These two amazing men share a birthday today, January 8th. Both were musicians, both were singers, both were film stars, both were graced with amazing gifts. Both were Capricorns, the ever striving mountain goat. Though seemingly opposite in style, they had more in common than one might think.
Elvis was the American South, an earthy mix of gospel, Delta blues and rockabilly. David was swinging London, an androgynous mix of techno-pop, space stations and scary monsters. David lived his life in multiple cities through out Europe, never calling any one place ‘home’. Except for his military station in Germany, Elvis never left the United States. Both had a magnetic charisma, the ability to charm and invigorate the hearts and minds of thousands.
Though gone they are not forgotten. Elvis Presley and David Bowie are infinite spirits, their music and presence forever alive.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo Mississippi to parents of modest means. They lived in a two room shotgun house while his father eked out a living through odd jobs. Elvis’ story is a classic rags-to -riches. Having gotten his first inspiration from gospel music, he went to Sun studios with the intention of making a record as a gift to his mother. He was discovered by Sun executive Sam Phillips and the rest is history.
Some fun facts about Elvis:
- He was one of a twin. His brother, called Jesse Garon, was delivered stillborn.
- He earned his nickname ‘Pelvis’ from hip shaking, and was considered an outrageous sex symbol until he joined the Army in 1958. This ‘normalized’ him and probably made him more palpable to mainstream America.
- His hair was naturally brown but he dyed it jet black.
- Elvis’ mothers name was ‘Gladys Love’. He had a great grandmother named ‘Morning Dove’. His bloodline may have been Cherokee Indian.
- Elvis was a martial arts expert with a black belt in Karate.
- He was outrageously generous, giving fortunes to various charities. He once bought a limousine for a driver he happened to like.
- Elvis was the King of Rock and his daughter Lisa Marie was briefly married to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. How’s that for a royal family?
Here is a clip of Elvis performing his classic ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.
David Bowie was born on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, South London, also to working class parents. An artistic child, David took an interest in music and strangely enough, got much of his inspiration from Elvis!
David listened to his father’s 45s of Elvis and is quoted as saying: “I saw a cousin of mine dance to ‘Hound Dog’ and I had never seen her get up and be moved so much by anything. It really impressed me, the power of the music. I started getting records immediately after that.”
Bowie played in several bands but his biggest success probably came with his song Space Oddity, a big hit in the U.K. and U.S. David invented his character Ziggy Stardust (the first of his many ever changing personas) and the rest is history.
Some fun facts about David:
- His real surname is Jones, but he changed it to Bowie, after the Bowie knife.
- His song ‘Space Oddity’ was released at the same time Apollo 11 made it to the moon. This undoubtedly contributed to the song’s popularity.
- He is given some credit for the fall of the Berlin Wall, having lived in Berlin and having brought a ‘western mentality’ to the Soviet Union.
- Famous for his makeup and androgyny, he wore skirts on stage and was compared to actress Lauren Bacall.
- His last album ‘Black Star’ was eerily released on the day of his death, January 10, 2016. He had said he wanted this to be his ‘swan song’ to his fans.
Here is a tribute to David Bowie which I put together last year after his death.