100 Greatest Singers
January 8th, 1947
Key Tracks "Life on Mars?" "Fame," "Space Oddity," "Heroes
Influenced Morrissey, Scott Weiland, Trent Reznor
There are singers with a more naturally beautiful voice than David Bowie's dramatic, powdery, British-accented baritone, but nobody else in rock is as gifted at acting in song. Before he became a pop star, he studied theater, which served him well: Every great Bowie song has a specific persona behind it. His chameleonic transformations aren't just in his appearance but also in his voice, from the androgynous curlicues at the edges of his Ziggy Stardust vocals to the Philly-soul affectations of Young Americans to the hard-boiled crooning of his Eighties arena-rock period. Bowie always keeps his cool, but as anyone who's ever crashed and burned trying to sing "Ashes to Ashes" at karaoke can tell you, he's a phenomenally agile singer — as his longtime collaborator Carlos Alomar said, "This dude can wail."
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