David Bowie: A Life

David Bowie lived many lives. Born David Jones and enamored of fame, he assumed the name of a knife renowned for its cutting edge. Then came Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke. Each new incarnation sent fans running back to their bureaus to change. A shape-shifter baptized in new trends at every turn, he followed his fascinations with remarkable doggedness. His pursuits, though, regularly benefited from the people who surrounded him--early mentor Lindsay Kemp, eccentric first wife Angie, relentless manager Tony Defries, longtime collaborator Tony Visconti, protégé Iggy Pop and, especially, Bowie's schizophrenic older brother, Terry, who introduced him to jazz.

Those who knew the artist best are among the many included in British GQ editor Dylan Jones's (no relation) kaleidoscopic oral history, David Bowie: A Life. Jones seldom interjects amidst the fascinating monologues. After a touching introduction, he smartly steps back and lets others do the talking. Their stories are clever, funny, inspiring, heartbreaking and cautionary. Many marvel at the monumental effect supermodel Iman, his second wife, had. Understandably, the bulk of the biography gravitates to the '70s, the artist's wildest era. As the Berlin period of the late decade transitions to his acting in the '80s and his art collecting in the '90s, the music takes a backseat--until 2013's muscular comeback, The Next Day.

There is always more to say about Bowie, not all of it glowing. He was a flawed man who exuded cool. Dylan Jones has crafted an irresistible pastiche of his life, conversations that form a glittering constellation outline of the Starman. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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