David Bowie: A look back at 'The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars'

'Ziggy' has been called Bowie's breakthrough work and one of the best albums of all time. Bowie died on Jan. 10.

Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
David Bowie performs during a concert in Vienna in 1996.

David Bowie, music pioneer, has died.

Bowie, who is known for such works as “Space Oddity,” “Aladdin Sane,” “The Man Who Sold the World,” is remembered for his many public personas and for the genre-blending with which he created his music, becoming a leading figure in glam rock and incorporating music styles from blues to rock to many others.

His last album to be released was “Blackstar,” which came out earlier this month to extremely positive reviews. The album includes performances by a jazz quartet.

The work that many credit as Bowie’s breakthrough album and one that is often called one of the best albums ever created is the 1972 work “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” 

The title character, Ziggy, was one of Bowie’s most famous personas in a career that included many. The character, an alien who came to Earth and wore bright costumes and makeup, and Bowie’s portrayal of Ziggy has been cited as an influential moment in bringing androgyny closer to the cultural mainstream.

“Ziggy” includes the tracks “Starman,” which recently appeared in the awards season contender movie “The Martian”; “Suffragette City”; and the title song. 

The album was certified gold in the US and platinum in Britain.

“Ziggy” has been called a major move forward for Bowie and a defining moment in music in general. In his review at the time, Rolling Stone critic Richard Cromelin wrote that the album is the “most thematically ambitious, musically coherent album to date… [Bowie employs] a boggling variety of vocal nuances that provide the program with the necessary depth, a verbal acumen that is now more economic and no longer clouded by storms of psychotic, frenzied music, and, finally, a thorough command of the elements of rock & roll… David Bowie has pulled off his complex task with consummate style, with some great rock & roll… with all the wit and passion required to give it sufficient dimension and with a deep sense of humanity that regularly emerges from behind the Star facade.”

The British music publication NME named the album as one of the best of all time, calling it “timeless… demands to be engaged with from start to finish,” while Chris Jones of the BBC wrote that “to an entire generation, this album has become a yardstick by which to measure all others… the strength of ‘Ziggy’ lies in its completeness. Not a track is out of place, in fact, not a NOTE is out of place… what ‘Ziggy’ really represents is an artist who was in the right place, with the right people and the right songs at the right time. The future held plenty more surprises; but for millions this will always be the place where the world's most famous Martian truly fell to earth.”

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