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Tributes flow for David Bowie

Richard Watts

Musician David Bowie has died aged 69, days after releasing his final album.
Tributes flow for David Bowie

David Bowie, Chicago, 2002​. Photo by Adam Bielawski via Wikipedia.

David Bowie, born David Robert Jones in January 1947, has died after an 18 month battle with cancer.

His death was confirmed by statements on his official social media ​accounts on Monday evening Australian time, though initially fans and others hoped the reports were faked by hackers.

'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,' the statement read.

His son, filmmaker Duncan Jones, soon ​provided additional confirmation of his father's death.

Introduced to music at a young age via his older brother Terry's record collection, Bowie formed his first band at 15, and released his first solo album in 1967, the same year he met performer Lindsay Kemp and enrolled in his dance class, studying movement and mime.

He found fame in 1972, with the re-release of his second album, originally entitled David Bowie but renamed Space Oddity.

In addition to numerous hit songs such as 'Space Oddity', 'Life on Mars', 'All the Young Dudes,' 'Let's Dance', 'Heroes', 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'China Girl' over a career which spanned from the Sixties to the present, and which embraced multiple musical styles including glam rock, soul and pop, Bowie was renowned for his creative personae, including Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and Ziggy Stardust.

A constant collaborator, Bowie worked with a who's who of artists throughout his career, including Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, John Lennon and the rock group Queen.

He was also a popular actor, appearing in films as diverse as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth and The Hunger, on stage in productions including The Elephant Man, and on television, including a BBC production of Brecht's Baal.

Bowie's influence – which extended to fashion, sexuality and androgyny – was recently celebrated at the landmark exhibition David Bowie is.

His most recent album, Blackstar, was released only days ago, on Bowie's 69th birthday. The lyrics from the new single 'Lazarus', taken from the album, now take on greater significance:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

Tributes to Bowie have flooded in, with producer Tony Visconti saying 'His death was no different from his life – a work of art'. Musician Iggy Pop said in a statement, 'David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is,' while Mick Jagger announced on Twitter: 'David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. He was wonderfully shameless in his work. We had so many good times together. He was my friend, I will never forget him.'

The Who's Pete Townshend said on the band's official website: 'We have lost a monumental figurehead of the British arts scene. We have also lost a wonderful clown whose combined sense of mischief and creativity delightedly touched our hearts.'

Brian Eno, who produced Bowie's 'Berlin trilogy' of albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger, said in a statement, 'David's death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. I feel a huge gap now,' while on Twitter, Yoko Ono announced, 'As John [Lennon] & I had very few friends, we felt David was as close as family. Sweet memories will stay with us forever.'

Fans and peers around the world have mourned Bowie's death on social media.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's national performing arts editor and Deputy Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging; he is also a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, and a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts