Listen to This – Reflecting on a legend: 4 essential albums by David Bowie

Andrew Critchelow mug

Andrew Critchelow

More than two weeks have passed since musician, actor and fashion icon David Bowie died. For myself and millions of other fans, this fact is still hard to comprehend. I wouldn’t expect that everyone on campus is familiar with Ziggy Stardust or The Thin White Duke, but Bowie’s influence on contemporary expression in virtually all disciplines is undeniable even today. Below is a small selection from Bowie’s eclectic discography that showcases just how diverse and prolific this icon really was.


1. “Hunky Dory” (1971): 

Though he received massive success two years earlier with his ode to intergalactic loneliness “Space Oddity,” 1971’s “Hunky Dory” is the quintessential record of Bowie’s early discography. Not only does the record showcase two of Bowie’s most instantly recognizable songs, “Changes” and “Life on Mars?,” but it also captures one of the few instances in the artist’s career where no distractions from the music exist in the form of experimental production or focus on a narrative or image.


2. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972): 

By 1972, music enthusiasts were already aware of Bowie’s musical and lyrical prowess, but the “Ziggy Stardust” album proved he was more than just a man with a strange appearance and pretty voice. This was the year Bowie introduced the world to the androgynous and priestlike figure of Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy openly mocked the bombastic zeitgeist of the 1970s while fully embracing it at the same time. This album expanded on what a concept album could be and introduced mainstream audiences to the sounds of glam rock and protopunk. Not bad for 38 minutes.


3. “Low” (1977): 

In the late 1970s, Bowie moved to Berlin in search of new inspiration. The first installment of the Berlin Trilogy, “Low” abandons all precedent in Bowie’s sonic palate. In fact, it largely abandons precedent in all of pop music. With the help of collaborator and virtuoso producer Brian Eno, this record sounds as alienating and divisive as the Berlin Wall itself.


4.“Blackstar” (2016): 

Many are now perceiving “Blackstar,” released just days before Bowie’s death, as his swan song: a conclusive last burst of creativity from a mind that has given the world so much. Regardless of Bowie’s intentions with the release of “Blackstar,” it’s absolutely apparent that this record is one of his most daring recordings. Bowie channels a demented occult energy on the sprawling 10-minute title track, an eerie recording of a man who clearly knows his days are numbered.