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David Bowie: A Life

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,161 ratings  ·  200 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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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,161 ratings  ·  200 reviews

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Edward Lorn
Jun 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was his dark year. Everyone in L.A. did coke at the time but he did more than most. He did more than anyone. David went into the kitchen and got all the sharp steak knives and the butcher knives, and he hid them. When I came down in the morning I said where are all the knives? And he said it’s just in case the Manson family—who by now were all in jail—came to get him.
He was ninety-five pounds, and he was doing mass quantities of cocaine. I would say we were probably both doing seven g
Scott Rhee
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dylan Jones, the editor of the British edition of GQ magazine, published “David Bowie: A Life” in 2017, a year after Bowie’s death in January 2016. As someone who has read several biographies, critical analyses, philosophical ramblings, and uncategorizable miscellenia about Bowie (and there is a shockingly huge amount of material out there on the subject), I was, perhaps, not expecting much. At least, not much in the sense of much more than I’ve already studied, learned, and appreciated about Bo ...more
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
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.
Claire is looking for Bloodlines series ARCs
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
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
James Hartley
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a long collection of interviews arranged in loosely chronological order.
I found it fascinating - especially the first half of the book - and then dull and repetitive. Various interesting strands come to unsatisfying conclusions and endless sections begin with "I first met Bowie in ...." which breaks up any narrative tension which might have been building. There are interesting anecdotes and plenty of dull ones and, especially near the end, it becomes terribly fawning and boring. (There'
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.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is wonderful - Bowie's life reported on by those who knew him well. A little context setting and run in chronological order, but otherwise the 'author' just lets the people speak for themselves. A fascinating portrait emerges of this polite, funny, highly sexed, talented, well read, hungry, star. You feel you have him, and then, like that he's gone, he's off.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m a big Bowie fan, with the records, the T-shirts and a seeming desire to watch every documentary ever made about the man and his work. The first Christmas present my now wife ever bought me was tickets to the V&A exhibition, while for a long time I sang STARMAN every day to my tiny baby daughter. It’s a long story, but even at four weeks old I knew that she loved it too. As such I’m not quite impartial when it comes to this book. Indeed, I’m incredibly bias towards liking it.

For a Bowie fan,
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
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I guess this is about the biography you'd expect from the dude who launched Piers Morgan's career.
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.
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.
Jacob Wren
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few quotes from David Bowie: An Oral Biography:

Paul Morley: "He played with the idea of being a rock star but he was very good at sabotaging that role. And at the moment when he looked like he might become Billy Joel or Elton John - that moment when you get accepted and therefore you are fixed, he walked away. He had to work out: How can I be famous; how can I be that star that I want to be, but also be able to keep changing? Because of course the very consequences often of keeping changing is
Sean Blake
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
The more I think about this book the less I like it. 3.5 stars.
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 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
Jacob Rosen
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
There's a lot of information in Dylan Jones' oral biography of David Bowie and, at the same time, not enough information. Jones is content to let his interview subjects ramble on and on and most of them say the same thing: what a nice guy he was, what a brilliant innovator, how smart he was, how well self-educated, how focused, what a caring guy he was and so on--it's hagiography at its most obvious. Whatever criticism there is is only hinted at--he apparently discarded people after he was done ...more
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
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable. I don’t mean the book, as it was a bit tiresome, but what an extraordinary life.
I loved how Bowie’s portrait was built with the words of his friends, fellow musicians, rivals, acquaintances, lovers and loved ones. It was never superficial, never mundane, they all contributed to bringing the pieces together.
I admire Bowie and his never-ending curiosity and drive. I’m still wondering why it felt deeply emotional to witness his journey, the urge was strong til the very end. I didn’t gro
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This "oral history" of David Bowie's life was pretty good. Some of the people interviewed that were close to David Bowie had some good and insightful stories that showed the human side and personality of the phenomenal entertainer. Others sounded like their own versions of events and you have to take a lot of them with a grain of salt and remember where these people were coming from and their relationship, or lack there of, with Bowie at the time their paths crossed. I think the book, on the who ...more
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What were some of the most interesting takeaways from this book? 1 3 Aug 31, 2018 09:18AM  

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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.” 2 likes
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