8. Rising from the ashes. Bowie's career was briefly derailed by a drug addiction in the mid-70s after the huge successes of Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans and Station to Station (with its hit single, "Golden Years"). In self-imposed exile in Berlin, he came back with a series of albums, beginning with Low that set the standard for electronic pop for the following 10 years. Later he would write about that end-of-childhood period of addiction ("strung out in heavens high, hitting an all-time low") in the song, "Ashes to Ashes."

7. Turning failure into success. After the wild success of Let's Dance in the 1980s, Bowie's career again seemed to spiral off into irrelevancy. Fighting back, he released "Sound + Vision," a 20-year career retrospective, and promised to retire "Ziggy" and his other personas from live performances. Packaging and closing the door on all his past success with one tour worked like a charm, reinvigorating sales of his old albums and current concert tickets as well as the Sound + Vision collection.

6. Riding the waves. Over the next decade, Bowie's popularity bounced crazily as he pushed himself into new areas, some successful, some not. Critical and popular acclaim often seemed to diverge. Yet, each album continued to point in new directions, as if he were committed to success only through adventure. Along the way, he set up a permanent position ahead of the curve in the music business, whether it be with videos, fashion, advocating a new medium or selling bonds based on his music catalog. He embraced the future with a natural and easy grace.

5. Heathen is a masterpiece. Released in 2002, a direct artistic response to 9/11, it surprised everybody, even ardent fans. In my estimation, it is easily one of the best pop albums ever made.

4. This performer helped change our definitions of sexuality. A lot of controversy ensued when Bowie came out as gay in 1972 prior to Ziggy Stardust. His spangled jumpsuits, makeup and dyed hair helped define what became known as "glam" rock, but it was a style merely of exaggeration, built on a long tradition of androgyny in rock dating back at least to Little Richard.

Bowie's boldness is remarkable; it was only three years after Stonewall, when being openly gay was still quite shocking. He has since swung the door even wider, helping represent the entire, vast spectrum of human sexuality by being comfortable in his complex skin and retaining an appeal that consistently crosses all gender lines.

3. He's still damned good looking.

2. He's currently married to Iman. The onetime supermodel turned successful businesswoman is his wife of 20 years and mother of his child. She is also one of the few people in the world quantifiably even better looking that he is. (Does that mean he's not gay? Glad you asked! Answer: Sexuality is not an on/off switch.)

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