David Bowie seemed to have appeared out of nowhere back in the early sixties. There was hardly a hint that this polite, blond and curly Englishman, completely in line with the acoustic pop scene of the time would soon turn the world upside down and change rock music forever with his outrageous Ziggy Stardust persona and one of the most important albums ever recorded, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. But he did and it was only the beginning of a stellar career and one of the opening chapters to the brilliant body of work, featuring some of the finest pieces of modern music ever committed to tape. Once again, there was hardly a hint during the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s that his retirement would go almost unnoticed, but it did.
Ziggy Stardust really seemed to have come from another planet. Unusual clothes and make-up, high heels, trademark red hair, jewellery and pretty much everything else one might connect to androgyny was unheard of in 1972 when Ziggy landed on the fledgling glam-rock scene. It was surely a great marketing strategy, but what really counted was the music – a brilliant concept album, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was surely a work of a genius, not of a clown with red hair and it is the music that is still regarded as brilliant and that has influenced numerous artists to come in the following decades that stayed after all the fuss about Bowie’s sexual orientation and drug abuse was over.
Later in the 1970s, Bowie came with another outlandish persona, the Thin White Duke, an exact opposite to the flamboyant Ziggy. The Thin White Duke delivered another significant LP, the cryptic ‘Station to Station’, a true masterpiece that was way ahead of its time (just the same as pretty much everything else Bowie did), but the real look into the future was the following ‘triptych’ as Bowie calls it, the so-called (erroneously) Berlin trilogy. Albums ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’ closed the 1970s and actually spurred the New Wave and New Romantic scene of the 1980s.
In the 1980s Bowie delivered ‘Scary Monsters’ , ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Tonight’ and one of his weaker albums, ‘Never Let Me Down’, but also a massive tour with some of the most elaborate scene effects ever seen at the time. In the 1990s Bowie continued his experiments and kept on working, and it was in the mid 2000s that he silently retired. After the 2004 ‘Reality’ tour Bowie appeared only occasionally in public, his last stage appearance being alongside Alicia Keys at a ‘Keep a Child Alive’ charity event in 2006.
After that, Bowie is nowhere to be seen or heard. Once a flamboyant superstar responsible for much of the pop culture of the later part of the 20th century obviously decided to retire without big words and farewell concerts. Recently photographed on street in New York City, he obviously enjoys simple life of an ordinary man, not different from other passersby, except that he is impeccably dressed, as always.
Nobody knows if David Bowie, now 65, will make a new album and come back to the public life, but it doesn’t really matter. After all, the man who gave us ‘Space Oddity’, ‘The Man Who Sold The World‘, ‘Life on Mars?’, ‘Heroes’ and many other great albums and singles surely deserves a quiet retirement.