With the news of his death confirmed on Facebook and Twitter early Monday morning, David Bowie's storied career has come to an end. His talent is both easy and difficult to appreciate in remembrance. With his level of talent and penchant for regeneration, the highlights are harder to distill if only because there is so much to choose from — his career spanned five decades. His music was a mix of genres from rock and "plastic soul" to jazz, and his looks may have varied even more. His 28 studio albums are all worth a listen in the coming days, but there are several notable works that you must ensure you're familiar with.
Bowie, who was born David Jones, and changed his name to avoid confusion with the Monkey's frontman Davy Jones, got his start in the 1960s. He first reached the top of British charts in 1969 and created his famous androgynous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for his glam rock phase. His commercial success probably peaked in the '80s but he kept creating until the end. His last studio album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday, two days before his death.
From quick pop hits to slow ballads — not to mention movie roles or iconic looks — Bowie's contributions to contemporary pop culture are remarkable.
One of the most popular songs to be quoted on Twitter following his death, this was Bowie's first big hit, released just five days before the Apollo 11 mission.
"I'm stepping through the doorAnd I'm floating in a most peculiar wayAnd the stars look very different today"
Not originally a hit, this has grown to become one of Bowie's best-known songs. It has been covered a number of times, perhaps most notably by The Wallflowers.
"Though nothing, will keep us togetherWe could steal time, just for one dayWe can be Heroes, for ever and everWhat d'you say?"
Perhaps as important as his music in the '70s was the androgynous other-worldly alter-ego named Ziggy Stardust that Bowie created. He inspired Bowie's fifth studio album, a concert film, and a song.
Bowie's first big American hit, it reached number one in 1975.
"Fame, makes a man take things overFame, lets him loose, hard to swallowFame, puts you there where things are hollow"
A collaboration with Queen, the song is considered as one of the best songs of the '80s by VH1. It also provided the bass line for Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."
Bowie starred in this 1986 feature film directed by Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas. He played Jareth the Goblin King, the ruler of the Goblins. He also recorded five songs for the soundtrack. The film flopped commercially but has since grown a cult following.
"Ashes to Ashes"
Bowie described the song as an epitaph for the '70s. In a nod at renewal, he revisits the character Major Tom from "Space Oddity." The video is just as remarkable as the song, and was the most expensive music video in its day.
"Ashes to ashes, funk to funkyWe know Major Tom's a junkieStrung out in heaven's highHitting an all-time low"
"The Man Who Sold The World"
The song was covered by Nirvana in the '90s, but Bowie wrote it.
"I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions hereWe must have died alone, a long long time ago"
Simultaneously #1 on the charts in the United States and United Kingdom, this is probably Bowie's most commercially successful single.
"Let's dance to the song they're playin' on the radio"
The Man Who Fell To Earth
Bowie's first starring film role is about an alien who crash lands on Earth. He actually didn't provide any of the music, but his acting has helped the film receive an 86 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Dancing In The Street"
In a collaboration with another British music legend, Mick Jagger, Bowie recorded a cover of "Dancing in the Street" to raise money for famine relief.
In this song, Bowie explains himself and his ever-changing personality and aesthetic. This was also the last song that Bowie performed live.
"Turn and face the strangeCh-ch-changesOh, look out you rock 'n rollersPretty soon now you're gonna get older"