In June 1972, David Bowie released “Starman,” the lead single on his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Now, 50 years later, Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for the song will go to auction, where they’re expected to fetch $35,000 to $46,000. United Kingdom-based Omega Auctions will sell the lyrics—in addition to vinyls, posters and other items from the artist’s career—later this month.
Written on graph paper, the sheet of lyrics is in “very good condition,” according to the auction house. Bowie likely jotted the words down in January 1972, during the final recording sessions for Ziggy Stardust, so that his music publisher could prepare the lyric sheet that would be included with the album. With a few visible amendments made by Bowie, the words appear almost exactly as they do in the released song. The only notable difference is that the lyric “like a slow voice,” which Bowie sings in the first verse, is absent from the sheet.
The current owner purchased the lyrics in the early 1980s and loaned them in 2013 to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. They went on display as part of the museum’s “David Bowie Is” exhibition, which toured around the world until 2018. Bowie was able to visit the exhibition in London before his death in 2016, at age 69.
“David Bowie remains one of the most influential recording artists of all time and someone whose lasting influence on music is still being studied,” Dan Hampson, Omega’s auction manager, tells the Guardian’s Geneva Abdul. “The items that most excite our collectors are those that bring them closer to the stars—in this instance, the handwritten lyrics to a song which many would regard as a work of true genius.”
A few years ago, Omega auctioned off a studio recording of Bowie, age 16, from 1963—thought to be the first-ever tape of the artist singing. He was playing in a band called the Konrads; David Hadfield, the band’s drummer and manager, found the tape in a bread basket in his garage. After leaving the Konrads, Bowie released his first hit single, “Space Oddity,” in 1969.
Bowie’s fascination with space and science fiction is clear on “Starman,” a song about a benevolent alien who makes contact with Earth, and all over Ziggy Stardust. On the album, the singer takes on the character of Ziggy Stardust, a bisexual rockstar from outer space who tries to inspire a hopeless Earth.
“It was quite easy to become obsessed night and day with the character,” Bowie told Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe in 1976. “I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went totally out the window.”
“Starman” and the album that followed it were a turning point in Bowie’s career, cementing him as a singular pop star who never shied away from the fluid and the bizarre. His story will also be the subject of Moonage Daydream, a documentary scheduled to debut in theaters later this month.