Marc Bolan’s life – tragic death in car accident, will row and David Bowie bond

T.Rex singer Marc Bolan was one of the shining stars of the glam rock era.

Hits including Telegram Sam, 20th Century Boy and Ride A White Swan catapulted Marc into the pop stratosphere, with his face adorning the bedroom walls of teenagers across the country.

Alongside stars including David Bowie, they became the face of the glam rock revolution.

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However, Marc's life was tragically cut short following his death – just seven years after hitting pop fame.

On the 45th anniversary of Marc's death, Daily Star looks back on the life of one of the music icon.

Pop stardom

Marc Bolan became one of the children of the revolution, when he first entered the limelight in 1966, when he became a member of the band John's Children in 1966.

Following minor success with the group, he formed Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1968 with fellow band member Steve Took – but it would be two more years until they hit the big time.

After shortening their name to T.Rex, Marc later became a teen idol, after the band hit the charts with their 1970 single Ride A White Swan.

They also landed their one and only US hit, when their iconic track Bang a Gong (Get It On) hit the charts in the states in 1971.

However in the UK, their popularity continued to boom, scoring hit single after hit single with songs such as Metal Guru, Children Of The Revolution and 20th Century Boy, along with the number one album Electric Warrior by 1972.

He became one the faces of the Glam Rock music movement in the early seventies, joining huge stars including David Bowie, Slade and The Sweet – to name a few.

However in 1974, Marc moved to the states with his partner Gloria Jones to work as a soul producer, after proclaiming the year before: "Glam Rock is dead," according to Louder Sound.

Speaking to journalist Geoff Barton in 1975, as relayed in his retrospective feature in Louder Sound, Marc said at the time about his career: "People were saying that I was done for even from the time when Debora [Tyrannosaurus Rex’s 1968 single] came out.

"A lot of people like what I do, a lot of people don’t. Success has its degrees.

"Through 1971 and 1972 I was much newer and fresher than I am now, and I hit a big peak. Now I’ve levelled out. I’m still here."

In the same year, Marc returned with the album Futuristic Dragon, but it did not have the same chart success as his previous work, reaching number 50 in the UK music charts.

That did not deter Marc however, who came roaring back into the charts at number 13 with the single I Love To Boogie.

He even landed his own TV series called Marc, which would even give a platform to upcoming music stars including The Jam and Generation X.

Back on top, Marc headed out on his Dandy In The Underworld Tour in 1977, before his life was tragically cut short in a car crash.

"I was drinking myself to death"

Following the height of his fame, it was widely reported that Marc had been taking drugs and drinking heavily by the end of 1973.

Shropshire Star reported that Marc reflected on this time in his life before his death, saying: "I got involved with drugs, particularly cocaine, and I started to drink a lot. I just didn’t particularly want to be a rock star any more.

"I was living in a twilight world of drugs, booze and kinky sex. Before I crashed out of the pop scene I was drinking myself to death."

However, the singer got clean with the help of girlfriend Gloria, who spoke about that time in his life on the 30th anniversary of his death.

Speaking in the ITV documentary Marc Bolan: 20th century Boy, she said: "Drugs and alcohol were not the problem.

"His problem was that he had been a major, major superstar and all of a sudden people were saying he didn’t have what it takes any more. That’s what messed things up."

She also added that the drink and drug taking claims were also "overplayed," adding: "You have to remember that Marc was the type of person who loved the media. He loved to fool them. He loved to play them at their game.

"He said, ‘Hey, if they want me to be a rock ’n’ roller, I’ll be a rock ’n’ roller. If they want to think that’s what I’m like, let them think it.’ It was all part of the job with Marc.

"I’m not saying he was perfect, but is it my place to discuss these things when he isn’t here to defend himself?"

David Bowie bond and friendly 'rivalry'

In the offices of a talent agency in 1964, two of the world's biggest music stars would collide when Marc Bolan and David Bowie met for the first time.

The story of their encounter has become somewhat of a legend, and was even reenacted in the Sky Arts series Urban Myths – with comedian Jack Whitehall playing Marc Bolan.

The friends, both of who were aiming for pop stardom, began meeting regularly at cafes in London – before both hit the big time in the early seventies.

While David was climbing the charts with hits including Starman and Jean Genie, Marc was landing number one records with songs like Telegram Sam.

Their fame also meant that there was also a reported element of friendly rivalry between the two stars during the glam rock era, but their friendship never faded.

The two maintained a close bond, with Tony Visconti telling Louder Sound: "They saw each other as competition right from the start. But they were such contrasting personalities," adding: "David loved Marc very much, and Marc loved David."

Their publicist Keith Altham also told Daily Mail: "There was always a certain rivalry.

"But they were very close. They had what they had between them, they didn’t have to prove it to anybody else.

"There was a real love there. They were very similar, in so many ways. They could have been brothers."

They were so close, that David also became godfather to Marc's son Rolan.

Following Marc Bolan's death, David also invested in a fund for both Gloria and Rolan, to support them following his friend's death.

Romance and inheritance revelation

Away from the limelight, Marc was in a six year relationship with Tainted Love singer Gloria Jones from 1970, until his death in 1977.

Together, the couple also welcomed a son called Rolan Bolan in 1975.

However, it is reported that Marc was married to his former publicist June Child, and the couple had remained legally married to one another until the singer's death.

This meant that Gloria and Rolan were unable to inherit anything from the singer's estate following his death.

Speaking to Daily Mail, Rolan said: "Dad’s royalties were still going into the trust fund, but because Mum wasn’t his legal wife, and I wasn’t recognised in law as having any rights to his estate because I was illegitimate, we weren’t allowed to benefit."

He also revealed how his father's friend David Bowie had supported him and his mother following his father's death, including paying for Rolan's education and always being there for him.

"David’s generosity helped my mother and me to survive," said Rolan.

"It wasn’t just the financial help, but the time and kindness," adding: "He kept in regular touch by phone and his first and last words every time were: “Don’t hesitate to tell me if there is anything I can do."

Rolan has continued his father's legacy, including contributing vocals to the song Children Of The Revolution, which was re-recorded for a Marc Bolan tribute album in 2020.

He also paid a sweet tribute to his father, saying: "Whenever I hear his music it’s as if I can feel him holding me."

Speaking about Marc and her son in the ITV documentary Marc Bolan: 20th Century Boy, Gloria also commented on the similarities between the two.

“Rolan is a sensitive young man, just like his father. Loving and innocent.

"The 30th anniversary of Marc’s death is a great moment for his family, and we would like him to have his dig­nity and for people to allow him to live on in his music."

Tragic death and legacy

T.Rex fans and friends from the world of entertainment were left devastated after Marc Bolan was involved in a fatal accident.

He and Gloria were driving in their Mini 127GT, after spending time at Mortons Club and Restaurant in Berkeley Square, London.

However, the car struck a fence post and a tree as the couple were driving over the bridge at Gipsy Lane in Barnes, Southwest London.

Gloria suffered a broken jaw and broken arm, but Marc was killed instantly in the crash on September 16, 1977.

Following his death, the late David Bowie paid tribute to the singer, saying to Rolling Stone Magazine: "I’m terribly broken by it.

"He was my mate. The only tribute I can give Marc is that he was the greatest little giant in the world."

Marc's funeral service was held four days later on September 20 at Golders Green Crematorium, North London, with friends including David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Toni Visconti and Steve Harley attending the service.

The car crash site has since become a memorial site for the beloved singer, with a shrine and statue of Marc erected in his memory.

However, Marc's influence and music legacy continues to be felt today, with his music used in a variety of films including Velvet Goldmine and Billy Elliot.

The tribute band T.Rextasy are also endorsed by Marc's family, and have continued to perform the singer's music throughout the decades since 1992.

They have also organised tribute concerts, including the Marc Bolan 45th anniversary concert in London today (September 16, 2022), where stars who were influenced by the singer will perform – including Marc Almond and Toyah Wilcox, as well as former collaborator Toni Visconti.

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