Cancer claims music legend Davie Bowie, 69

Entertainer David Bowie sings at the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Music Awards in New York July 24, 2000. REUTERS/File

Entertainer David Bowie sings at the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Music Awards in New York July 24, 2000. REUTERS/File

By Paul Sandle and Guy Faulconbridge
January 11, 2016

LONDON (Reuters) – David Bowie, the visionary British rock star who framed hits such as “Space Oddity” with flamboyant pop personas like “Ziggy Stardust” and androgynous displays of sexuality, has died aged 69 after a secret battle with cancer.

A pioneering chameleon of performance imagery, Bowie straddled the worlds of hedonistic rock, fashion and drama for five decades, pushing the boundaries of music and his own sanity to produce some of the most innovative songs of his generation.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” read a statement on Bowie’s Facebook page dated Jan. 10. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, confirmed the death.

A spokesman for Bowie said he died on Sunday but declined to say where he died or from what type of cancer.

Mourners laid flowers and lit candles beside a memorial to Bowie in the edgy Brixton district of south London where he was born. Tributes poured in from titans of popular music, including the Rolling Stones, Madonna and rapper Kanye West.

“The Rolling Stones are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend David Bowie,” the Stones said. “He was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”

Madonna said on Twitter: “Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had grown up with Bowie’s music and described his death as “a huge loss”. The Vatican said: “Check ignition and may God’s love be with you” – borrowing a verse from Bowie’s first hit “Space Oddity”.

In a music video accompanying Bowie’s new, jazzy “Blackstar£ album, released on his 69th birthday last Friday, the singer was shown in a hospital bed with bandages around his eyes.

Born David Jones in south London two years after the end of World War Two, he took up the saxophone at 13 before changing his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees’ Davy Jones, according to Rolling Stone.

He shot to fame in Britain in 1969 with “Space Oddity”, whose words he said were inspired by watching Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” while stoned.

Bowie’s haunting lyrics summed up the loneliness of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union and coincided with the Apollo spacecraft landing on the moon.

“Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on … For here am I sitting in my tin can. Far above the world. Planet Earth is blue. And there’s nothing I can do.”

David Bowie performs his North American debut of "A Reality Tour" in Montreal, December 13, 2003. Bowie kicked off his first North American concert series in eight years after battling the flu for a week and canceling several shows. REUTERS/File

David Bowie performs his North American debut of “A Reality Tour” in Montreal, December 13, 2003. Bowie kicked off his first North American concert series in eight years after battling the flu for a week and canceling several shows. REUTERS/File

“SPACE ODDITY ZIGGY”

But it was Bowie’s 1972 portrayal of a doomed bisexual rock envoy from space, Ziggy Stardust, that propelled him to global stardom. Bowie and Ziggy, wearing outrageous costumes, makeup and bright orange hair, took the pop world by storm.

He defined the theatrical glam rock movement with the albums “Hunky Dory”, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, and “Aladdin Sane”.

“Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,” Bowie sang with a red lightning bolt across his face and flamboyant jumpsuits. “Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind, like a leper messiah.”

By now an influential icon of artistic reinvention venturing into the theatre, film and fashion worlds, Bowie continued to innovate, helping produce Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” album, delving into American rhythm & blues and co-writing the hit “Fame” with John Lennon.

This was a period which saw Bowie sporting an array of fantastic costumes, some reportedly based on the chilling Kubrick movie “A Clockwork Orange”.

“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 said in a rare interview in 2002.

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way,” said Tony Visconti, the U.S. producer who helped lift Bowie to stardom.

“He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry,” he said.

Ever ahead of public opinion, Bowie told the Melody Maker newspaper in 1972 that he was gay, a step that helped pioneer sexual openness in Britain, which had only decriminalised homosexuality in 1967. Bowie had married in 1970.

Four years later, he informed Playboy that he was bisexual, but in the 1980s he told Rolling Stone magazine that the declaration was “the biggest mistake I ever made” and that he was “always a closet heterosexual”.

Flowers and lit candles are pictured next to a portrait of David Bowie outside the apartment house where he was living in 1976-78 in Berlin's Schoeneberg district, Germany, January 11, 2016. David Bowie, a music legend who used daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes to frame legendary rock hits "Ziggy Stardust" and "Space Oddity", has died of cancer aged 69. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Flowers and lit candles are pictured next to a portrait of David Bowie outside the apartment house where he was living in 1976-78 in Berlin’s Schoeneberg district, Germany, January 11, 2016. David Bowie, a music legend who used daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes to frame legendary rock hits “Ziggy Stardust” and “Space Oddity”, has died of cancer aged 69. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“LET’S DANCE”

Bowie went through another metamorphosis in the mid-seventies, adopting a soul and funk sound, and abandoning stack heels for designer suits and flat shoes.

He scored his first U.S. number one with “Fame” and created a new persona, the “Thin White Duke”, for his “Station to Station” album.

But the excesses of a hedonistic life were taking their toll. In a reference to his prodigious appetite for cocaine, he said: ““I blew my nose one day in California. “And half my brains came out. Something had to be done.”

Bowie moved from the United States to Switzerland and then to Cold War-era Berlin to recuperate, working with Brian Eno from Roxy Music to produce some of his least commercial and most ambitious music, including ““Low” and “”Heroes” in 1977.

He scored a big hit with funk dance track “Fashion” in 1980.

In 1983 Bowie changed tack again, signing a multi-million-dollar five-album deal with EMI. The first, “”Let’s Dance”, returned him to chart success and almost paid off his advance.

“If you say run, I’ll run with you. If you say hide, we’ll hide. Because my love for you. Would break my heart in two,” he sang in Let’s Dance.

He starred on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” at the start of the decade and appeared in an array of films including “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence”, “The Snowman”, “Absolute Beginners” and as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

His love-life fascinated gossip columnists and his marriage to Somali-American supermodel Iman in 1992 guaranteed headlines.

Bowie kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004. It was not widely known that he was fighting cancer.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings from a hospital bed in the video accompanying his last album.

“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.”

(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright Reuters 2016

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(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Related on Facts and Opinions: David Bowie, an extraordinary innovator, by Mike Jones

Two women react at a mural of David Bowie in Brixton, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Two women react at a mural of David Bowie in Brixton, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) – Even before David Bowie’s death from cancer was announced, the music legend had secured another Number 1 chart hit in Britain with his new Blackstar album.

Bowie, who framed hits such as “Ziggy Stardust” with daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes, died aged 69 on Sunday.

“As the sad news of David Bowie’s death broke this morning, the iconic singer’s new album Blackstar is charging to Number 1 this week,” OfficialCharts.com said in a statement.

“The legendary star’s 25th studio collection takes an early lead on today’s Official Albums Chart Update with combined sales so far of 43,000 – 25,000 ahead of his closest competitor.”

Sales details since the announcement of his death will not be reflected in the charts data until at least Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.

On Amazon’s UK website, Blackstar was the Number 1 “best seller” while Apple iTunes said a collection of Bowie’s greatest hits was the fifth-best selling album.

“Blackstar”, co-produced by Bowie’s long-time collaborator Tony Visconti, features only seven songs, but critics praised the latest work, with Britain’s Guardian newspaper calling it “a spellbinding break with (Bowie’s) past”.

The album is part jazz but full of what NME describes as “warped showtunes, skronking industrial rock, soulful balladeering, airy folk-pop, even hip-hop”.

In a video accompanying the Blackstar album, which was released on his 69th birthday last Friday, the singer was shown in a hospital bed with bandages around his eyes.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings from a hospital bed in the video accompanying the album.

“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Related on Facts and Opinions: David Bowie, an extraordinary innovator, by Mike Jones

A man walks past a painting of David Bowie of shop sutters in Brixton market, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A man walks past a painting of David Bowie of shop sutters in Brixton market, south London, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) – From the International Space Station to the Vatican, tributes poured in on Monday for rock legend David Bowie following his death at 69 from cancer.

Taking to social media as well as in statements, music world collaborators and fans praised Bowie’s groundbreaking oeuvre and offered their own recollections of the singer, known for a string of hits such as “Space Oddity” and “Let’s Dance”.

Below are some of the tributes to Bowie, who released his last album “Blackstar” on Friday, also his birthday:

DUNCAN JONES, BOWIE’S SON, POSTING A PICTURE OF THE SINGER ON TWITTER:

“Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

TONY VISCONTI, MUSIC PRODUCER AND LONG-TERM BOWIE COLLABORATOR:

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. 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. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

THE ROLLING STONES’ OFFICIAL TWITTER ACCOUNT:

“The Rolling Stones are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend David Bowie. As well as being a wonderful and kind man, he was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”

QUEEN OFFICIAL TWITTER ACCOUNT, POSTING A VIDEO OF “UNDER PRESSURE”:

“This is our last dance…”

QUEEN DRUMMER ROGER TAYLOR:

“David Bowie: The cleverest and most interestingly brilliant man of our time. What a vacuum he leaves, and how he will be missed. Roger”

IGGY POP, SINGER:

“David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”

PAUL MCCARTNEY, SINGER:

“David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world … His star will shine in the sky forever.”

JIMMY PAGE, FORMER LED ZEPPELIN LEAD GUITARIST:

“Bowie was an innovator, a unique artist with a vision that changed the face of popular music. He is greatly missed.”

GARY KEMP, ACTOR AND SPANDAU BALLET MEMBER:

“Shocked to the core.”

“It feels as if the world has suddenly gone out of joint.”

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:

“I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of reinvention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.”

MADONNA, SINGER:

“Im Devastated! This great Artist changed my life! First concert i ever saw in Detroit! R.I.P.”

KANYE WEST, RAPPER:

“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

GIANFRANCO RAVASI, CARDINAL AND HEAD OF THE VATICAN’S CULTURE COUNCIL, QUOTING “SPACE ODDITY” LYRICS:

“Ground Control to Major Tom

Commencing countdown, engines on

Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”

TIM PEAKE, BRITISH ASTRONAUT, CURRENTLY ONBOARD INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION:

“Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many.”

RICKY GERVAIS, COMEDIAN:

“I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”

GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE ON TWITTER:

“Goodbye, David Bowie. You are now among Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the (Berlin) Wall.”

GENE SIMMONS, ex-KISS FRONTMAN AND ROCK SINGER:

“David Bowie, you will be sorely missed. Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and the Ziggy story songs were a major influence for me.”

URI GELLER, CELEBRITY PSYCHIC:

“I was profoundly impressed by his deep understanding of mysticism, the mysterious and the universe. There is no doubt in my mind that David believed in Heaven.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Editing by Gareth Jones/Mark Heinrich)

Related on Facts and Opinions: David Bowie, an extraordinary innovator, by Mike Jones

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