The Thin White Duke

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Bowie as The Thin White Duke at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto 1976
At the O'Keefe Centre.

The Thin White Duke was David Bowie's 1976 persona and character, primarily identified with his album Station to Station (released that year) and mentioned by name in the title track, although the 'Duke' persona had been adopted during the Young Americans tour and promotion. At first glance, the Duke appeared more "normal" than Bowie's previous incarnations, wearing a stylish, cabaret-style wardrobe, but the massive amounts of cocaine he consumed during this period made his personality, or at least the personality he displayed during interviews, more alarming than it had ever been. At this time in his life, he said that he lived on "red peppers, cocaine and milk".[1]

Impeccably dressed in white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, The Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity while feeling nothing, "ice masquerading as fire".[2] The persona has been described as "a mad aristocrat",[2] "an amoral zombie",[3] and "an emotionless Aryan superman".[4] For Bowie himself, The Duke was "a nasty character indeed",[5] and later, "an ogre for me".[6]

As his drug habit ate away at his physical and mental health, Bowie decided to move from Los Angeles to Paris and then West Berlin, where he began recording the groundbreaking Berlin Trilogy (Low, "Heroes", and Lodger) with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti.

This persona has greatly inspired David Sylvian in creating his Japan-era style.[citation needed]


  1. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.258-275
  2. ^ a b Carr & Murray (1981): pp. 78–80.
  3. ^ Buckley (2000): p. 258.
  4. ^ Pegg (2004): pp. 297–300.
  5. ^ Wilcken (2005): p. 24.
  6. ^ Timothy White (February 1978) - Article in Crawdaddy: Turn and face the strange

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