It was today announced that musician David Bowie has died, aged 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer. Credited with having carried pop music forward in innovative new ways, especially during his Seventies heyday, Bowie leaves behind a long legacy that has seen tributes to his creativity and musicianship pouring in across social media.
The news of his death comes as his recently released album, Blackstar, continues to garner critical acclaim. The singer’s publicist announced his passing on the David Bowie website this morning: “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer,” the message read. “While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Born David Robert Jones in 1947 in Brixton, London, David Bowie released his second album in 1969, showcasing a psychedelic sound that was epitomised by notable chart hit ‘Space Oddity’. But it wasn’t until the release of Hunky Dory in 1973 that he began to cement himself as not only the leading face of glam rock but also a serious musical innovator. The universally loved Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust followed, catapulting Bowie into the realms of fame, with audiences and critics intrigued and amazed by the creation of his androgynous on-stage alter-ego Ziggy Stardust. However, in true Bowie style, and much to the dismay of his fans, the singer ‘killed’ Ziggy at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on the last gig of his 1973 tour.
Following the success of his early-seventies albums Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane – which spawned huge hits including ‘Life On Mars’, ‘Changes’, ‘Starman’, ‘Jean Genie’ and ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ – Bowie moved in a new direction, drawing from soul and funk and, in 1976, creating a new persona called the Thin White Duke. This era produced well-known songs such as ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Diamond Dogs’ and his first US number one, ‘Fame’, co-written with John Lennon.
With drug addiction marring his ability to work creatively, Bowie moved to West Berlin in the mid-Seventies, in an attempt to get clean and release new work. Working with Brian Eno and Iggy Pop, this period saw the musician release three ground-breaking albums of Cold War-influenced material – later referred to as the Berlin Trilogy. The first album, Low (1977), harnessed the influence of Krautrock, and that same year Heroes offered up more pop/rock-oriented but still minimalist tracks, including the single of the same name. Lodger, the final album of the trilogy, released in 1979, avoided the ambience of its predecessors, returning to guitar-based rock for a sound that combined new wave and world music.
At the beginning of the new decade, Bowie moved into pop territory, embracing the advance of new wave but alienating many of his original UK fans in the process. Throughout the Eighties he released albums to much critical acclaim, spawning massive dancefloor-friendly hits like ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Modern Love’ and, with Queen, ‘Under Pressure’.
The Nineties saw Bowie continue to innovate, exploring the realms of electronica and working with previous collaborators Niles Rogers (of disco pioneers Chic) and Brian Eno. A string of albums saw the singer incorporating everything from drum ‘n’ bass to industrial, collaborating with the likes of Trent Reznor and touring with Reznor’s band, Nine Inch Nails.
After a heart attack in 2004, Bowie reduced his musical output, but continued with smaller projects behind the scenes. He made a surprise return to music with his 2013 comeback album, The Next Day, which entered the UK album charts at number one. His new album, Blackstar, was released on Friday the 8th of January, just two days prior to his death, and according to The Times newspaper “may be the oddest work yet from Bowie”.
Forever an innovator, a true creative, and a powerful force in the worlds of music, art, film and fashion, David Bowie and his unique legacy will no doubt continue to inspire, influence and surprise.