adrian belew

Bowie performs “Rebel Rebel” as the beloved alter ego Ziggy Stardust on a TV show in the Netherlands in 1974, while donning a Kent Hagström III with matching pantsuit and suspenders.
Photo by Laurens Van Houten / Frank White Photo Agency

The legendary singer, songwriter, and performer had a career-long habit of championing and collaborating with exceptional guitarists.

The world has lost one of its foremost champions of unique guitar work. David Bowie died January 10, 2016, at age 69, two days after releasing an album, Blackstar, that seemed like the beginning of yet another of his famed creative rebirths. Unbeknownst to most, Bowie had reportedly been in the grip of cancer for 18 months and, in retrospect, the music and videos for Blackstar—with their introspective, spiritual, and death-reflective themes—now seem as if the artist knowingly created them as his own requiem. Beyond their stark, profound, epic beauty on a purely musical level, they are not only evidence that Bowie was a restless, boundary-pushing creator even as he looked death in the eye, but they’re also a reminder of his invaluable contributions to 6-string greatness.

Bowie emerged from the English folk-rock scene of the 1960s to become one of the most inventive and eclectic artists of the classic rock era—and beyond. His innovative recordings with producer Brian Eno helped expose the 6-string genius of guitarists Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew to wider audiences on albums such as Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979), which became the foundation for ambient sounds and studio effects in rock, laying the groundwork for such diverse bands as U2, Radiohead, and Sigur Rós. But even before that he’d helped establish the glam scene and set a bar for rock theatrics with his elaborate, transformative costuming and stage delivery, starting with his third studio album, 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World.

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