30 Years Ago: David Bowie Marries Supermodel Iman

When David Bowie and Iman married on April 24, 1992, it wasn’t a big, elaborate affair. Instead, the rock star and the supermodel tied the knot in Lausanne, Switzerland, in a civil ceremony attended by just two witnesses and an interpreter.

Bowie had kept a home in the town since the ‘70s, and the ceremony took place at the Hôtel de Ville, or City Hall. The bride wore white in pantsuit form, while the groom echoed that energy in a black pantsuit of his own.

The wedding was actually so tiny that the press didn’t catch wind of it for over a week, and news of the nuptials didn’t hit the papers until 10 days after the ceremony. A couple of months later, the pair would throw a larger event in Tuscany, where Bowie would wear tails and Iman strode down the aisle in a halter-top Herve Leger gown while the Bulgarian folk song “Kalimankou Denkou” played. Bono, Brian Eno and Yoko Ono were among the 68 people in attendance, and Bowie composed some of the music for the reception, which was held at a 16th century Medici mansion, himself. (Three of the tracks — ”The Wedding,” “The Wedding Song,” and “Pallas Athena” — would later become part of Bowie’s 1993 album, Black Tie, White Noise.)

At the time of their wedding, Iman and Bowie had been together a little over two years, having first been introduced by Bowie’s longtime friend and hairdresser, Teddy Antolin. The pal knew Bowie found the Somali supermodel attractive, so he invited her to a dinner party. She threw on a black leather ensemble and went, thinking it would be a large affair, but found only Antolin and his boyfriend, along with Bowie. The de facto double date went swimmingly, with Antolin later telling WC2H in London that, when Iman and Bowie looked at each other, “it was love at first sight.”

Bowie agreed, telling Hello! in 2000 that his attraction to Iman “was immediate and all-encompassing.” “I couldn’t sleep after the excitement of our first date,” he confessed. “That she would be my wife, in my head, was a done deal. I’d never gone after anything… with such passion in all my life.”

Iman didn’t quite feel the same, telling Express in 2011 that she didn’t want to get involved with a rock star, calling it “not a sane thing to do.” She’d also been married twice before: Once to a Somali businessman when she was just 18 and once to NBA star Spencer Haywood, with whom she had a daughter, Zulekha. Still, she admitted, Bowie—who she said was always just David Jones to her—changed her mind.

According to Iman, Bowie was a consummate romantic. In 2021, she told InStyle that the singer would always give her flowers to commemorate the day they’d met, and that he would always walk on the part of the sidewalk closest to the street. “One of the reasons why I first fell in love with him,” she revealed, “was because when we were walking, my shoelace became untied, and he got down on his knees and tied my shoes. It can’t get more romantic than that.”

Iman told The Cut that she knew Bowie was the one after just two weeks of dating. She had traveled to Paris, and when she arrived at her hotel, found her room filled with her favorite flower, gardenias, courtesy of Bowie. When she returned to Los Angeles, Bowie was there waiting for her. “The doors open to the plane and I come out and I see all these people taking a picture of somebody,” Iman recalled. “He was standing there, flowers in hand, no security. That was when I knew. He didn’t care if anyone saw.”

Together for more than 25 years before Bowie’s death in 2016, the pair lived an immensely private life, often eschewing parties in lieu of soccer games and school pick-ups for their daughter, Lexi. Iman told InStyle that, because the pair had both been in previous marriages, they “understood from the start that there is a difference between the public life and the private life; those two had to be separated completely.” She continued: “Because we came together later in our lives, family came first. The careers had been done and all of that… We also just had love and respect for each other—that was it.”

In 2021, Iman admitted she still felt married to Bowie despite his passing. “Someone a few years ago referred to David as my late husband,” she recalled, “and I said ‘No, he’s not my late husband. He’s my husband.’” Iman further revealed that she felt Bowie’s presence at their home in upstate New York, where she would often watch the sunset with the late rocker. “In that way, he is ever present,” Iman told People, “Through my memory, [our] love lives.”

 

David Bowie Albums Ranked

David Bowie is not just rock’s greatest chameleon; he’s also one of music’s most imaginative conceptual artists.

Gallery Credit: Bryan Wawzenek

26. ‘Never Let Me Down’ (1987)

There is no greater let-down in Bowie’s catalog than the nadir of what he later called his “Phil Collins years.” This is just bad idea after bad idea: a self-serious concept piece about a glass spider, impersonations of John Lennon and Neil Young, a mid-song “rap” from Mickey Rourke, plus glossy production better suited to a Pepsi commercial. ‘Never Let Me Down’ also marks the only instance when Bowie deleted a song from his oeuvre. ‘Too Dizzy’ was removed for all CD re-issues and digital releases. Not that its absence made the record any better.

25. ‘Black Tie White Noise’ (1993)

It’s an indication of how lost Bowie got in the ’80s that ‘Black Tie White Noise’ was hailed by some as a comeback. His first solo album of the ’90s (following Tin Machine) hasn’t aged well. Grooves stolen from the C+C Music Factory, jazzy trumpet solos and synthetic textures sound more like a lost ‘Pure Moods’ compilation than a dispatch from one of rock’s great artistes. On the title track, Bowie was trying to comment on racial tensions in post-L.A. riots America (“I’ve got a face, not just my race”). Well, at least he was trying.

24. ‘Tonight’ (1984)

Following the massive success of 1983’s ‘Let’s Dance,’ Bowie felt compelled to keep record stores plied with product, but found himself creatively bankrupt. He squeezed out a couple new tunes, collaborated on a pair with his buddy Iggy Pop and filled the rest of the LP with covers. Some were slick versions of Pop’s old songs, as well as wretched takes on the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ and Leiber and Stoller’s ‘I Keep Forgettin’.’ The album’s one saving grace is the Motown-inspired ‘Blue Jean’ – an empty-headed wonder featuring Bowie’s desperate shrieks… and a marimba!

23. ‘David Bowie’ (1967)

Before Bowie lost his edge, he had to find it in the first place. And how twee he was back in ’67. This inauspicious debut, chock-a-block with cutesy-poo baroque pop, seems to borrow the whimsy of the Small Faces and the Kinks, but forgets the wit and energy. Bowie sounds like a preening children’s show host, mugging for the microphone (if that’s possible) and making corny jokes at the end of songs (“well I might stretch it to Wednesday” he winks on ‘Love You till Tuesday’). The Thin White Duke would eat this guy for breakfast.

22. ‘Hours…’ (1999)

Bowie made history with this album, the first record released by a major artist on the Internet. Too bad the music couldn’t live up to the milestone. He sounds as tired as he looks on the cover of ‘Hours…,’ floating in a haze of moody melancholy that only occasionally wanders into an interesting melody (‘Seven,’ ‘Thursday’s Child’). And just when he’s put you to sleep, he abruptly busts out the forced Stooges tribute ‘The Pretty Things are Going to Hell.’ The change in tempo is welcome. That song is not.

21. ‘Pin Ups’ (1973)

In the midst of Ziggymania, Bowie put out this covers record, containing tunes from his mid-’60s heroes the (Who, the Kinks, Them, etc.). His choices are excellent, from the Easybeats’ ‘Friday on My Mind’ to the Merseys’ ‘Sorrow.’ The latter was the sole single released from ‘Pin Ups’ and for good reason: It’s the least overworked cover on the album. Bowie goes way, way, way over the top on the rest of the tracks. (‘See Emily Play’ could be mistaken for a Monty Python goof.) In spite of all the effort, ‘Pin Ups’ remains a slight affair.

20. ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ (1993)

A soundtrack in name alone, ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ album contains only one song from its namesake (a BBC TV series). The rest is composed of music that Bowie created as a result of his work on the show. It’s his least mannered ’90s album and it allows the musician’s creative juices to flow freely between ambient works, electro-pop experimentation and the satisfyingly simple ballad ‘Strangers When We Meet.’ Bowie (wisely) thought enough of the song that he re-recorded it for his next album, mostly because ‘Buddha’ virtually disappeared upon release and wasn’t reliably available until a 2007 reissue.

19. ‘Outside’ (1995)

A reunion with Brian Eno (who collaborated on the vaunted “Berlin trilogy”) forged one of Bowie’s most ambitious concept pieces. Due to the musician’s lack of interest in a linear narrative, we stumble upon mere fragments of his bleak vision of 1999 where murder has become art and Bowie gets to act out all the parts. The music is equally as bleak, taking its cues from the hard beats and sharp corners of industrial music. It’s a solid framework for Bowie and Eno to get creative within – the backgrounds are reliably intriguing, if not always satisfying.

18. ‘Earthling’ (1997)

‘Earthling’ has taken its shots over the years, namely that it emphasizes sounds over songs and finds Bowie being late to yet another sub-genre party (in this case, it was drum ‘n’ bass.) Both are valid complaints, but what outweighs them is Bowie’s palpable excitement as a performer. He stands tall inside of the music, and if he doesn’t have a whole lot to say (‘Little Wonder’ was inspired by the Seven Dwarves) at least he’s singing with edgy conviction. And there are great soundscapes here, from the mechanical slow-burn of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ to the paranoid android that is ‘I’m Afraid of Americans.’

17. ‘Heathen’ (2002)

After the listless ‘Hours…,’ it was galvanizing to hear Bowie sneering his way through the Pixies’ ‘Cactus’ on ‘Heathen.’ There are other great covers on the record (Neil Young’s crunchy ‘I’ve Been Waiting for You’ is a highlight) and some fantastic originals (the charging, slightly spacey ‘Afraid’ sticks out), but the biggest takeaway from ‘Heathen’ is how comfortable Bowie sounds. It’s as if, in the early ’00s, he suddenly became OK with the long arm of his legacy. This isn’t “new wave Bowie” or “industrial rock Bowie,” it’s just Bowie. ‘Heathen’ is distinguished, thoughtful and spirited.

16. ‘Reality’ (2003)

If much of Bowie’s late-era work is about anxiety, ‘Reality’ is his anxious opus. Leadoff track ‘New Killer Star’ takes on post-9/11 New York City. In the best way, the driving song offers elliptical commentary before settling on a solution: “Let’s face the music and dance.” Elsewhere, Bowie goes very simple, crooning over distant guitar strains and simple piano chords on the faded film noir of ‘The Loneliest Guy.’ He kicks a hole through the Modern Lovers’ clever ‘Pablo Picasso.’ As with ‘Heathen,’ Bowie sounds comfortable — while sounding anxiety-riddled. How’s that for ‘Reality’?

15. ‘David Bowie’/’Space Oddity’ (1969)

Bowie’s second album has been released under three titles: ‘David Bowie’ (original U.K. release and 2009 re-release), ‘Man of Words/Man of Music’ (original U.S. release) and ‘Space Oddity’ (’70s, ’80s and ’90s reissues). Under any name, this is the record that effectively launched Bowie via the leadoff track ‘Space Oddity.’ The majesty of that classic remains worlds apart from the ignominious, Dylan-indebted troubadour stuff on the rest of the album. However, his epic closer ‘Memory of a Free Festival’ is a harbinger of the winning storytelling and sonic creativity to come.

14. ‘Diamond Dogs’ (1974)

Bowie has a fetish for dystopian visions, including ‘Diamond Dogs,’ a mess of a concept record. Under a very loose premise involving alter-ego Halloween Jack, Bowie mashes together his last stabs at glam (the slamming boogie-woogie of the title track, the blazing ‘Rebel Rebel’) with portions of his rejected ‘1984’ musical (the white boy funk of ‘1984,’ the slo-mo R&B of ‘Big Brother’). Bowie would better hone his “plastic soul” skills for his next record, on which he’d focus his efforts on the music and not some silly post-apocalyptic cartoon.

13. ‘The Next Day’ (2013)

Everyone thought David Bowie was retired. By 2013, he hadn’t released a new record in a decade and had sworn off touring. But then Bowie returned, bellowing “Here I am! Not quite dying!” on ‘The Next Day.’ If a return to genuine greatness was too much to hope for, then fans could certainly appreciate a return to form. Strong songwriting (about aging, celebrity and love) and full-bodied rock and roll makes for a pretty electrifying listen. It’s not innovative art; it’s just good music. More, please.

12. ‘Blackstar’ (2016)

Released on his 69th birthday, and just two days before his death, Bowie’s 25th album was his most experimental record in years, a throwback to the groundbreaking work he did in the mid- and late-’70s on the Berlin Trilogy. It’s not as accessible as its 2013 predecessor, ‘The Next Day,’ but it makes a great companion piece and a fitting end to one of rock’s most influential careers.

11. ‘Young Americans’ (1975)

Halfway through the ’70s, Bowie tossed glam to the dogs in favor of his new inspiration: the slinky “Sound of Philadelphia.” He coined the Bowie-fied version of R&B “plastic soul” — although it was real enough to land the singer a spot on ‘Soul Train.’ His addled version of Philly soul is compelling, with Bowie’s enigmatic vocals creeping around wah-wah guitars and David Sanborn’s sax. But album-closer ‘Fame’ takes soul far beyond plastic, somewhere into outer space. Funky, angry and irresistible, the No. 1 smash (created with an assist from John Lennon), is still ahead of its time.

10. ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ (1970)

Forsaking his folk fascination, Bowie dove into the deep (purple) end of the rock pool with his third LP. ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ remains one of the artist’s most muscular sounding albums — which is amusing, seeing as Bowie’s in a dress on the cover. The music is hard, but the lyrics show a beguiling vulnerability. ‘All the Madmen’ ranks with Bowie’s best material, as the artist sings about insanity with incredible empathy. (The song was inspired by his schizophrenic half-brother.) And there’s the title track, a more layered and haunting sci-fi experience than Nirvana’s rather excellent ‘Unplugged’ cover.

9. ‘Let’s Dance’ (1983)

As the beginning of Bowie’s decline into commercial mediocrity, ‘Let’s Dance’ gets lumped in with the two awful albums that followed. But the LP is a gem. Sure, some of these songs are incredibly poppy, yet each has an edge. ‘Modern Love’ is a bouncy trifle that takes on God and the church. This smoky version of ‘China Girl’ is threaded with ethnocentrism. The title track is a startlingly creative work of synthesis – blurting saxophones, clicking enhancements and a big beat behind Stevie Ray Vaughan’s bluesy licks – that only strengthens Bowie’s towering vocal.

8. ‘Lodger’ (1979)

Sure, it’s the least of the “Berlin trilogy” but ‘Lodger’ is also a fantastic collection of experimental songs. Its freewheeling genre-bending gives it an air of daring. At any moment, the album’s mix of reggae, R&B, funk, Afrobeat and roving rock and roll might collapse under Bowie and Eno’s endless quest for creativity. In the process, we get some of Bowie’s best songs: the sly ‘DJ’ and its melting synthesizers, the galloping ‘Look Back in Anger’ and the haphazard ‘Boys Keep Swinging.’ The worst thing you can say about ‘Lodger’ is that it’s almost as good as two of the best albums ever made.

7. ‘Scary Monsters [and Super Creeps]’ (1980)

The capper to Bowie’s almost uniformly excellent decade might feature the best side of music in his career. Side One begins with Bowie screaming in confusion (‘It’s No Game’) and ends with him mixing fashion and fascism (‘Fashion’). In between, he discovers a choral groove, dons a Cockney accent and takes a swipe at his own mythology by writing a sequel to ‘Space Oddity.’ Of course, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is much more than that – a requiem for the ’70s that takes place in a dimension which exists somewhere between Sam Cooke and Pink Floyd.

6. ‘Aladdin Sane’ (1973)

Bowie took Ziggy to America and came back with this rifftastic collection of hard-rocking glam. Guitarist Mick Ronson is on fire throughout, charging through ‘Panic in Detroit’ and digging a deep groove on ‘The Jean Genie.’ Bowie acquits himself just as well, delivering the sweeping, bizarre ‘Drive-In Saturday’ in which citizens of the future watch old porno flicks to re-learn how to have sex. Better than any specific thing he does, Bowie just seems fearless on ‘Aladdin Sane,’ stretching his brand of glam to include the jazzy title track, a rollicking Rolling Stones cover and even a dash of doo-wop.

5. ‘Heroes’ (1977)

The most “Berlin” LP of the trilogy, ‘Heroes’ was the only album fully recorded in the German capital. (Its namesake song was inspired by Bowie’s glimpse of producer Tony Visconti embracing his mistress at the Berlin Wall.) Recorded in a city split down the middle, this is a record of dichotomies, from the gargantuan duality of ‘The Beauty and the Beast’ to the gloomy yet gorgeous ambient tracks on Side Two. Art, beauty and romance exist, although never without the threat of menacing villains. Love won’t conquer all, but maybe it “can beat them, just for one day.”

4. ‘Station to Station’ (1976)

‘Station to Station’ is the transition between Bowie’s R&B fixation and his interest in German electronic music. But this album is more than a way station. It’s a transfixing hybrid of African-American music and European rigidity, giving birth to Bowie’s latest persona: the icy Thin White Duke. The character was a manifestation of Bowie’s twisted state of mind — thanks, in part, to a diet of cocaine, milk and peppers. That’s best reflected throughout ‘Word on a Wing,’ in which the singer yearns for the protection of religion without the requirements of belief. Bowie got better, but he made this fascinating album first.

3. ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ (1972)

When people think about David Bowie, the name Ziggy Stardust is never too far away. This silly rock opera, with its wonderful, catchy songs, is what made Bowie a genuine superstar. The shocking red mullet did its part, but the music prevented Bowie from becoming just a glam fad. ‘Starman,’ ‘Five Years,’ ‘Suffragette City,’ ‘Soul Love’ – who cares about their places in the thin storyline? These are fabulous, epic-sounding tracks. The best thing on the album might be ‘Moonage Daydream.’ Ziggy played guitar, but Ronson made you forget all about him — beginning with the freakout solo found on that majestic wonder.

2. ‘Hunky Dory’ (1971)

This was Bowie’s shoot-the-moon moment. After scoring a solitary hit (‘Space Oddity’) and little else in the course of three albums, the artist packed everything he had into ‘Hunky Dory.’ There’s gleaming pop (‘Changes’), sinister folk (‘Quicksand’), boisterous dance hall (‘Oh! You Pretty Things’) and whatever the hell ‘Life on Mars?’ is — other than one of the best songs ever written. Bowie pays tribute to his heroes Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed (the grimy ‘Queen Bitch’) and, somehow, this all makes sense on the same album. No wonder Bowie always thought he could do anything – after all, it worked on ‘Hunky Dory.’

1. ‘Low’ (1977)

Made mostly in France, this nevertheless is the first LP of the “Berlin trilogy.” The title describes Bowie’s mood when, while attempting to kick his cocaine habit, he opened up to new modes of artistic experimentation. Bowie kept his lyrics simple and sharp, whether writing about his lack of inspiration (‘Sound and Vision’) or his knack for repeating mistakes (‘Always Crashing in the Same Car’). He also delved into free-associative writing or cut up lines of his lyrics, reordering them into a non-linear whole. Meanwhile, he worked in remarkable collaboration with producer Visconti (who created that splatting drum sound) and keyboardist Eno (whose synthesizer textures became a defining feature of the album, certainly Side Two). But ‘Low’ is more than songs and sounds. The creative partnership behind the record forged a feeling, a mood, a place. Like very few of the best albums ever recorded, ‘Low’ contains a universe you can inhabit, for 40 minutes at a time. It’s Bowie’s masterpiece.

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