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On Bowie

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,035 ratings  ·  196 reviews
On Bowie is a thoughtful and loving meditation on the life of the late David Bowie that explores his creative legacy and the enduring and mutual connection he enjoyed with his fans

Innovative. Pioneering. Brave. Until his death in January 2016, David Bowie created art that not only pushed boundaries, but helped fans understand themselves and view the world from fantastic ne
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 12th 2017 by Headline (first published June 28th 2016)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,035 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Nat K
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5★s for me.

"Ain't there one damn song that can make me...
Break down and cryyyy?"

- David Bowie, "Young Americans"

Will the real David Bowie please stand up?

So many phases, so many personas, so many glittering personalities. But, ah, the music!

Rob Shettfield's book is an ode, or even a very long love letter if you like, to his idol David Bowie.

He takes us on a journey with him, we visit Bowie as he travels from city-to-city, shedding his skin along the way, creating new eccentric characters and
Scott Rhee
I'm writing this review on January 1, 2017, the dawn of a new year. I'm writing this with both middle fingers raised to 2016, one of the shittiest and most fucking awful years on record.

Personally, 2016 was the year I lost my father-in-law to liver cancer. I had to watch a wonderfully kind, loving, funny, intelligent man with a crazy work ethic (he was a truck mechanic and he was working two weeks prior to dying quietly in hospice) and the wisdom of a demigod wither away and crush the spirits o
Book Riot Community
There was no way I wasn’t going to read this book! The death of David Bowie shocked and saddened the world, but his legacy will love on long after we’re gone. Sheffield, one of the most respected music critics of our time, examines Bowie’s catalog of work in a series of essays written in Sheffield’s characteristic cultural astuteness. He explains why Bowie was so important to the world and his influences on music and culture, and why it’s okay to be sad that he’s gone. Because we sure are sad.
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Totally readable and perfectly OK, but I just didn't feel that strongly about this book here and there. Which is odd, because I love David Bowie, and I will probably read every book out there on this great artist. First of all, I totally disagree with the author, Rob Sheffield, about "The Man Who Fell To Earth." He doesn't like that film very much, nor other Roeg films. Even Performance! And two, he doesn't care for the "Outside" album. So, I'm already put off while reading this book length fan ...more
Dr. Detroit
You know you're in for a rough ride when Rob Sheffield proclaims "Station to Station," "Low," "Heroes," "Lodger," and "Scary Monsters" not only Bowie's best five-album run, but the best five-album run of ANYONE IN THE SEVENTIES OR SINCE (capitalization is mine). No you're not seeing things. Uh, Ground Control to Major Rob: not only do the albums "Hunky Dory" through "Diamond Dogs" trump anything Bowie ever came up with (where's Mick Ronson when you really need him?), but the Stones, Ramones, Ali ...more
Debra Komar
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A love letter from a fan to fans. I devoured this the moment it arrived. It was written in the immediate aftermath of The Dame's death. It was still raw for Sheffield when he wrote it and reading it brought me back to that time in January when I couldn't stop crying. He nails the sense of shock and how Bowie's music changed after his death. He also captures how the music and its meaning changed throughout Sheffield's life. I have adored Bowie from the moment I bought my first record (Station to ...more
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads

I’m going to be honest, this book destroyed me. I’m talking almost crying in public levels here. Part love letter to David Bowie, part biography, part music criticism, Sheffield’s book taught me even more about Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and all the iterations of David Jones in a mere 200 pages. Get ready to binge on Bowie tunes after reading! You know, more than usual.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a HUGE Bowie fan so this is in no way an objective book review.

I found out the morning of my birthday of 2016 that my biggest role model, life hero, inspiration and influence died. A piece of me did too.

"Something happened on the day he died"...

This book is written not just by someone who compiled facts and did a great deal of research, but by someone who loves his music. Peppered with song lyrics and some subtle/not-so-subtle references, we are privy to some widely known and die hard fan f
Erick Mertz
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply stated, I could not put this book down.

Author Rob Sheffield is one of the most engaging music writers working today and his stylish look at the life and work of the late David Bowie is one of the finest creative tributes I've read in the months since he passed away. Sheffield offers an appropriately prismatic view on Bowie's life, weaving personal narrative in with reported facts, legends and a healthy dose of hyperbole about the artist's career. I picked it up at a glance and never set
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rob Sheffield writes about music exactly how I want to read about music: as a fan, as an educated fan, one with an encyclopedic knowledge of music as well as a clear understanding of how importance its both cultural and emotional resonances are. His Bowie book did not disappoint: while realizing the impossibility of trying to separate his own life from his understanding of Bowie's career, his explanations for it all go well beyond his own emotional response. Great stuff here.
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always think that maybe one of these Brooklyn days, I'm gonna run into Rob Sheffield. The question is, what would I say to the NY Times best seller or better yet, what would I ask him? He has become my Yoda to music and the historical emotion that rides shotgun to it. This obviously cathartic book, On Bowie, is exactly what my broken heart needed. We all love Bowie for different reason. We love different eras, different faces, different genders roles.... I think I have always been obsessed wit ...more
Quentin Montemayor
Rob Sheffield is a master of awakening nostalgia in the reader without being schmaltzy. His taste in music is so approachable and unpretentious, as is his writing. I wish he would write this book a million times over about every artist that I love. Points because it's Bowie, but mostly Rob gets all the points himself with his refreshing and beautiful style. Cannot wait for the Beatles book!
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about David Bowie written by Rob Sheffield is so perfect I'm still not sure it's not a dream.
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a huge Bowie fan I was shocked and saddened by his Unexpected death in January. I also have enjoyed Sheffield's previous books so when I saw this came out I knew I had to read it!

I think it's fair to say that Sheffield is the ultimate Bowie fanboy , which means that he has a deep understanding of Bowie's career. He also has the musical background as a journalist to be able to put things into perspective, which she does very well in this book.

He captures how Bowie connected to his fans extr
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrific book from music writer Rob Sheffield. He approaches Bowie's career as a fan, not as a critic. For those of us who admired and loved Bowie's music, but might not have been aficionados of his every musical and cultural nuance, this book hits the sweet spot. It never dives into minutiae or feels heavy handed. It's like coffee with a Bowie fan who wants to share a fair assessment of his hits and misses, his humanity and his struggles.

The book, chaptered by albums and eras, takes
Michael Ritchie
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely give 5 stars to books, so you know I loved this one. Not a bio, not even quite a critical history. The publicity calls it a "meditation" on the life and career of David Bowie, and that is a perfect description. It reads like a long Rolling Stone article from the 70s and that's meant as a compliment, since 70s Rolling Stone music writing is the peak of the genre. Sheffield writes about the man, his music, his successes and failures, his strengths and flaws, and never loses sight of the f ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-related
An unnecessary chronological march through Bowie's albums complete with groan-worthy efforts to wedge song titles and lyrics into every paragraph.

The way Sheffield writes about music just doesn't do it for me. There are too many pop culture comparisons and analogies jammed in to try and fit with whackadoo thru lines and theories. I guess the exact stuff of Rolling Stone reviews. My own fault for bothering with this.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, if I can't give this more than 5 stars, then I'll have to just give it 5. This took me much longer than any other 192 page book would have taken me to read: I had to keep stopping to play the songs the author was talking about. I have notes (something I don't usually do). And those last 12 pages. I read them with a lump in my throat, hoping that the end would change. We've lost Bowie, but we'll always have his music.
Jo Coleman
Presumably all my favourite music writers are going to publish a book about David Bowie at some point this year, and I'm glad that lovely Rob Sheffield got there first. I've deducted several points because he doesn't like 'The Laughing Gnome', but otherwise this is as funny and interesting as you'd expect. Importantly, it confirms that David Bowie really did appear on a TV programme called 'Gadzooks! It's All Happening'; a fact that I'd always assumed was made up by Smash Hits.
Sophie Brookover
I inhaled this in two big gulps & will probably make my way through much of Sheffield's bibliography because it's more of a loving hors d'oeuvre than a full meal, critically speaking. It's a book for fans, by a fan, for sure, funny & wry & adoring & critical & sad. I cried a bunch, but mostly what I come away with is a wish that I'd known even more of Bowie's back catalogue earlier. ⚡ ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sheffield delivers a heartfelt memorial to Bowie. It includes some history, lots of personal opinions and even more good writing.
Deniz Kuypers
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Bowie, and this book made me love and miss him more.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m not really sure why someone would enjoy this book when there are so many other places to read good material on David Bowie. The blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame is the go-to place, in my opinion, but the 33 1/3 book on Low by Hugo Wilcken is also fantastic, because it's well-written, and it talks about the most readable part of Bowie's career (not surprisingly the best part of this book, sheerly due to the stories themselves).

This is not so much a book written by a David Bowie expert as it is
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many other people, I watched with sadness the news reports on David Bowies passing back in January. My dad always played a lot of music when I was growing up and amongst it, a lot of Bowies albums. His music became a constant in my life and I still love his music now. To me, and I suspect to many others as well, he seemed immortal so the news of his death was a shock.
Since January, I have been reading quite a bit about him, but this book is the best hing I have read to date. It is not just
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I know David Bowie, but I don't knooooowwww Bowie the way Rob Sheffield knows Bowie. This is indeed a love letter to Bowie and all his incarnations. It's beautiful and rough around the edges because he wrote it in a month, and I enjoyed it. I'm just not as sold as with his other books. Then again, I'm not a Bowie encyclopedia. I love music. I love Sheffield's writing. I really like this book. I can't go the full love though. I'm glad it exists in the world. If you like any kind of Bowie, you
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never been a huge fan of Bowie's music, though I have come to appreciate it more. At the same time, I always liked him as a person.

This book - written by someone who has been a huge fan of the man and the music - helps put a lot of that in place. It is not a biography so much as a discography with context, and it often comes out in a gush, but I can share that appreciation.

In addition, constantly seeing the generosity of David Bowie toward other artists, and his appreciation for fans and
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, october
It's a book length fan letter/diary entry; if you can get past the beginning, where Sheffield uses Bowie quote after quote as lines in the book in a way to say, "look, this is how much I know about him," you will be treated to a rambling yet very astute meditation on the role Bowie played in society and in the lives of his listeners album by album. Slightly younger than the author, ON BOWIE helped me realize why I thought this guy was interesting but I didn't listen to him as a teen -- he was ma ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I'm a fan of Bowie, I was not born in the right era to enjoy his music, I don't mind it though. A lot of people I look up to, have, at some point in their lives, looked up to Bowie. He has inspired so many people around the world. So, naturally, I was intrigued, I wanted to know what made Bowie, well, Bowie. This book was very insightful as it was told from the perspective of a fan.

I would definitely recommend this to those who wanted to know why people loved Bowie so much, to those
Simon Vozick-Levinson
This might be my favorite Rob Sheffield book, and he's written some great ones. It's a first-class book about Bowie -- teeming with funny, smart, unexpected insights on his life and work -- but at heart it's really a sublime meditation on the experience of being a Bowie fan, and that makes it an absolute must-read for anyone who loves music. (The writing on other artists is top-notch, too; see the brilliant analysis of Kanye's "Bound 2" that pops up as an aside halfway through the book.) Favorit ...more
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf, memoir
I can't recommend this book enough for every Bowie fan out there. This is written in such a conversational and heartfelt tone that it did not fail to capture my heart. Scheffield peppers his writing with Bowie lyrics right and left and you feel like part of the inside club because you get all of the references. It's a real pleasure to read and feels more like having a conversation with a fellow Bowie fanatic (of which he is) then reading a book about David Bowie. The book is described as a love ...more
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Rob Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. In addition to writing music reviews and profile stories, Sheffield also writes the Pop Life column in the Mixed Media section of the magazine. His work has also been featured in The Village Voice and Spin. A native of Boston, Sheffield attended Yale and the University of Virginia, and is six foot five.

His first book, Love is a Mix
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“Planet Earth is blue.
Blue blue electric blue, that's the color of my room. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues. I never did anything out of the blue. Now my Blue Jean's blue. See these eyes so green, I could stare for a thousand years. See these eyes so red. Oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got blue eyes, oh you've got gray eyes. I'll give you television, I'll give you eyes of blue. I looked in her eyes, they were blue, but nobody home. The blue light was my baby, and the red light was my mind. See these tears so blue. You wouldn't believe what I've been through. It's been so long. And I think it's gonna be a long, long time. It's all over now, Baby Blue.
And there's nothing I can do.”
More quotes…