David Bowie

David Bowie

Starman

Book - 2011
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"Ziggy Stardust," "Changes," "Under Pressure," "Let's Dance," "Fame," "Heroes," and of course, "Starman." These are the classic songs of David Bowie, the artist whose personas are indelibly etched in our pop consciousness alongside his music. He wrote and recorded with everyone from Iggy Pop to Freddie Mercury to John Lennon, sold 136 million albums, has one of the truly great voices, and influenced bands as wide-ranging as Nirvana and Franz Ferdinand. The author illuminates Bowie's seemingly contradictory life and his many reinventions as an artist, offering over 300 new interviews with everyone from classmates to managers to lovers. He reveals Bowie's broad influence on the entertainment world, from movie star to modern day icon, trend setter to musical innovator.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316032254
0316032255
Branch Call Number: 782.42166092 B786t 2011
Characteristics: xii, 530 pages [32] pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm

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FindingJane May 27, 2016

Published five years before David Bowie’s death in 2016, this autobiography is a massive undertaking about a man whose talent continues to resonate with the music world today.

Mr. Trynka evidently left no stone unturned in tracking down most of David Bowie’s friends, acquaintances, relatives, confidants and professional connections to create this exhaustive (and at times exhausting) autobiography. What emerges is a long treatise tracing this fascinating man who was as much a character as he was a human being.

Mr. Bowie had a talent for working a room, whether he was talking to business executives who were reluctant to entrust their money and attention to a brash unknown teenage talent or seducing men and women alike at a party. He possessed an unflappable confidence, charisma, musical savvy, undeniable sweetness and a mercurial temperament that would cause different people to have widely varying views about his nature. He was also a powerhouse performer who was gifted at re-inventing himself and staying ahead of the curve.

Bowie knew when to embrace musical tropes and when to abandon them. He adapted the styles of any music category that interested him, whether it was the blues, classical or rock and roll. He was accused of stealing styles and using people but it was clear there was no malice behind his behavior. He simply knew when people could be of use to him and when they couldn’t. Bowie was determined to forge ahead in the music world and that entailed a certain amount of ruthlessness (a quality that is found in any world leader no matter how “benevolent” he or she professes to be).

This is the autobiography of a man whose talents were known around the globe and produced almost 30 albums. Comprehensive, in-depth and even-handed in its portrayal of an iconic figure, this is definitely the book to reach for if you want to learn about this incomparable man, musician, actor, family man and performer.

Mark_Daly Mar 29, 2016

A well-reported and sympathetic look at an artist often labeled as manipulative and mercenary by a hostile press. Trynka's deft use of new interviews and his own aesthetic insights means every career highlight is covered succinctly but the book never feels rushed. If anything, there's too much to tell about Bowie, an ambitious performer who went through many ch-ch-changes.

What I want to know is, who still has this damn thing checked out? I've been waiting on it since early this month - QUIT BEING A BOOK HOG!!!

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AnneDromeda Aug 29, 2011

I should preface this review by saying I'm no Bowie superfan. Prior to this biography, I mostly knew of him through his association with Nine Inch Nails in the '90s and his work on the 1997 film *Lost Highway*'s soundtrack. I remember my teenage self thinking, “for a guy who seemed so dedicated to spandex in *Labyrinth*, his music's still pretty fresh.” But, I'm dating myself, and I digress.<br />

What I'm trying to say is, given my fleeting – if appreciative – interest in Bowie, I was surprised I mowed so enthusiastically through a 500 page biography. But I did, and here's why: <br />

Despite it's slightly cheesy title, *David Bowie: Starman* isn't as starstruck a biography as you'd think. Rather than focus on the glitzy life of a stadium-grade glam rocker, Trynka's done extensive research on the forces shaping Bowie throughout his life and career. He begins in a lower middle class neighbourhood in London, partially debunking the dysfunctional childhood mythology Bowie wove himself in the 70s. He investigates Bowie's social scene to get at the root of the fluid sexual identity that shaped his image. His research is exhaustive, and exhaustively documented.<br />

It pays off, too – Trynka fully engages rumours that Bowie flirted with fascist chic and witchcraft, and camped up his gender bending for his career. He frankly acknowledges these influences, but he also clearly delimits their extent, resisting the urge to sensationalize. Similarly, he doesn't let his fandom blind him to Bowie's musical shortcomings. He openly, hilariously mocks some of the really awful stuff, which makes his praise of the strong work ring more true. <br />

For hardcore music fans, though, real research payoff comes in the descriptions of recording sessions. Trynka spent time with many of the producers and musicians who've worked with Bowie, and he carefully, lovingly documents the many tricks used to achieve different sounds and moods. Some of these tricks are technical, some are psychological (ahem, Eno). All are deeply, deeply cool to a geek. Trynka also mines all Bowie's far-reaching collaborations; fans of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, U2, Queen and even Jane's Addiction will stumble across previously unknown details on band dynamics and recording.<br />

My one quibble with *Starman*'s format is the relative lack of photos - odd for an artist whose oeuvre was so overwhelmingly tied to his visuals and physical presence. However, this is minor, and compensation is offered in the form of an exhaustive, fascinatingly annotated discography appended for reference. <br />

All in all, this biography is surprisingly strong. It's 500 pages, but doesn't drag. It's flawlessly, tirelessly researched, but it delivers an engaging story with emotional truth. Borne of a deep love of David Bowie, it's just as likely to drub him as praise him when he deserves it. Much like its subject, *David Bowie: Starman* is a lot of things, most of them contradictory - and yet somehow? Still awesome. <br />

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