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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 did not have 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?
1. Loving the Alien
David 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.
2. 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 behind him his drug addiction after years of excessive use. At the time, West Berlin was considered the heroin capital of Europe, but Bowie managed to get clean there.
3. Choosy roommate - Iggy Pop
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.
4. 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."
5. 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.
6. Advocate of 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. A viral hit before high-speed Internet
Bowie was a visionary who made use of the Internet even in 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?
10. 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.
David Bowie was born on January 8, 1947, and died on January 10, 2016.
This article was originally written in German.
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