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David Bowie: A Life

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  414 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Dylan Jones's engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds the story of a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Crown Archetype
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Edward Lorn
Jun 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, n
Repetitive and boring. One of the worst-written biographies I've had the displeasure to read.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
Check out all of my reviews at:

DAVID BOWIE: A LIFE by Dylan Jones is classified as a biography, but it is not written in the traditional style. The entire life of David Bowie is laid out chronologically, but told in more of an oral history style by people who have been involved in or impacted by Bowie’s life either for a short time or many years.

This book clearly shows that David Bowie was the artist and innovator, while David Jones was the charismatic and flawe
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 cha ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dylan Jones has presented us with an insightful documentary of David Bowie’s life. What sets this book apart from other rock biographies is the format. Rather than proceeding in an expository fashion, Jones tells Bowie’s story through snippets of interviews with people who knew him, played with him, grew up with him, dated him, and did business with him. It’s a technique used in television documentaries with people who are essentially life witnesses sitting around and musing about someone they o ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
via my blog:
“David loved oddities, loved people who were somehow different.”

Dylan Jones has written a biography overflowing with insight and stories about David Bowie as told by his friends, lovers, rivals and so on. There was so much I had never known, and I think many of his fans grew up with a different Bowie. Growing up an 80’s kid, he will always be my Goblin King, Jareth. The only problem with writing about a person through collective thoughts and mem
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The music of David Bowie is something I've held in mild regard over the decades. I had an 8-track of "Young Americans" back in the seventies and who doesn't love Space Oddity?!! I also remember enjoying the strains of "Modern Love" and "Let's Dance" in the 80's. I own a "Greatest Hits" CD of Bowie and that is the extent of his importance in my life (I'm primarily a major Beatles fan). However, this biography of David Bowie in its oral history format has affected me so much that I am prompted to ...more
Claire (bookscoffeeandrepeat)
This book is for those who have read countless of Bowie biographies. If you're a newly converted David Bowie fan (just like me), then I wouldn't recommend this book. Simply because this isn't just about David Bowie. It's also about everyone else who contributed to this weird version of a biography. You're not just reading about Bowie himself, you also get a glimpse of other people who worked with Bowie. Simply put: this book has a weird format because it doesn't look like a biography to me. To m ...more
A rather gossipy, salacious take on Bowie's life. This is more about the sex and drugs than the rock 'n' roll but nevertheless an essential read for the Bowie fanatic.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not a biography, but an oral history, there's almost no interpretation, no intellectualizing, just the anecdotes of the people who knew him, across the entire length of his life. Much of this we already knew, but encountering it compressed together in this way has an effect. I was particularly moved by the glimpses of his friendship with John Lennon, the sense of mutual understanding and affection they had for one another (it made me respect Lennon all the more, knowing that he had found ...more
Gregory Butera
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This book needed a better editor. It was bloated and should have been trimmed severely. Not every bit and story needed to be included. Some anecdotes seemed completely irrelevant and didn’t connect to anything said before or after. They should have been cut. Some anecdotes contradicted one another, sometimes on the same page, without any acknowledgement from the author. And he had plenty of his own to say. He wrote of his experience often enough that he should have tagged his sections with his n ...more
Oct 07, 2017 marked it as to-read
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
A good book, well researched. It was full of so much that I never heard before about Davie Bowie. Quite interesting.
Sean Wilson
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
David Bowie: A Life is a fascinating look at Bowie, an oral biography that masterfully brings to life, in 510 pages, the life of David Bowie the musician, the artist, the performer, the painter, the actor, the pioneer, the human being. With over 150 people interviewed, from musicians to fashion designers to journalists to friends, Dylan Jones gives us a cinematic and ambiguous view of Bowie, revealing a complicated, driven and trailblazing man whose life and music had a profound effect on so man ...more
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I do wonder why there's no Trent Reznor or Todd Haynes in here, but, hey, it's otherwise an enjoyable entry in a crowded field of Bowieographies.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A biography based on more than 180 interviews with collaborators in music, fashion, film and art business, friends, ex-lovers, etc. Like a jigsaw puzzle put together by the author. Interesting way of writing a biography. Quite clever. A big minus: no photo’s.

Especially towards the end I got slightly bored. Some odd choices. The author included a 3 page letter written by a palliative care consultant written shortly after his death. Why? I have no idea. Another strange choice was the inclusion of
Terri A. Wilson
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Like so many other people, I was greatly affected by David Bowie's death. This seems very strange to me because I knew very little about his life. He represented a part of my childhood that ceased, the day he died. When I saw this book available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. I wanted to know more about this icon. I had hoped this book would be a typical biography and so when I saw it wasn't, I was a little uncertain as to whether or not I would like it. I totally enjoyed readi ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Didn't love the format, interview after interview after interview. Mostly saying the same thing, Bowie did A LOT of coke, had A LOT of sex, and was very polite and inquisitive. While he did live a fascinating life, I think Jones could have hit the highlights and it would have made for a more interesting read.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Poorly edited (unedited?), featuring the worthless opinions of basement bloggers, missing so many vital voices, and yet any even the biggest Bowie-addict is likely to learn something new about the extraterrestrial messiah.
Valerity (Val)
DNF--DID NOT FINISH. No Review. I gave up on this one at 17%, just could not keep forcing interest in it and called it quits. This happens on rare occasions. It may be a good book, it just wasn't for me.
Lydia Wednesday
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: David Bowie fans
I enjoyed it. I learned some things about David Bowie that I hadn't already known. I learned that people who claim to be really good friends with David Bowie don't know that his eyes aren't two different colors, but that's fame right?

I read a few reviews and a lot of the complaints were that the book was repetitive. I think that was partially the nature of the medium. As an oral history, some people are likely going to have similar feelings or experiences with Bowie. There were parts where it m
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, nf
Do I get kicked out of the Bowie fan club saying that I found this hard going? It isn't the subject matter (OBVIOUSLY) but the format. Might just not be my style.
I am reading it in small doses but don't find myself wanting to go back for more.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a long book! It's quite thorough, telling Bowie's life through interviews with both him and so many others. I learned so much and annoyed my friends by quoting it at them often while reading.
Ray Palen
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read my review Friday on .
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oral history is a funny thing. The stories included in an oral history are mediated by the choices that the author makes in terms of which interview subjects and which parts of a story to include, but unmediated by a biographer's voice telling you who might have had a grudge, who truly loved the subject, etc. So it's sometimes hard to know whose perspectives to accept, and whose to reject--and perspective is everything. This oral history of Bowie is no different. If you need to believe that Bowi ...more
Michael Ritchie
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
An oral history bio of Bowie. I'm not crazy about the oral history format; frankly, I want an authoritative narrating voice in my non-fiction works. The format works OK here, but I realized over halfway through that a lot of background context is missing. I didn't notice it earlier on because I'm fairly well steeped in Bowie info up to the mid-80s. I still bought the occasional Bowie album after the disappointing Never Let Me Down, but his later chameleon changed were boring and the music seemed ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the wake of Bowie's death, I bought a bunch of biographies of the man, wanting to know more. Hell, I guess we all did, 'round then - after all, how do you account for a single version of the life of one guy who lived so many variants, and was held close by so many for such a multiplicity of reasons? I figured I'd get around to 'em all in time, and then the idea of there being no more David Bowie caused me to chuck the brakes on the whole read-the-biog thing.

Until now. David Bowie: A Life, th
Book Club Mom
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some rock performers are successful because they have a spark and are in the right place at the right time. Rock stars are in a different category. They reach the top because underneath their image is a genius that propels them. They are vulnerable to the same insecurities and excesses, but their need to create results in an expression that rises to the top.

Dylan Jones brings out this quality in his book about David Bowie, a rock legend who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered mu
Andrew Shipe
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dylan Jones set out to do a nearly impossible project: write a biography of a very public, very private figure. Notoriously image conscious and naturally reclusive, Bowie rarely provided journalists--and even colleagues--an intimate look inside. Even though that seemed to change a bit in the 12 years between his marriage to Iman and his heart attack at a concert in Germany and subsequent retirement, I can't help but wonder how authentic his seemingly chatty interviews during this period are. I e ...more
Randall Wallace
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
“He showed that what he was doing was not a trend, but rather a direction, one that would change on a whim, or indeed with the wind. He excelled at the art of individualism, rarely tacking toward the center.” “Bowie didn’t give a fuck about authenticity. He was like a magpie. If something looked good he’d take it.” “Mainly what he wanted to accomplish was bringing the idea of theatre to music, dressing up rock and roll and having some fun with it.” “His vocals were pitch perfect 95% of the time. ...more
Barry Martin Vass
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. This is about as close to an oral history of the Golden Age of Rock that you're going to find. Dylan Jones is a past editor at i-D, The Face, Arena, the Observer, and the Sunday Times, as well as the current editor of British GQ magazine. He has interviewed David Bowie seven times, and had a good working relationship with the eclectic singer/songwriter for many years. But when Bowie died in early 2016, he wanted to do more. Which explains this book. Jones has interviewed 182 people wh ...more
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Dylan Jones studied at Chelsea School Of Art and then St. Martin’s School of Art. He is the award-winning editor of GQ magazine, a position he has held since 1999, and has won the British Society of Magazine Editors “Editor of the Year” award a record ten times. In 2013 he was also the recipient of the prestigious Mark Boxer Award.
Under his editorship the magazine has won over 50 awards.
A former e
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“The filming was interrupted at one point by an old man walking his dog, looking for driftwood. Mallet asked him if he wouldn’t mind moving, and pointed out Bowie sitting outside the catering van. ‘Do you know who this is?’ he asked. Sharp as a tack, the old man responded with, ‘Of course I do. It’s some cunt in a clown suit.’ Sometime later, Bowie remembered, ‘That was a huge moment for me. It put me back in my place and made me realise, “Yes, I’m just a cunt in a clown suit.” 0 likes
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