David Bowie Dead at 69
David Bowie, the legendary singer-songwriter and actor, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.
The artist’s Facebook page announced the news, with the singer’s rep confirming his death to Rolling Stone. “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” the statement read. “While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
One of the most original and singular voices in rock & roll for nearly five decades, Bowie championed mystery, rebellion and curiosity in his music. Ever unpredictable, the mercurial artist and fashion icon wore many guises throughout his life. Beginning life as a dissident folk-rock spaceman, he would become an androgynous, orange-haired, glam-rock alien (Ziggy Stardust), a well-dressed, blue-eyed funk maestro (the Thin White Duke), a drug-loving art rocker (the Berlin albums), a new-wave hit-maker, a hard rocker, a techno enthusiast and a jazz impressionist. His flair for theatricality won him a legion of fans.
Along the way, he charted the hits “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Fame,” “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance” and “Where Are We Now?” among many others. Accordingly, his impact on the music world has been immeasurable. Artists who have covered Bowie’s songs include Joan Jett, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Arcade Fire, Oasis, Ozzy Osbourne, Morrissey, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bauhaus, Nine Inch Nails.
Bowie’s son, Duncan, tweeted a photo of his father holding him early Monday morning and wrote, “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true.” The singer’s frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, tweeted, “Words cannot express.”
“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime,” Kanye West wrote on Twitter. “I pray for his friends and family.”
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8th, 1947 in a working-class London suburb. His father, Heywood Jones, worked in promotions for a charity that benefitted children and his mother, Margaret Mary Jones, was a waitress. He began learning saxophone at age 13 and attended a high school that would prepare him for a career as a commercial artist. Once he began focusing on music, he played with groups like the King Bees, the Manish Boys (who once recorded with Jimmy Page) and Davey Jones and the Lower Third. He took on the Bowie pseudonym – after the knife – in an effort to prevent confusion with Monkees singer Davy Jones. He put out a folky self-titled album in 1967, but it charted poorly in the U.K. and not at all in the U.S. That would change with his next release.
With Space Oddity, whose dramatic title track told the story of ill-fated astronaut Major Tom, he had a hit. The song hit Number One in the U.K. and Number 15 in the States, and the album made it to the Top 20 in both countries. Each album he released thereafter offered a new glimpse at his genius, whether on the glam-rock of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, the art-rock of Low or the adventurism of his surprise 2012 comeback album The Next Day.
Two days before his death, the singer released ★ (pronounced Blackstar). The record reflected the ever-evolving, chameleonic artist’s interest in jazz and hip-hop. “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” producer Tony Visconti said of the recording sessions. “We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll.”
Bowie also enjoyed a long career as an actor, with memorable roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, The Hunger, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and The Prestige, among others. His latest theatrical venture was Lazarus, an off-Broadway musical that continued the story of his character in The Man Who Fell to Earth with songs from throughout his career and originals.
This is a developing story and will be updated frequently.