Alter egos are useful in a number of ways for artists (musicians and writers). Some use them as a means of separating their private selves from their work. For others, they serve as a guise under which they can throw caution to the wind and experiment with different aspects of themselves and their work. Read on to discover five celebrities with extraordinary alter egos.
1. David Bowie, Alter Ego: Ziggy Stardust
Bowie has also been Arnold Corns, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom and the White Duke, so he’s enjoyed a number of different personas. His most successful, however, is Ziggy Stardust, an intergalactic alien rock star. Few fans will fail to acknowledge the brilliance of Bowie’s album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972), which describes the rise to and devastating descent from stardom, alongside a number of other issues. Ziggy Stardust enabled Bowie to assume the role of rocker while at the same time giving expression to his fears/anxieties about stardom and life in general.
2. The Beatles, Alter Ego: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
In 1966, the Beatles ditched the constraints of Beatle mania and absorbed the alter ego of the fictitious Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which produced what several music critics still describe as the most significant album in rock-and-roll history: The Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967. The album represented an uninhibited counterculture of limitless experimentation and gave the band new and interesting possibilities. It was an immediate commercial and critical success. Through their alter ego, the band were free from the constraints of expectations of others, something that enabled them to experiment to their hearts’ content. The album has been described as one of the “first art rock LPs”, one which incorporates a number of “diverse stylistic influences” including Indian classical music and vaudeville.
3. Bono, Alter Ego: The Fly/Mirrorball Man/ MacPhisto
Bono has enjoyed an internationally acclaimed career with his band U2, but he is also a phenomenal lyricist and vocalist. He is less remembered, however, for his forays into the world of the alter-ego, though, which took place during the early ‘90s Zoo TV Tour. Of his three alter-egos, the wildest was Mister MacPhisto, an eccentric, hedonistic, rock star cliché; a megalomaniac aging rock devil complete with red horns, a gold suit and pasty makeup. The Fly was Bono’s interpretation of the stereotypical rock star, attired in a skin-tight leather suit and wearing Bono’s trademark wrap-around glasses. Mirror ball Man was a conceited American televangelist in a dazzling silver suit and cowboy hat. All of Bono’s alter egos appear to have been deployed to magnify the dangers of mass consumption and superficiality dominating western society.
4. Beyoncé, Alter Ego: Sasha Fierce
Former Destiny’s Child member Beyoncé has worked her way to critical acclaim and numerous accolades for her solo work. In the early years of her career, she sought an outlet for her “fiercer” side, which finally materialised in the form of her alter ego, Sasha Fierce. Sasha Fierce made her grand and dramatic entrance on an album entitled I am… Sasha Fierce. Beyoncé’s formidable alter ego enabled her to make the transition from a shy but talented performer to a more aggressive, more sexually empowered one. It was a transformation that led to many hailing her as a modern day feminist icon. In 2010, however, Beyoncé said she had “killed” Sasha Fierce because she didn’t “need her anymore”.
5. Damon Albarn, Alter Ego: Gorillaz
Although Albarn initially rose to fame as the frontman of British band Blur, together with comic-book designer Jamie Hewlett he developed an extraordinarily successful “virtual band” known as Gorillaz, whose popularity eclipsed that of Blur. Interestingly, the virtual band started as a private joke between the pair. Gorillaz was an antidote to the seriousness of the music industry, according to Albarn and as reported in the Guardian, with striking characters such as Murdoc, a zombified ape/aging rockstar who functioned as the group’s bassist (and who put the fictional band together), 2D, Noodle and Russel. Gorillaz won awards galore and “conquered worlds such as opera, pop and art”. The two founders continued with the band well into the 21st century to international critical acclaim.
Are there any other celebrities with alter egos you’d like to share? And if you’re an artist, how do you view the concept of the alter ego? Let me know in the comments box below.