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From radical artist to craftsman

Peter Doggett, author of The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s:

You could argue a coherent case for saying that it wasn’t just Bowie who “fell out of sync once the ’70s were over,” but the whole of the rock culture to which he belonged. In many ways, he mutated into the perfect early-to-mid ’80s artist, preferring style over substance and grand gestures over subtle artistry.

In personal terms, however, he had reached 1980 in a state of exhaustion, artistic and physical. It had become apparent to him—as it rarely does to artists in these situations—that he could no longer exist at the level of intensity to which he had subjected himself for most of the ’70s. So it was inevitable that whatever he did in the next decade would be more controlled and less extreme than in the past. If you like, he turned from being a radical artist into a craftsman. Maybe he needed to do that in order to survive, but he knew as well as anyone that his urge towards self-preservation was taking a toll on his work.

First posted: Friday, November 9th, 2012.

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