The Reason David Bowie Gave Up His Stage Personas

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Though adopting stage personas isn’t widespread among rock stars, a few musicians have built an audience through these characters. One of the most well-known artists with several personas is David Bowie, whose career represented reinvention and relied on visual presentation.

The number of characters Bowie adopted during his career is unsure since the lines between two personas are often blurred. However, his fans are familiar with five dominant and different characters he created throughout the years. These characters were created while the musician was embarking on different eras and the requirements of contemporary music.

After spending many years as somebody else other than himself on stage, Bowie stopped creating those personas at some point. Today, we’re here to take a look at a brief history of David Bowie’s stage personas and the time he reflected on why he suddenly changed his mind about his artistry when it comes to being a brand new person on stage.

David Bowie Adopted Several Characters

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David Bowie’s most well-known characters were Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, and the Thin White Duke. According to general belief, Ziggy Stardust was his first central character, who was described as an alien rock star by Bowie himself. This persona was derived from the musician’s character named Major Tom, who appears in the music video of ‘Space Oddity’ and reflects nihilism.

Bowie’s next era captured him as Aladdin Sane, named after his sixth studio album. Many have described Aladdin Sane as ‘Ziggy goes to America’ since it was a continuation of the previous character with a more complex and more rock-based edge. David Bowie’s next character named Halloween Jack appeared in his ‘Diamond Dogs’ record and was just another mutation of Ziggy Stardust. However, this new character was more camp and less theatrical than Ziggy.

His final persona was The Thin White Duke, who landed in Philadelphia during The Diamond Dogs tour. One of the most iconic aspects of this persona was Bowie’s signature outfit that included him wearing a white shirt and all-black pants with a vest on top of his thin silhouette. Over time, the character became darker due to David Bowie’s growing substance addiction, which marked the ending of his stage personas.

Why Did David Bowie Abandone His Stage Personas?

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During a 1990 interview, David Bowie opened up about his reason for developing stage personas. According to the musician, there were two reasons behind his multiple characters: his reluctance towards being just a singer on stage and his interest in combining theatre and music to create a captivating atmosphere during shows.

His idea of infusing two performance styles required Bowie to develop stage personas that could better reflect the stories he told through his songs. The musician reflected his theatrical capabilities infused with his music on the first three or four records. As a result, he came up with all those iconic alter egos until the day he realized being himself on stage didn’t feel entirely uncomfortable.

That’s when David Bowie decided to step foot on stage as himself and let all the personas go following his The Thin White Duke era. Although his live performances since then included jazy-looking theatrics, they were never a character. According to Bowie, it was always him performing on stage after the Duke.

When asked about his reason to come up with stage personas, Bowie said:

“Well, twofold. One was the fact that I didn’t particularly feel comfortable performing as a straight-ahead singer on stage. My interest had always been in one of the better word multimedia-type situations. I liked the idea of combining theatre, music, and the whole atmosphere of creating for the stage.

I thought that was terribly important; it was to me anyway. That was what I wanted to do. So then, it became necessary to devise characters to sing the songs of these little stories that I was writing. Very much of the first three or four albums that came out of that period were theatrical undertakings with music.

Then I started quite like singing them on my own. So, I had to get rid of them. The last one, I think, was probably in 1976 with Thin White Duke. Since then, it has been very much a question of… I think all the tours since then have just been me. they might have been pretty jazzy looking, some of them, but they weren’t done as a character.”

You can watch the interview below.