David Bowie brought something incredibly new and innovative to the music scene when he arrived. He performed as characters, as himself, but really, he was David Bowie. However, this was not his original name, and with most things, there are many reasons why the singer opted to make a change.
David Bowie was in fact born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, a fairly unremarkable name for a young man from Brixton.
Bowie was known for his various characters and decided to adopt a stage name which is likely to have helped him get better exposure as an artist and distance him from his previous identity.
This is likely a reason he changed his name, though arguably his name change was barely any different, and soon other reasons forced him to find something new.
His first name change was fairly subtle, and he just went by Davie/Davy Jones, likely to relate to Davy Jones’ Locker, or the bottom of the sea.
David Bowie – why did he change his name?
However, there was another singer who was already in the public eye who had a similar name – Davy Jones of The Monkees.
As a result, it looked as though Bowie would need a new name and decided to change again.
Some have reported Davy Jones of The Monkees is why Bowie chose to adopt a new name, to further distance himself from the artist given the closeness of his own name.
In trying to get away from being similar to Davy Jones, he accidentally came up with the same name as a certain Welsh songster who burst onto the scene with mega-hits such as It’s Not Unusual.
A young David Jones, AKA David Bowie
Sir Tom Jones was born Thomas Woodward, a young working-class lad from south Wales.
Sir Tom needed to have an image overhaul, so his manager Gordon Mills introduced him to the world in 1965, naming him Tom Jones, a 22-year-old single coal miner from Wales.
The truth, however, was very different, as Sir Tom was in fact Thomas Woodward, a 24-year-old, married man with a seven-year-old son who had never been down a mine in his life.
This is not uncommon for singers to be represented in particular ways to gain stardom and fandom in the music business.
Davy Jones of The Monkees
Dan Schreiber, No Such Thing as a Fish podcaster and QI researcher, revealed on Radio One’s Screen Time podcast the name ‘Tom Jones’ was in the running before Bowie settled on his final moniker.
He claimed: “Before he got to David Bowie, he didn’t want to lose the Jones bit of his name.
“So he changed his name and started recording as an artist under the name Tom Jones.
“And as he did that…Tom Jones exploded and he was like, ‘Come on man, what is this?’
“And eventually his third option was David Bowie.”
Sir Tom Jones
With both Davy and Tom Jones no longer available to him, Bowie turned to some American inspiration, 1960 movie The Alamo.
Author John Lyons wrote in his book, America in the British Imagination: 1945 to the Present: “In 1965, David Jones adopted the name David Bowie in homage to Jim Bowie.”
Bowie is the film’s Texan rebel played by Richard Widmark, and it seems this could have been used as a way to show Americans his love and fascination with their country before venturing there on tour.
Sadly, however, Bowie seemed like he did not want to open up too much about why he changed his name, as he wrote to an American fan in 1967.
As written in TIME magazine, Bowie reportedly wrote: “In answer to your questions, my real name is David Jones and I don’t have to tell you why I changed it.
“‘Nobody’s going to make a monkey out of you’ said my manager.”
Clearly that last line shows how Bowie was trying to stay away from adopting the same name as anyone else, whether it be a band frontman or a Welsh songster.
As far as reports have suggested, the pair never truly fell out over their names, but there may have been some tension when the names did not match up, as there often is in the showbiz world.