David Bowie's disappearance eight years ago was swift and sudden. He had worked pretty consistently from the mid-Sixties up through the world tour for 2003's Reality, which was cut short when he had to undergo emergency heart surgery in 2004. He made a few onstage appearances after that, guesting at David Gilmour and Alicia Keys gigs, but a 2007 comeback show in New York was called off with little notice. Bowie's near-silence since then has led some fans to speculate (without much evidence) about further health problems. "I'm not thinking of touring," he told the New York Times in June 2010. "I'm fine." That short quote is pretty much the extent of Bowie's public comments about his retirement. While he's often photographed walking around New York City looking just fine, there is no hint of any upcoming activity.
Barrett Scale: 6. Bowie has apparently ceased all recording and concert activity, and he largely avoids the press. But he continues to live in New York, where he attends the occasional concert and even appears at fashion and charity events with his wife, Iman. It's hard to be a true recluse while you're posing for red carpet photos with your supermodel spouse. Still, Bowie has gone remarkably quiet on the music front. "Bring Me the Disco King," the final song on his final album to date, seems prescient in retrospect: "Close me in the dark/let me disappear/Soon there'll be nothing left of me/Nothing left to release."