Although he released an album and numerous singles earlier, David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when his space-age mini-melodrama "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK singles chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam-rock era as a flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona epitomised a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation.
In 1975 Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer identified as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees.
He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low -- the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno. His most experimental works to date, the so-called "Berlin Trilogy" nevertheless produced three UK top-five albums. The anthem-like, towering title track of the second work "Heroes" (1977) is widely regarded as a milestone in rock and pop.
After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes" and its parent album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). He paired with Queen for the 1981 UK chart-topper "Under Pressure", but consolidated his commercial -- and, until then, most profitable -- sound in 1983 with the album Let's Dance, which yielded the hit singles "China Girl", "Modern Love" and, most famously, the title track.
Since the mid-80s only a handful of Bowie's recordings have entered public consciousness. In the British Broadcasting Corporation's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie ranked 29. Throughout his career he has sold an estimated 136 million albums, and ranks among the ten best-selling acts in UK pop history.
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #39 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time..