David Bowie, the chameleon-like singer-songwriter, considered by many one of the leading creative forces of the past four decades, died on Sunday, after an 18-month battle with cancer.
Mr. Bowie’s death, which came two days after his 69th birthday, was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin on Monday morning.
“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” read a post on his Facebook page.
Despite his illness, Mr. Bowie continued to work right through to the end. His last album, “Blackstar”, was released last Friday. His final work was a brilliant collaboration with a jazz quartet. Additionally, Mr. Bowie collaborated on Lazarus, an off-broadway sequel to his 1976 film role, “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
David Bowie was born David Jones, to a nightclub owner and a waitress in South London on January 8, 1947. He soon changed his name to David Bowie in an attempt to avoid confusion with Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees, who were enjoying their moment in the spotlight in the mid-60’s.
David Bowie was his generations standard-bearer for rock as theatre. In concerts and music videos, Mr. Bowie’s imagery pushed boundaries and traversed styles. He raised the bar for every arena concert that has followed. His onstage personas were numerous and equally captivating. Bowie was Major Tom, the astronaut in his 1969 hit “Space Oddity,” He was Ziggy Stardust, the psychedelic star of his 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” As the 1980’s ushered in the era of MTV, he became a pop sensation with hits like Ashes to Ashes and Let’s Dance.
Throughout an illustrious career, David Bowie earned the respect and admiration of hip-hop artists, rockers, punks, and classical composers. In their 1993 “MTV Unplugged in New York”, Nirvana sang Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”, the title song from Bowie’s 1970 hit album. His uncanny ability to reinvent his look and onstage persona paved the way for such artists as Madonna and Lady Gaga.
His creativity wasn’t limited to performing music on stage. Bowie played the lead in Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” In 1980 he played Joseph Merrick, the deformed lead in Broadway’s “The Elephant Man.” He played a vampire in the 1983 film “The Hunger”, the Goblin King in 1986’s “Labrynth”, Pontius Pilate in 1988’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” and Andy Warhol in 1996’s “Basquiat.” Bowie also enjoyed cameos on SpongeBob SquarePants, and played himself in the 2001 comedy hit “Zoolander”.
Despite the countless metamorphoses, Bowie’s voice and message remained instantly recognizable. He sang of carrying on despite the odds. Of turning and facing the strange. Of being an outsider looking in. His music served as an anthem for the downtrodden and misfits of the world. The one constant: empathy despite our differences.
Bowie is survived by his first wife Mary Angela Barnett and their son, film director Duncan Jones, as well as his wife of 23 years, supermodel Iman and their daughter Alexandria “Lexi” Zahara Jones.