David Bowie has died at the age of 69
David Bowie, the other-worldly musician who broke pop and rock boundaries with his creative musicianship, nonconformity, striking visuals and a genre-spanning persona he christened Ziggy Stardust, has died.
"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer," read the official announcement on Facebook. "While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief."
Bowie's son, filmmaker Duncan Jones, confirmed the news via his personal Twitter account.
"Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all," Jones tweeted.
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The iconic singer's death comes just days after the release of his 29th album, Blackstar, which coincided with his 69th birthday on January 8.
He was due to be honoured at Carnegie Hall in March this year.
CHANGING THE FACE OF POP
Long before alter egos and wild outfits became commonplace in pop, Bowie turned the music world upside down with the release of the 1972 album, The Rise of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars, which introduced one of music's most famous personas.
Ziggy Stardust was a concept album that imagined a rock star from outer space trying to make his way in the music world. The persona - the red-headed, eyeliner wearing Stardust - would become an enduring part of his legacy, and a touchstone for the way entertainers packaged themselves for years to come.
The singer, who was born David Jones in London, came of age in the glam rock era of the early 1970s. He had a striking androgynous look in his early days and was known for changing his appearance and sounds.
After Ziggy Stardust, the stuttering rock sound of "Changes" gave way to the disco soul of "Fame," co-written with John Lennon, to a droning collaboration with Brian Eno in Berlin that produced "Heroes'.'
He had some of his biggest successes in the early 1980s with the bombastic "Let's Dance," and a massive American tour.
Another one of his definitive songs was "Under Pressure", which he recorded with Queen; Vanilla Ice would years later infamously use the song's hook for his smash hit "Ice Ice Baby."
"My entire career, I've only really worked with the same subject matter," Bowie told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I've always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety - all of the high points of one's life."
'A TRUE HERO'
Bowie lived in West Berlin in the late 1970s and Mayor Michael Mueller said Monday that "Heroes" became "the hymn of our then-divided city and its longing for freedom."
Germany's Foreign Ministry added Bowie was "now among heroes" and thanked him for "helping to bring down the wall."
Bowie's performance of "Heroes" was also a highlight at a concert for rescue workers after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.
"What I'm most proud of is that I can't help but notice that I've affected the vocabulary of pop music. For me, frankly, as an artist, that's the most satisfying thing for the ego," Bowie said.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, but he didn't attend the ceremony.
Madonna, another artist who knew something about changing styles to stay ahead of the curve, accepted for him and recounted how a Bowie concert changed her life when she attended it as a teenager.
David Byrne, of the art rockers Talking Heads, inducted Bowie and said he gave rock music a necessary shot in the arm.
"Like all rock `n' roll, it was visionary, it was tasteless, it was glamorous, it was perverse, it was fun, it was crass, it was sexy and it was confusing," Byrne said.
OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT
Bowie kept a low profile in recent years after reportedly suffering a heart attack in the 2000s. He made a moody album three years ago called The Next Day - his first recording in a decade which was made in secret in New York City. Blackstar, which earned positive reviews from critics, represented yet another stylistic shift, as he gathered jazz players to join him.
January 10 2016 - David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle... https://t.co/ENRSiT43Zy— David Bowie Official (@DavidBowieReal) January 11, 2016
Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter.com/Kh2fq3tf9m— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016
He released a music video on Friday for the new song "Lazarus," which shows a frail Bowie lying in bed and singing the track's lyrics. The song begins with the line: "Look up here, I'm in heaven."
Tributes poured in for the singer after the announcement of his death. British astronaut Tim Peake tweeted about his sadness from outer space aboard the International Space Station, saying ``his music was an inspiration to many."
Bowie felt uneasy about some of his greatest material, once embarking on a "greatest hits" tour saying it would be the last time performing much of his old material. He later relented, however.
I can't party anymore after hearing that David Bowie has passed away. He'll always be remembered. May he rest in peace.— Michael Fassbender (@Sharky_Fassy) January 11, 2016
Please could every radio station around the globe just play David Bowie music today - I think the world owes him that.— Eddie Izzard (@eddieizzard) January 11, 2016
Nearly brought to tears by sudden news of @DavidBowieReal David Bowie's passing RIP— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) January 11, 2016
I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 11, 2016
David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 11, 2016
David Bowie, you will be sorely missed. Bowie's “Changes” and the Ziggy story songs were a major influence for me. pic.twitter.com/N1nkD9h82W— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) January 11, 2016
I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 11, 2016
"I'm not a natural performer," he said in the 2002 interview. "I don't enjoy performing terribly much. Never have. I can do it and, if my mind's on the situation, do it quite well. But five or six shows in, I'm dying to get off the road and go back into the studio."
Bowie was married twice, to the actress and model Mary Angela "Angie" Barnett from 1970-80, and to international supermodel Iman since 1992. He had two children, Duncan Jones and Alexandria Zahra Jones, one with each wife.
TRIBUTES FLOW IN FROM AROUND THE GLOBE – AND BEYOND
Celebrities and fans alike have shared their grief over the passing of Bowie, who left a legacy of pioneering musicianship and ground-breaking lyrics dating back almost half a century.
Australian actor Russell Crowe, referencing one of Bowie's better-known singles which featured on album Pin Ups (1973), wrote: "RIP David. I loved your music. I loved you. One of the greatest performance artists to have ever lived. #sorrow"
British astronaut Tim Peake tweeted his sadness from outer space aboard the International Space Station. "Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many," he wrote.
Rapper Kanye West hailed Bowie as one of his "most important inspirations", and said he gave the world "magic for a lifetime".
Comedian and writer Eddie Izzard said: "Very sad to hear about the death of David Bowie but through his music he will live forever."
He added: "Please could every radio station around the globe just play David Bowie music today – I think the world owes him that."
Pop-rock guitarist Joel Madden, quoting Changes, simply wrote: "Turn and face the strange."
Actor Mark Ruffalo posted: "Rip Father of all us freaks. Sad sad day. Love always Legendary singer David Bowie dies at 69."
And British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose musical tastes are well documented, also offered his condolences.
He said: "I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss."
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, in Brixton, south London, to mother Margaret "Peggy", a waitress, and charity worker Haywood "John" Jones. His musical talent was clear from an early age.
He picked up the saxophone at 13 and had his first taste for rock music through the record collection of his older brother, Terry.
Bowie began his music career in the R&B boom of the early Sixties. He shot to fame in Europe with 1969's Space Oddity.
Citing influences from Elvis Presley to Andy Warhol, Bowie was trained in mime and the fine arts, and also played the guitar, harmonica and piano.
With his sylphlike body, chalk-white skin, jagged teeth and eyes that appeared to be two different colours, Bowie combined sexual energy with fluid dance moves and a theatrical charisma that mesmerised male and female admirers alike.
His breakthrough came in 1972 with the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, in which the innovative musician imagined the archetypal rock star as a space alien.
He experimented with rock, pop, soul, dance, punk and electronica throughout his decades long career, nabbing his first US No 1 single in 1975 with Fame from the Top 10 album Young Americans.
He had some of his biggest successes in the early 1980s with Let's Dance, and a massive American tour.
The chameleon entertainer made his mark on the big screen with memorable performances on film, including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983) and Labyrinth (1986).
"My entire career, I've only really worked with the same subject matter," Bowie told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I've always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety – all of the high points of one's life."
Bowie kept a low profile in recent years after reportedly suffering a heart attack in the 2000s. He made a surprise comeback in 2013 when he suddenly released a new single on his 66th birthday with an album, The Next Day, out just weeks later – his first for 10 years.
The recently-released Blackstar, which earned positive reviews from critics, represented yet another stylistic shift, as he gathered jazz players to join him.
What's your fondest Bowie moment or favourite song? Tell us in the comments.
- Stuff, Agencies