David Bowie: 5 defining moments through the years that made him an icon

In the When Ziggy Played Guitar booksuper-fan and GQ editor Dylan Jones looks back at David Bowie’s most influential moments in pop history. Here, we pick five defining moments that made Bowie an icon.

Emerging into the world as Ziggy Stardust, 1972

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie’s breakthrough moment, and the subject of Dylan Jones’ When Ziggy Played Guitar. This is the record that set him on course to become one of the most iconic musicians of all time. On 6 July 1972, David Bowie, with a flame-orange cockade quiff, lavishly applied make-up, wearing a multi-coloured jumpsuit that looked as though it were made from fluorescent fish skin, and carrying a blue acoustic guitar, made his third appearance on Top of the Pops. It was this performance that properly resonated with Bowie’s audience, and caused a seismic shift in the zeitgeist, embedding the Ziggy Stardust persona into the nation’s consciousness. 

Young Americans and re-emerging as The Thin White Duke, 1975

David Bowie as The Thin White Duke

The year began with the broadcast of Alan Yentob’s Omnibus rockumentary about Bowie – focussing on his transition from Ziggy Stardust into the next phase of his career as The Thin White Duke. By the end of 1975, he’d released Young Americans – earning him his first experience of mass popularity with Fame, co-written with John Lennon and hitting Number One in the UK. It also saw Bowie become one of the few white artists to appear on Soul Train.

The Berlin years and Brian Eno, 1976-79

In 1976, Bowie moved to Berlin and started working with synth pioneer Brian Eno. It was during the Berlin years that he produced three albums – Low, Heroes and Lodger. Not only did these albums inspire a whole new generation of musicians, the title track from Heroes has arguably become one of the most enduring songs of all time. 

Serious Moonlight, 1983

David Bowie on stage in Serious Moonlight days

Bowie reinvents himself once again with Let’s Dance. Produced by Nile Rodgers, this became Bowie’s bestselling album – thanks to the title track and the Modern Love. It also catapulted him into the era of MTV videos and stadium tours. 

The goodbye and Blackstar, 2016

Bowie’s final album was released on January 8th, on his 69th birthday and before his death, two days later. The Starman’s last surprise, the album was met with overwhelming acclaim. Right up until his death, Bowie continued to push boundaries and explore new genres with his music – Blackstar will go down in musical history as one of the most powerful ruminations on life and death.

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