The Thin White Duke was David Bowie‘s 1975 and 1976 persona and character. He is primarily identified with Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station and is mentioned by name in the title track. However, Bowie had begun to adopt the “Duke” persona during the preceding Young Americans tour and promotion in 1975. The persona’s look and character are somewhat based on Thomas Jerome Newton, the titular humanoid alien played by Bowie in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The Thin White Duke was a controversial figure due to ostensibly pro-fascist statements made by Bowie in press interviews during this period. Soon after making the comments, Bowie claimed that they were “theatrical” remarks made in character and did not reflect his actual views. In later years, he blamed his erratic behaviour during his mid-1970s Duke era on an “astronomical” use of hard drugs (particularly cocaine) while living in Los Angeles.
Bowie left California for Europe in 1976 to improve his mental and physical well-being. He settled in West Berlin in early 1977, at which point he quietly retired the Thin White Duke persona. Until he reappeared in his final appearance for the music video for Lazarus.