David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

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“David loved oddities, loved people who were somehow different.”

Dylan Jones has written a biography overflowing with insight and stories about David Bowie as told by his friends, lovers, rivals and so on. There was so much I had never known, and I think many of his fans grew up with a different Bowie. Growing up an 80’s kid, he will always be my Goblin King, Jareth. The only problem with writing about a person through collective thoughts and memories is you can lose the person. It steals the romance and the mystery of a celebrity. On the other hand, you sort of feel like you’re in a room with a bunch of people gossiping behind his back, or gushing about him, it is all very dizzying. I’d known nothing about his family, his upbringing and this book delves deep into all of that- and particularly David’s interest in his brother Terry, who had schizophrenia. David, I think, was someone who was always something ‘other’, beyond charm, beyond individuality- and it’s evident through every story on these pages. The rivalry between Jagger and Bowie was a bit fun to read, particularly why David Jones decided to become David Bowie, maybe this healthy competition helped keep their stars shinning for their fans.

From an early age, it seems everything influenced Bowie- from the books he read to fashion, american culture, jazz, and the beats, it all comes together and explains what nurtured such an amazing artist. His brother’s ‘madness’ seems to have been channeled through David, in his work. One wonders how much his brother had an effect the Bowie transformations through the ages. But you can’t think you understand that aspect of a person’s life, simply from stories or interviews. I felt protective of Terry and David reading what happened.

In all honesty, I most enjoyed reading all of David’s words, not everyone else’s. I can imagine he lit up a room, was his ‘most beautiful’ just around people, not just bursting with brilliance on stage. What you come away with is his genius, but also that he controlled what you are allowed to see and it should be kept that way. There is a lot of insight from people very close to Bowie and those on the periphery, the reader treks through so much information, as so many of the people who crossed paths with David get their say. I think David Bowie, even with his humor and charm, was a lot more serious than fans realized. No one says it better than Iman, his wife “I fell in love with David Jones, I did not fall in love with David Bowie.”  I think the world needs to keep Bowie and let his loved ones keep David Jones. Bowie was a beautiful creation by a hell of an intelligently talented man. I don’t think you can understand a person through everyone surrounding him, it’s too distorted because just when you think you have a grasp of who he was, another story contradicts it. Bowie remains a mist you just can’t hold. This book will feed his fans, because it covers many decades and you can get the feel that you were along for a bit of the wild ride. It’s Bowie in other’s eyes. I cringe a bit, wondering how mangled I would be if people I brushed shoulders with, alongside those who knew me best painted a picture of who I was when I am gone. What sort of Frankenstein’s monster would be created? In itself, it would just be another ‘creation’ not capturing the reality. This novel comes close to the real David with intimacy but then pushes you away, but isn’t that the celebrity way?

There are many facts, it’s a hell of a collection but I hunger for Bowie in his own words. He lived in his own world, the rest of us were just visiting.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Crown Publishing

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