Dean & Bowie

I’m currently reading Bowie by Marc Spitz, and although I’m only a quarter way through it, it has already become one of my favorite biographies of all time. Not only does Spitz include vivid details about Bowie’s origins and career, but he also focuses on the British youth culture following post-WWII years into the 60’s, and how it influenced Bowie/how Bowie influenced it. Many pages are a pop culture explosion of film, literature, and music, and I frequently find myself underlining and annotating whole entire pages. The passage below is Spitz’s investigation of James Dean’s influence on a young David Jones:

“Fast, sexed-up, palpably sad and searching, James Dean was American rock ‘n roll before there was such a thing as rock ‘n roll. What is irresistible about rock, the slippery, stylish, hot freakiness, is what’s irresistible about Dean. David Bowie could not have looked at Dean’s androgynous features, prettier than most girls, and not see a kindred soul. Subsequently, Dean remained not just a hero but also a model for the rest of David’s life, as great a template for Bowie as any rock or jazz pioneer would become. To be a Bowie-ist, by extension, is to be a student of James Dean. Bowie’s celebrated self-conception and/or self-invention (or reinvention) really begins here upon David Jone’s discovery of the Hollywood rebel. Dean transformed himself after moving from rural Indiana to California and later, in 1951, to New York City.”

“The mystery of James Dean lies not in his abrupt end, but in his origins,” David Dalton writes in the classic Dean biography James Dean: The Mutant King, which Bowie is busy reading while spending time with journalist Cameron Crowe during their classic 1976 Playboy interview. “Dean was probably very much like me,” Bowie tells Crowe in the interview. “Elizabeth Taylor told me that once. Dean was calculating. He wasn’t careless. He was not the rebel he portrayed so successfully. He didn’t want to die. But he did believe in the premise of taking yourself to extremes, just to add a deeper cut to one’s personality.”

-Marc Spitz, Bowie

One Response to “Dean & Bowie”
  1. Alex says:

    Now I want to read this Bio. I love when authors write about the culture and what gets an artist motivated to create. Its getting more information then expected of the one person or group your reading about. It feels like you were there. Well I’ll def add this to my list for being a Bowie fan.

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