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Turn and face the strange


David Bowie: the Swiss years


By swissinfo.ch and agencies


David Bowie, the iconic British singer who has died aged 69, had a close relationship with Switzerland. He performed at many festivals, owned various properties near Lake Geneva and married his wife Iman in Lausanne in 1992. 

His first taste of Swiss life came in 1976, when he moved into a chalet in Blonay, near Montreux, with his wife Angie and their son Zowie (now Duncan), who attended the Commonwealth American School (now the International School of Lausanne) in nearby Vevey. 

“In Switzerland people leave me alone,” Bowie would tell journalists, while avoiding questions about tax.  

In 1982, divorced from Angie, he bought the grand Château de Signal, situated on the edge of a forest in Sauvabelin, in the hills of Lausanne. However, the property was apparently too isolated for his wife, the model Iman, whom he married in Lausanne in 1992. He sold the property in 2000. 

The Château de Signal near Lausanne, one of Bowie's homes for many years (Keystone)

The Château de Signal near Lausanne, one of Bowie's homes for many years

(Keystone)

While in Switzerland, Bowie enjoyed skiing in Gstaad and in 1995, as a favour to his friend Claude Nobs, the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, he designed the event’s poster. 

Hall of Fame 

Bowie, born David Jones in London, came of age in the glam rock era of the early 1970s. He had a striking androgynous look in his early days and was known for changing his looks and sounds. He had launched a provocative alter-ego named Ziggy Stardust, and the stuttering rock sound of “Changes” gave way to the disco soul of “Young Americans”, co-written with John Lennon, to a droning collaboration with Brian Eno in Berlin that produced “Heroes”. 

He had some of his biggest successes in the early 1980s with the bombastic “Let’s Dance”, and a massive American tour. Another one of his definitive songs was “Under Pressure”, which he recorded with Queen; Vanilla Ice would years later use the song’s hook for his hit “Ice Ice Baby”. 

“What I’m most proud of is that I can’t help but notice that I’ve affected the vocabulary of pop music. For me, frankly, as an artist, that’s the most satisfying thing for the ego,” Bowie said. 

Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He had battled cancer for 18 months.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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