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Strange Fascination: The Inventions of Early Bowie, 1967 - 1976

Bowie broke down walls: male/female, high/low, performer/performance, sapiens/superior. He was so unique as to seem extraterrestrial. Yet during his lifetime many found him all-too-human: a thief and charlatan who dressed up in others’ ideas and identities then cast them off without sentiment. In this class, we’ll attempt to reconcile these views, examining his origins, influences, and the changes he put himself through at the beginning of his career.

Strange Fascination
The Inventions of Early Bowie, 1967 - 1976

Taught by Jon Ross


SUNDAYS April 10, 17, 24, and May 1 || 3:30 - 5:00 pm
Liberty Glass || 938 N Cook St
Four weeks, $89 || Space limited to 17 students. 

Explore David Bowie's legacy and you'll find wreckage from walls he broke down: male/female, high/low, performer/performance, sapiens/superior. He was so unique as to seem extraterrestrial. Yet during his lifetime many found him all-too-human: a thief and charlatan who dressed up in others’ ideas and identities then cast them off without sentiment. Even Bowie likely held both these opinions of himself. In this class, we’ll attempt to reconcile these views, examining his origins, influences, and the changes he put himself through at the beginning of his career.


Week One, 1947 – 1969. David Robert Jones melded Little Richard with Jack Kerouac, Marcel Marceau, and Tibetan Buddhism to invent David Bowie. How did Bowie in turn invent doomed astronaut Major Tom and launch his career?

Week Two, 1970 – 1971. The metal gloom of The Man Who Sold the World and soaring pop of Hunky Dory might sound worlds apart, but we’ll listen closely for the continuities that set the stage for Bowie’s first major breakthrough.

Week Three, 1972 – 1973. We’ll delve into the confusing narrative of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character (a mask Bowie wore both onstage and off) and his America-mutated brother, Aladdinsane.

Week Four, 1974 – 1976. In the mid-seventies, cocaine abuse sent Bowie headlong into a frightening identity crisis. But even here, there were glimmers of light.


Jon Ross has been a devoted fan studying David Bowie for 35 years. His MFA thesis at Oregon State University featured an essay on Bowie, the performance of identity, and the paradoxes delimiting the transmission of meaning. He co-edits OPOSSUM, a magazine of literature animated by music.


Photo by Beeld en Geluid via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.