David Bowie died peacefully Monday surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer.
His son, who directed Bafta-winning film Moon said, “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”
Today’s news is all the more shocking because David Bowie had recently emerged from suspended animation – revitalised and reinvigorated.
His two last albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, ranked with his best, the former celebrating his past and the latter casting forward to the future. The fact he won’t be there is heartbreaking.
Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, south London, on January 8, 1947. He changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom.
Bowie’s entire career has been a vanishing act. The son of a waitress and a nightclub owner, David Jones became David Bowie, who became Ziggy Stardust, who became Aladdin Sane, who became the Thin White Duke. All of them were fictitious. All of them became iconic.
In the 1970s, he was restless, flitting between musical styles and personas, producing Lou Reed and The Stooges, and taking up painting in Berlin. His every move sparked impersonators and inspired musical sub-genres. He was the first post-modern pop star.
He struggled to remain relevant in the 1980s and 90s, but he continued to push boundaries with the industrial rock of Outside and the drum and bass influenced Earthling. An enforced hiatus, prompted by an emergency angioplasty, took him out of the spotlight for most of the 2000s before that celebrated, unexpected comeback on his 66th birthday.
That late period of creativity may now be reassessed as the work of a musician who knew his time was running out. But it remains a fitting legacy for a man who subverted and reinvented pop time and time again.
His career spanned six decades.
He was in several bands before he signed with Mercury Records, which released his album Space Oddity in 1969, with the title track becoming his first U.K. No. 1. His breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist.
Along with the Beatles, Stones and Elvis Presley, Bowie defined what pop music could and should be. He brought art to the pop party, infusing his music and performances with the avant-garde ideas of Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Andy Warhol.
He turned pop in a new direction in 1972 with the introduction of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Glam rock was the starting point, but Ziggy was much more than an eyeliner-wearing maverick: he was a truly theatrical character that at once harked back to pre-War European theatre while anticipating 1980s androgyny and today’s discussions around a transgender spectrum.
He was a great singer, songwriter, performer, actor, producer and collaborator. But beyond all that, at the very heart of the matter, David Bowie was quite simply – quite extraordinarily – cool.
Tributes have been paid to Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, from around the world. Bowie’s hits include “Let’s Dance,” “Space Oddity,” “Starman,” “Modern Love,” “Heroes,” “Under Pressure,” “Rebel,” and “Life on Mars.”
The singer, who had been living in New York in recent years, only released his latest album Blackstar on his birthday on Friday. The album, which includes just seven songs, has been well received by critics.
Bowie’s long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti wrote on Facebook: “His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us.”
Friend and collaborator Iggy Pop wrote on Twitter: “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”
Madonna said she was “devastated” and that Bowie had “changed her life.” She wrote on Twitter: “Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”
Rapper Kanye West said: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”