David Bowie, whose career and influence spanned more than half a century and whose latest album, Blackstar, was receiving some of his best ever reviews, has died aged 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer.
Bowie’s death, which was initially thought to be a hoax, was confirmed by his son, film director Duncan Jones and his manager Steve Martin. It was also confirmed in a Facebook post on the singer’s official page: “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Martin told the Reuters news agency: “It’s not a hoax.”
Tributes were pouring in on social media to the performer. Ricky Gervais, the comedian and actor, who convinced the famously private Bowie to star as himself in an episode of the the 2006 sitcom Extras, wrote, ‘I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.’
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on 8 January 1947 in Brixton, south London, to Margaret “Peggy”, a waitress, and charity worker Haywood “John” Jones. After the family moved to southeast London, he graduated from Bromley technical high school at 16, forming a number of bands and led a group.
He called himself Davy Jones, later changing his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. He released three singles as a solo artist for Pye Records, and a debut album The World of David Bowie, however, success finally arrived when he released ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969, his first UK No 1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars in 1970 furthered his international success as he conquered the US market with his theatrical stage show.
Bowie produced albums for Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, as well as writing All the Young Dudes, which he gave to Mott The Hoople who had a massive hit with it. In the late 1970s he co-produced three albums with Brian Eno, which later became known as the Berlin trilogy.
Though the Ziggy Stardust persona was retired Bowie still enjoyed successful albums including Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Pin Ups. The soul-inspired Young Americans in 1975 and produced his first US No.1 with the collaboration with John Lennon on the song ‘Fame.’
Apart from ‘Space Oddity,’ his hit songs included ‘Star Man,’ ‘John, I’m Only Dancing, ‘Changes,’‘The Jean Genie,’ ‘Rebel Rebel,’ ‘Young Americans,’ ‘Suffragette City,’ ‘Ashes To Ashes,’ ‘Scary Monsters,’ ‘China Girl,’ ‘Under Pressure,’ (with Queen), ‘Heroes,’ ‘Modern Love,’ ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Dancing In The Street’ with Mick Jagger.’ Hius duet with Bing Crosby on ‘Little Drummer Boy’ became a Top 5 hit in the UK and he also became part of the band Tin Machine with Reeves Gabrels and Tony Sales and Hunt Sales.
Bowie also pursued an acting career in such films as Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ and Absolute Beginners. More recently, he also appeared as himself in the film Zoolander.
Bowie married model Iman in 1992, with whom he had a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, and the following year settled in New York. He continued to record and tour until 2003, when he released Reality, his 23rd album, which many assumed to be his last.
Bowie released 25 albums plus and his last performance was at a charity show in New York in 2006 – and an acting role in the film Prestige the same year.
Bowie’s final single ‘Lazarus,’ from the new album Blackstar, contains the line , ‘Look up here I am in heaven.’
British Prime Minister David Cameron 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.”