Duncan Jones is born

David Bowie’s son Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones was born on 30 May 1971.

Bowie was not present for the birth, which happened at Bromley Hospital.

I’d been listening to a Neil Young album, and they phoned through and said that my wife had had a baby on Sunday morning, and I wrote this about the baby. It’s called ‘Kooks’ – K double-O K S. I’m not too sure of the words ’cause it is new, so have a go at it.
David Bowie, 3 June 1971

It was not a straightforward birth for the baby’s mother, Angela Bowie.

I can’t describe fully how awful it was. The bare facts are that I was in labor for thirty hours, fully conscious (with an epidural anesthetic), until I finally managed to squeeze my eight-and-a-half-pound boy out between my very narrow hips, cracking my pelvis in the process. David told me afterward that I was screaming constantly and cursing everyone who came near me, in language he’d never imagined I knew. The claustrophobia I felt was ghastly.

I ended up in real trouble: physically torn and broken (with thirty-eight stitches as well as a cracked pelvis); ravaged emotionally by withdrawal from the painkillers and the guilt of having not ‘coped’ better with the whole experience; isolated in my suffering as everyone around me rejoiced and goo-gooed over the new baby; scared witless by the fear that I might have hurt him in childbirth, and might still hurt him by dropping him or otherwise mishandling him (babies had suffered from adults’ carelessness in my father’s family, and I had an awful phobia about that); and more than anything, utterly exhausted. I was strained and beaten half to death, heading blindly and helplessly down the age-old female path into chronic postpartum depression.

Angela Bowie
Backstage Passes

The baby was known as Zowie, pronounced to rhyme with ‘Bowie’ – that is, like the name Zoe. It was intended as a masculine version of ζωή, the Greek word for ‘life’ (Angie Bowie was born and raised on Cyprus). In 1973 Bowie told an interviewer: “I got the name from a Batman comic. I’m going to tell him later he can call himself anything he wants if he doesn’t like the name.”

Later in the 1970s he became known as Joe or Joey, and as an adult reverted to his given name Duncan.

[Fatherhood] pleased my ego a lot. I think Zowie’s a survivor. He’s very definitely an independent person, of his own choosing, it seems. And I find it quite easy to think of him not as mine or as Angie’s, but as Gibran has said, ‘a little plant.’ I don’t feel very paternal about him.
David Bowie
Rolling Stone, 12 February 1976

On the back cover of Hunky Dory, Bowie added the dedication “for Small Z” next to ‘Kooks’. He also wrote some notes on each of the songs, which were used in press advertisements. For ‘Kooks’ he wrote:

The baby was born and it looked like me and it looked like Angie and the song came out like – if you’re gonna stay with us you’re gonna grow up Bananas.

In April 2018 Duncan Jones’s daughter was born, and was named Zowie.

Last updated: 5 April 2023
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