British rock legend, David Bowie, whose career spanned more than half a century and whose influence transcended music, fashion and sexuality, has died aged 69.
His death was confirmed in a Facebook post on his official page: “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Writing on Twitter, Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, 44, confirmed the news, and his publicist Steve Martin also verified Bowie’s death.
The singer’s latest album, Blackstar, was released last week to coincide with his 69th birthday, and had received widespread critical acclaim.
The news came as a shock to some. Martin told the Reuters news agency: “It’s not a hoax.”
Tributes were paid on social media to the performer, who was known for hits such as Changes, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
Rapper Kanye West said: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
Bowie released 25 albums in his career and also acted in several films. He was known for his experimentation across diverse musical genres, and for his alter egos as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke.
Blackstar, released last Friday, did not, contrary to custom, feature a picture of him on the album cover, but rather a black star. A dark work, its symbolism suggests he was saying goodbye, particularly the track Lazarus and Blackstar video, which opens with the image of a dead spaceman.
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on 8 January 1947 in Brixton, south London, to mother Margaret “Peggy”, a waitress, and charity worker Haywood “John” Jones. His older brother’s record collection introduced him to rock music at an early age.
After the family moved to southeast London, he graduated from Bromley technical high school at 16, forming a number of bands and led a group. He called himself Davy Jones, laterchanginghis name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. The name was reportedly inspired by a knife developed by the 19th century American pioneer Jim Bowie.
He released three singles as a solo artist for Pye Records, and a debut album The World of David Bowie, but did not achieve huge success and retreated to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland in 1967.
On returning to London, he started arts troupe Feathers in 1968, then helped create the Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969 before releasing Space Oddity later than year which was his first UK No 1. The release the following year of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars made him an international star as he conquered the US with his theatrical stage show.
He produced albums for Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, as well as writing All the Young Dudes, which he gave to Mott The Hoople who had a massive hit with it. In the late 1970s he produced a three-album collaboration with Brian Eno known as the Berlin trilogy.
He found chart success with songs such as Let’s Dance and the Queen collaboration Under Pressure.
He combined his rock career with appearances in films. Bowie’s acting career took off with his performance in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, followed by roles in films such as Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ and Absolute Beginners. More recently, he appeared as himself in the film Zoolander.
Though he officially retired Ziggy Stardust, making the announcement during a London gig, the hits kept coming with albums including Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Pin Ups.
He changed direction with the soul-inspired Young Americans. His first US No 1 was a collaboration with John Lennon on Fame, which topped the charts in 1975.
He continued to sell millions of albums and pack out stadiums with the rise of the New Romantic scene in 1980s Britain.
In 1970 he married Angie Bowie, and the couple had a son named Zowie Bowie, now known as Duncan Jones. They split in 1980.
Bowie married model Iman in 1992, with whom he had a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, now 15, and the following year settled in New York. He continued to record and tour until 2003, when he released Reality, his 23rd album, which many assumed to be his last.
In recent years there were a few low-key live appearances – his last at a charity show in New York in 2006 when he performed alongside Alicia Keys. – and an acting role in the film Prestige the same year.
In a rare interview in 2002, he explained: “My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter. The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety, all of the high points of one’s life.”