released last Friday, on the artist's 69th birthday.