David Bowie dies of cancer aged 69

Media caption,
The many faces of David Bowie

Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, has died of cancer at the age of 69.

A statement was issued on his social media accounts, saying he "died peacefully, surrounded by his family" after an "18-month battle with cancer".

Tributes have been paid from around the world to the "extraordinary artist" whose last album was released days ago.

Sir Paul McCartney described him as a "great star" who "played a very strong part in British musical history".

Bowie's son Duncan Jones, who is a Bafta-winning film director, wrote on Twitter: "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Crowds of fans have gathered in tribute to Bowie at a mural in his birthplace of Brixton, south London painted by street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C

The artist's hits include Let's Dance, Changes, Space Oddity, Starman, Modern Love, Heroes, Under Pressure, Rebel Rebel and Life on Mars.

He was also well known for creating his flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

The singer, who had been living in New York in recent years, released his latest album Blackstar only last Friday, his birthday.

The album has been well received by critics and was intended as a "parting gift" to the world, according to long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti.

Visconti wrote on Facebook: "His death was no different from his life - a work of art."

He added: "He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us."

Blackstar is on course to be number one in the UK this Friday, according to the Official Charts Company, with combined sales of more than 43,000.

Hundreds of fans have gathered in his birthplace of Brixton, south London, to pay tribute to the singer, laying flowers and candles at his mural and taking part in an impromptu sing-along of his hits.

There have also been crowds outside his New York home and in Berlin where he lived in the late 1970s.

David Bowie in numbers

In a career spanning 51 years


estimated net worth*

  • 140 million albums sold since his first release in 1967

  • 111 singles - averaging more than two a year during his career

  • 51 music videos, along with a number of film roles including The Man Who Fell to Earth and Labyrinth

  • 25 studio albums, including Blackstar, which was released two days before his death


Sir Paul McCartney said he would "always remember the great laughs" the pair shared, saying in a statement: "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."

Friend and collaborator Brian Eno said: "David's death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. I feel a huge gap now."

'Light of my life'

The Rolling Stones paid tribute to "an extraordinary artist" and a "true original".

Brian May, guitarist with Queen - with whom Bowie collaborated on Under Pressure - described him as "a fearsome talent".

Friend and collaborator Iggy Pop wrote on Twitter: "David's friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is."

Madonna said she was "devastated", writing on Facebook that Bowie "changed the course" of her life after she saw him perform - her first ever concert.

"I found him so inspiring and innovative," she wrote. "Unique and provocative. A real genius."

Media caption,
David Bowie spoke about music, drugs, and the internet in this BBC interview in 2000

Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, who convinced Bowie to star as himself and ridicule Gervais in an episode of 2006 sitcom Extras, simply wrote: "I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie."

Midge Ure, who helped organise the Live Aid concert in 1985 - at which Bowie performed - said: "He wasn't just a brilliant songwriter and an amazing creator, he excelled at everything."

Will Gompertz, BBC Arts editor

David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist.

Along with the Beatles, Stones and Elvis Presley, Bowie defined what pop music could and should be. He brought art to the pop party, infusing his music and performances with the avant-garde ideas of Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Andy Warhol.

He turned pop in a new direction in 1972 with the introduction of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Glam rock was the starting point, but Ziggy was much more than an eyeliner-wearing maverick: he was a truly theatrical character that at once harked backed to pre-War European theatre while anticipating 1980s androgyny and today's discussions around a transgender spectrum.

He was a great singer, songwriter, performer, actor, producer and collaborator. But beyond all that, at the very heart of the matter, David Bowie was quite simply - quite extraordinarily - cool.

Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station who recorded a video of a version of Space Oddity during his final mission, said his "brilliance inspired us all".

Yoko Ono said Bowie was "as close as family" for her and late husband John Lennon, describing him as a "father figure" for their son Sean.

Image source, 2016: mark.harward53@hotmail.com
Image caption,
This picture, showing Bowie performing on saxophone at a youth club at Biggin Hill in May 1963, is believed to be one of the first images of him on stage

Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, south London, on 8 January in 1947. He changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees' Davy Jones achieved stardom.

He was in several bands before he signed with Mercury Records, which released his album Space Oddity in 1969, with the title track becoming his first UK number one.

His breakthrough came with 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Bowie performing at Live Aid alongside Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Bob Geldof

Mark Savage, BBC Music reporter

David Bowie changed music forever. Throughout his career, he reinvented not just his sound but his persona over and over again.

He was a proudly progressive composer, drawing on any genre that came to mind - from the hippy folk of Space Oddity to the crunching industrial rock of 1995's Outside album and his ambitious, jazz-flecked swansong Blackstar, released just last week.

His style shifted with the sands, but he was always recognisably David Bowie.

That powdery voice - vibrating off the back of his teeth - is unmistakable; while his impressionist lyrics had a constant theme - he was an outsider, an alien, a sexually ambiguous spectre.

Media caption,
In this archive documentary clip, David Bowie explained how he used 'cut ups' to create lyrics

Bowie also carved out a successful acting career, including his role as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976.

Other roles included Labyrinth, Cat People, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Hunger.

The late 1980s were dominated by Bowie's involvement with his new band, a postmodernist heavy metal outfit, Tin Machine.

The 1990s saw him flirting with drum-and-bass on the Earthling album, while his 2002 album Heathen saw a long-awaited return to form for the singer.

Image source, Photoshot
Image caption,
Bowie attended the Theatre Workshop in New York last month for the premiere of Lazarus

He headlined Glastonbury in 2000 - his first appearance there since 1971.

Festival founder Michael Eavis told the BBC: "He's one of the three greatest in the world, ever - Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and David Bowie. There's no-one else even close."

Bowie was thought to have suffered a heart attack in 2004, after which he largely stopped making public appearances. His last live performance was at a New York charity concert in 2006.

Media caption,
Was Lazarus David Bowie singing his own epitaph?

But after a decade without a studio album he released The Next Day in 2013, surprising fans who thought he had retired. It became his first UK number one for 20 years.

He co-wrote Lazarus, a musical featuring his songs and inspired by his role in The Man Who Fell to Earth, which opened in New York last month.

And a truncated version of Blackstar, the title track of his new album, appears as the theme music for the TV show The Last Panthers.

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