1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

10 facts to remember David Bowie

Torsten Landsberg
January 8, 2022

From German bread to "Fight Club": Here are 10 stories about the iconic singer who died in 2016. David Bowie would have turned 75 on January 8.

David Bowie
David Bowie in 1983Image: National Film Trustees/imago images

Even during his lifetime, David Bowie, whose 75th birthday is on January 8, was a legend.

Nearly a dozen biographies have been published about the pop visionary, and few secret remains undiscovered. By now, fans probably know that his eyes were not different colors, but that only one pupil was enlarged.

But did you also know that buying bread in Germany wasn't as easy as it sounds for the singer?

Loving the Alien

Bowie was like a chameleon, assuming various alter egos throughout his career, from Aladdin Sane to The Thin White Duke.

But it wasn't always easy to keep track of those different personalities. 

Bowie once said that at one point he couldn't make the distinction between himself and his Ziggy Stardust persona — and the drugs he took didn't help either. "That was when it all started to sour," Bowie is quoted as saying in Christopher Sandford's biography "Bowie: Loving the Alien."

"My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity," he said.

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, man with red and white painted face
Bowie performed as Ziggy Stardust in the early 1970sImage: Roger Bamber/United Archives International/imago images

Inspired by Berlin's arts

Fascinated by artists from the Weimar era, including Bertolt Brecht and the Brücke painters, Bowie decided to move to West Berlin in 1976 — also as a way to put his drug addiction behind him after years of excessive use.

At the time, West Berlin was considered the heroin capital of Europe, but Bowie managed to get clean there.

Choosy roommate

Iggy Pop shared Bowie's old apartment in the city's Schöneberg district, but only for a while, as Bowie allegedly got fed up with the punk icon constantly helping himself to the food in the fridge. Iggy Pop eventually moved into a neighboring flat behind Bowie's.

Keep it simple

Legend has it that one day, when Bowie ordered a loaf of bread in a West Berlin bakery, the saleswoman asked what kind he wanted: rye, wheat, grain meal, spelt, oats, four-grain, box, round, a half or a whole?

The singer turned to his friend Edgar Froese, who was present and who wrote about the incident in his "Tangerine Dream: Force Majeure" biography and asked him to "please explain to her that I don't want to buy her store, just a loaf of bread."

What's so special about German bread?

Dreams dashed

Speaking of bread: In 1963 Bowie, aged 16 and still known by his given name David Jones, recorded the song "I Never Dreamed" with his band, The Konrads.

The band hoped for a record deal, which didn't happen.

The only recording of the song unexpectedly surfaced in 2018. David Hadfield, The Konrads' drummer, found it in a bread basket while moving house.

That same year, the recording sold at an auction for just under 40,000 pounds (€45,000 at the time), more than four times its estimated value.

David Bowie's Berlin

Advocate for long hair

Since his career as a musician hadn't quite worked out, Bowie at 17 tried his hand as an activist: He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. 

"For the last two years, we've had comments like 'darling' and 'can I carry your handbag' thrown at us. I think it has to stop now," Bowie told the BBC in a brief television interview.

Forget the knighthood

From James Bond actors to the Beatles, the British royal family has knighted many British celebrities, or honored them by bestowing medals.

Bowie, however, declined the rank of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 as well as the knighthood in 2003. "I seriously don't know what it's for. It's not what I spent my life working for," he said.

Clear stance

It wasn't the only time he refused an offer.

In 2012, film director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), who was artistic director for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, asked Bowie whether he would perform "Heroes" at the event. Bowie didn't see what good that would do — and declined.

A viral hit before high-speed internet

Bowie was a visionary who made use of the internet as early as the 1990s.

In 1996, he made three versions of the song "Telling Lies" available for download on his website, the first major act ever to do so.

The song was downloaded 300,000 times.

How long did that actually take with a conventional 56k modem back then?

Power of a song

You might remember the 1999 film "Fight Club" based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, who told Rolling Stone magazine that without Bowie, it might never have been published.

During a fiction writing conference, he was hoping to meet a specific editor from a New York publishing house at the hotel bar where the event was held.

The author played Bowie's "Young Americans" 40 times in a row on the jukebox, which led the crowd of other young authors surrounding publisher Gerald Howard to leave — making room for Palahniuk, who sold the publisher "Fight Club" and other books.

Gerald Howard, by the way, can't remember the song's endless loop.

This article was originally written in German