Thursday, December 14, 2017

"David Bowie: A Life" by Dylan Jones (Crown Archetype)

ISBN: 978-0-451-49783-3

For a David Bowie lunatic that I'm, it's impossible to put down Dylan Jones' "David Bowie: A Life."   First of all, this is an oral biography, meaning there are many voices here talking about a specific subject: Bowie.  As a format I love the oral biography because what's interesting is not them exposing their subject matter (Bowie) but how they expose themselves in the telling of the tale.   Jones work is really as an editor, and he does a good job here.  

The inside information is that Bowie is a charmer, but can cut off people once they are not needed, a total professional,  he was into sex, and he loved cocaine.  The average Bowie fan would know that already, but what we are looking for is a detailed report of such acts and practices. The book serves that purpose quite well. I didn't learn anything, except the rumors that he had a series of strokes in the last decade of his life, at least according to Mick Rock.   Which I believe because Bowie in the videos for "The Next Day," he doesn't look entirely well.  Also, I have seen photographs of him grasping a book or an object in one hand, which made me think that he may have had a stroke.  Still, this is pure gossip and not any of my business. Which makes me feel a tad guilty reading about his private affairs.  

The reason I admire him is that of his beauty, his musical genius, and the fact that he's very much an old-fashioned entertainer, who appealed to a new generation of listeners.  It's hinted in the book that Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire admired him as an artist, and I can't think why would they.  Bowie is very much in the classic of those two, and what he brings with him is 'culture.'  The fact that Bowie read a book a day (and I believe that because I sold him books as a bookseller at a bookstore) and was naturally curious about the world around him.  What he did was obtain that information and turned it all into songs and images, under his artistic control.  I love Bowie because he's part of the world, and in a way, he gave it a critical look, and instead of writing an essay, he made it into a song.  A great artist.  

Jones' book is really good, but not perfect.  Then again, one can take just one Bowie album and make a great oral history book out of it.  The way he worked or used musicians is fascinating, and you get that aspect of his working habits within this book.  If you're a Bowie fan, there is nothing new here really, but if you are someone who wants to have an enjoyable read on an extraordinary figure in the pop music world, then this book delivers the goods. 

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