A history of David Bowie in 15 objects

Updated 6:29 AM ET, Fri March 22, 2013
Bowie 4Bowie 4
1 of 15
David Bowie's electric performance of "Starman" on the BBC program "Top of the Pops" in July 1972 wearing this vivid outfit cemented his status in Britain. DJ Marc Riley said it "lit the touchpaper for thousands of kids," thanked in no small measure by Bowie's homoerotic stage play with guitarist Mick Ronson. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
David Bowie, pictured here as a 10-month old baby, was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London in 1947. He moved to Bromley in 1953, where he attended school and met rock guitarist Peter Frampton. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
In his early teens Bowie became keen on the jazz of John Coltrane. For Christmas 1961 his father bought him this white acrylic Grafton alto sax. It used new plastics technology, and cost £55, about half the cost of a brass instrument. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
With the popularity of guitar bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Bowie soon took up the guitar. He played this 12-string Harptone acoustic on his first breakthrough hit, "Space Oddity" in 1969. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
These lyrics for "Ziggy Stardust" introduce Bowie's most famous character to the world. He explained why he enjoyed performing as his creation: "Offstage I'm a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It's probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David." But the role threatened to overwhelm him: "My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity." Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Bowie wore this ice blue suit by Freddie Burretti for the 1972 "Life on Mars" promotional film with Japanese eyeshadow applied by make-up artist Pierre Laroche. "For weeks my stage persona went all geisha," the singer said. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
This costume was made for Bowie on the 1973 "Aladdin Sane" tour by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. Bowie said the designs were "everything I wanted ... outrageous, provocative and unbelievably hot to wear under the lights." Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Bowie made these character sketches and notes in 1973/4 for a film set in "Hunger City." The inspiration was George Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," which Bowie wanted to adapt for the stage. Although the film and stage show were never performed, much of the material formed the basis of his next album, "Diamond Dogs." Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Bowie's cocaine addiction damaged his physical and mental health but failed to dampen his creative output. He kept this cocaine spoon in his pocket while recording the "Diamond Dogs" album in Los Angeles.
David Bowie moved to Berlin in 1976 in an attempt to overcome his cocaine addiction. Working with musician-producer Brian Eno, and sharing an apartment with singer Iggy Pop, Bowie began to focus on the minimalist, ambient music that appeared on the album trilogy, "Low," "Heroes" and "Lodger." Bowie's design for the cover of the second album were inspired by German expressionist Erich Heckel. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Bowie lived with Pop at 155 Hauptstrasse in Berlin where they embarked on 14 months of intense musical and artistic creativity. He painted this portrait as the pair sought to clean up from drug addiction. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
This AKS synthesizer was used while recording "Low," "Heroes" and "Lodger" and was an important part of the electronic sound on those albums. Eno gave it to Bowie in 1999 with a letter, which read: "Look after it. Patch it up in strange ways -- it's surprising that it can still make noises that nothing else can make." Peter Wilkinson/CNN
For the remarkable "Ashes to Ashes" video of 1980, in which he walked ahead of a bulldozer, Bowie asked designer Natasha Korniloff to create a Pierrot costume for "the most beautiful clown in the circus." The video cost £250,000 to make, and was at the time the most expensive made. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Wearing this costume by Julie Weiss, Bowie played the role of John Merrick for seven months in "The Elephant Man" in Denver, Chicago and on Broadway during 1980. He portrayed Merrick's disabilities through control of movement using his mime training rather than through prosthetics. Peter Wilkinson/CNN
Bowie wears this Union Jack coat he co-designed with Alexander McQueen -- then a relatively unknown designer -- for the "Earthling" album of 1997. He faces away from the camera in the photo, in contrast to all his other album covers, although his Ziggy-style haircut is still recognizable. Peter Wilkinson/CNN