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A head shot of David Bowie, looking to his left with an eye patch over his right eye.

There's an explanation for the eyepatch too, but ... I mean, he's just Bowie, ya know? (credit below)

Recently, in honor of Happy Words with Friends Day, we ran a round called Alpha Mail, all about famous people corresponding by letter. It featured questions about topics like the time Bill Clinton wrote a condolence letter to Chris Webber and Sidney Poitier asking FDR for $100. But, we also covered Davie Bowie responding to fan mail. Let’s take a deeper dive.

In late 1967, a 14-year-old girl in New Mexico wrote a fan letter to David Bowie. Sandra Dodd became the first American to ever reach out to him, and he immediately typed up a response to send right back to her. 

“In answer to your questions, my real name is David Jones and I don’t have to tell you why I changed it,” he wrote. ‘Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you’ said my manager.”

That’s right: David Bowie was born David Robert Jones, and he used the name “Davie Jones” when he recorded his first-ever single with his band The King Bees. But by the mid-1960s, another British musician called Davy Jones was fronting the pre-fab pop band The Monkees. 

Davie Jones realized that he needed to make a change, so he swapped out his first name for, uh, Tom. “Before he got to David Bowie, he didn’t want to lose the Jones bit of his name,” podcaster and QI researcher Dan Schreiber said  “So he changed his name and started recording as an artist under the name Tom Jones. And as he did that [Welsh singer] Tom Jones exploded, and he was like, ‘Come on man, what is this?’”

On his next attempt, he decided that he’d hang on to David and pick up a new last name. Author John Lyons wrote that Bowie was inspired to become, well, Bowie because of the film The Alamo. “In 1965, David Jones adopted the name David Bowie in homage to [Texan rebel] Jim Bowie,” Lyons wrote in America in the British Imagination:1945 to the Present

That one worked. David Jones became David Bowie, and David Bowie became DAVID BOWIE, in all-caps, as he became a world-renowned superstar. But when he was at home with his wife, Iman, and their daughter, he left the Bowie bit at the door. “One day when [our daughter] Lexi was seven years old, she saw a poster of her father,” Iman told People last November. “And then she asked, ‘But why is he called Bowie?’” 

I guess because “Tom Jones” was already taken? 

Featured image courtesy of: AVRO, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0