- David Bowie has died 18 months after battling cancer
- His latest album, Blackstar, was released just last week
- IN PICTURES: David Bowie’s incredible life
- Fans and celebrities pay tribute to the rock legend
MUSIC pioneer David Bowie has died two days after his 69th birthday.
Bowie’s publicist revealed the surprise news that the reclusive musician had lost his battle with cancer.
Bowie released his 25th album, Blackstar, on Friday.
The statement read “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.”
Many fans hoped Bowie’s social media had been hacked, or that the musical chameleon was pulling off an elaborate stunt.
Alas, his film director son Duncan Jones tweeted a photo of he and his father with the caption “very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”
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The secrecy Bowie thrived on meant he kept his illness private, with the singer rarely spotted in public over the last decade.
While rumours of illness had surrounded him over the past few years, the respect Bowie earned meant that those in his inner sanctum kept even his return to making music quiet, let alone any news of his health.
Blackstar has received rave reviews and has been neck and neck with Adele’s 25 since release.
Tragically, his death could see him score a posthumous No. 1 this week.
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Bowie was hailed a “genius” by Molly Meldrum, who befriended the singer in the late `60s and remained in contact over the years.
Madonna said Bowie was the first concert she saw and said “this great artist changed my life. Unique. Genius. Game Changer.”
Bowie had become a virtual reclusive before the surprise release of 2013’s The Next Day album, his first release in over a decade.
Bowie did no interviews or promotion for the album and declined offers to tour. Blackstar was released with similar silence from Bowie, who did make a video for the title track and new single Lazarus.
He’d given up touring, with his last Australian tour taking place in 2004, which was his first visit here since 1987.
Promoter Paul Dainty, who toured Bowie several times in Australia and New Zealand, hailed the musician’s personality.
“He was one of the nicest people in the industry. When you combine amazing talent with such a nice guy, it’s hard to imagine, it puts a smile on my face thinking about that. He came from that generation of gentlemen. He was always a gentleman.”
Dainty remembers Bowie insisting a concert at Kooyong, due to be cancelled due to horrendous weather, go ahead.
“He was an absolute professional through and through,” Dainty said. “His fanbase aren’t transient and his fans from the `70s are still fans today.”
His last stage appearance was in 2006 at a charity show in New York.
Bowie suffered heart problems in 2004 and had an emergency angioplasty and never returned to life on the road, despite lucrative offers to tour again.
Last year Melbourne hosted the David Bowie Is exhibition, selling over 200,000 tickets and uniting generations of Bowie fans.
Bowie filmed the videos for Let’s Dance and China Girl in Australia, both came from 1983’s Let’s Dance album, his most successful album.
Bowie started his career under his real name, David Jones, in 1964. His breakthrough came with 1969’s Space Oddity single. In 1972 Bowie’s career took a new turn with a string of influential singles including Starman, The Jean Genie, Life on Mars?, Sorrow, Rebel Rebel, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans Fame, Golden Years, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Under Pressure, Cat People and Modern Love.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bowie would constantly reinvent his sound and image, often self-sabotaging commercial success to take musical risks and shying away from nostalgia.
Bowie’s first wife Angie is a housemate on the new British Celebrity Big Brother which started this week.
She has revealed she is estranged from their son Duncan (born Zowie Bowie).
Bowie married model Iman in 1992, the two have been together ever since, with their daughter Lexie born in 2000.
Aside from music Bowie also made many movie and TV appearances, including The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ, Basquiat (playing Andy Warhol) and in 2006 appeared in Ricky Gervais’ Extras.
Dainty said Bowie had put playing the Opera House on his personal bucket list.
“One night after a massive tour we were staying at a hotel which overlooks the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” Dainty said. “Let’s do that, he said. It’s the one box I haven’t ticked.”
Smuggling one of the world’s biggest pop stars through the bottle-o of the Coogee Bay Hotel isn’t for the faint hearted, but music industry veteran and Bowie Down Under archivist Bruce Butler said it was one of his fondest memories of the pop icon.
“I had the audacity to call the hotel where he was staying in Sydney while he was filming clips for Lets Dance and China Girl, and invited him to come to a Psychedelic Furs gig,” he said.
“I left a message and didn’t expect much, but a minder called me back, asking what the security arrangements would be.
“I said we could sneak him backstage through the drive through bottle shop at the back and before you know, there was his limo waiting for us.
“Out he popped with his minder and a date, and we watched the gig backstage together.”
Butler provided Australian memorabilia for ACMI’s David Bowie Is… exhibit last year. He said the world had lost a true artist.
“Fashion, music, art, theatre, mime… at 69 he was still pushing boundaries. We’re all in shock.”
With Brianna Travers