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 and cited him as an influence include Nirvana, Joan Jett, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Arcade Fire, Oasis, Ozzy Osbourne, Morrissey, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Bauhaus and 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.”
“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.”
The singer had kept his cancer diagnosis secret, even to some of his closest friends. Ivo van Hove, who directed Bowie’s off-Broadway play Lazarus, said, though, that the singer had told him early on that he was battling liver cancer and would not be able to attend all of the rehearsals. “Bowie was still writing on his deathbed, you could say,” van Hove told NPO Radio 4, via DutchNews.nl. “I saw a man fighting. He fought like a lion and kept working like a lion through it all. I had incredible respect for that.”
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. A fight with a classmate when he was young left the singer with a permanently dilated left pupil. He began learning saxophone at age 13 and attended a high school that would prepare him for a career as a commercial artist. By 20, he had spent time at a Buddhist monastery in Scotland and dabbled in theatrical troupes.
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. Bowie 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.
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