David Bowie, a singer-songwriter with no fewer than 27 studio albums to his name, is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and has a lasting legacy which is unrivalled.
Despite being one of the best selling musicians of all time, Bowie was successfully able to reinvent himself time and time again with the creation of his numerous different personas in Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and more. While Bowie was regularly commended for his never-ending stream of creativity, unique lyrics and artistic integrity, his vocal range and ability is sometimes left unnoticed.
Music historians Schinder and Schwartz, who credit Bowie as being the creator of the glam rock genre, once called him “a vocalist of extraordinary technical ability, able to pitch his singing to particular effect.” While Bowie’s vocals have been heavily influenced by some of his idols such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Anthony Newley, Bowie’s own style was once described as having a “particularly deliberate and distinctive” vibrato technique.
On top of that, historiographer Michael Campbell once said that Bowie’s lyrics alone were created to “arrest our ear, without question. But Bowie continually shifts from person to person as he delivers them… His voice changes dramatically from section to section.” While on the subject of lyrics that poignantly grab our attention, we need to look no further than 1971 hit song ‘Life on Mars’, a track that appeared on Bowie’s fourth studio album Hunky Dory.
The song, which includes some surrealist visualisations through the use of his lyrics, was once described by Bowie himself as “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media.” A few years after its release, Bowie reflected on the song and added: “I think she finds herself disappointed with reality… that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.”
Below, enjoy a clip which focuses predominantly on Bowie’s vocals: