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He was a rock and roll icon in the most absolute sense of the world. ABC News has confirmed that legendary musician David Bowie has died at age 69.
News first broke on Bowie’s Facebook page, with a post that explained that the musician, “died peacefully … [Sunday] … 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.”
Bowie’s son, movie director Duncan Jones, tweeted, “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.” Jones was Bowie’s son with his first wife, Angie Bowie; they divorced in 1980. Bowie had been married to supermodel Iman since 1992; they have one daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones.
Bowie, who turned 69 on Friday, had just released his 25th album, Blackstar, which was hailed by critics and fans alike. The general public was unaware of his illness.
Bowie, a singer, songwriter, actor and fashion icon, has been an influence in some way on nearly every modern artist, from Kanye West to Madonna to U2 to Lorde to Lady Gaga. His influence can be felt in punk rock, new wave and alternative music, ambient, dance, electronic music, and beyond. Though the decades, his music encompassed pop, glam rock, R&B, funk, dance, soul, progressive rock, hard rock and more.
While his breakthrough hit was 1969′s “Space Oddity,” about ill-fated astronaut Major Tom, Bowie’s defining moment was the creation of his alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust, a bisexual alien rock superstar whose exploits were documented in the 1972 glam-rock masterpiece The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
Around that time, Bowie also publicly stated that he was gay, but that might have been a publicity stunt. Still, his gender-bending wardrobe, outrageous style and fluid sexuality made him irresistible to men and women alike. In 1976, he said he was bisexual, but in 1983, he told Rolling Stone, that he “always was a closet heterosexual,” and said that publicly declaring he was bisexual was, “the biggest mistake I ever made.” Asked about that comment in 2002, he said that he felt stating that he was bisexual ultimately, “stood in the way of so much I wanted to do” in America, because it, “is a very puritanical place.”
Bowie’s first U.S. #1 was “Fame,” co-written by his good friend, John Lennon. His only other U.S. #1 hit was 1983′s “Let’s Dance,” but his catalog includes a string of classic songs: “Heroes,” “Changes,” “China Girl,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Diamond Dogs,” “Suffragette City,” “Life on Mars,” “Modern Love” and more. He collaborated with artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Bing Crosby, Queen, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. He produced albums for Iggy Pop’s Stooges, Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople, for whom he wrote the hit “All the Young Dudes.”
As an actor, Bowie, who was trained in theater and mime, appeared in films as diverse as Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, A View to a Kill, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Prestige and Zoolander. “Lazarus,” the title track from Blackstar, was also the basis for a stage musical that opened in New York City last week.
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As befits a musician whose work had influenced generations of artists for four decades, social media is full of reactions to the death of David Bowie, who passed away from cancer at the age of 69. The wide range of celebrities mourning his passing speaks to his influence:
Paul McCartney posted a statement on his website: “Very sad news to wake up to on this raining morning. 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. “I send my deepest sympathies to his family and will always remember the great laughs we had through the years. His star will shine in the sky forever.”
Madonna, who accepted Bowie’s Rock Hall of Fame award on his behalf, posted a photo of her and Bowie together in their younger days. “So lucky to have met you!!!! Hot Tramp I love you So!” she wrote, quoting a line from Bowie’s classic “Rebel Rebel.” On Twitter, she wrote, “Talented . Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!” She added, “Im Devastated! This great Artist changed my life! First concert i ever saw in Detroit! R.IP”
The Rolling Stones: “The Rolling Stones are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend David Bowie. As well as being a wonderful and kind man, he was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”
Iggy Pop: “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”
Gene Simmons of Kiss: “David Bowie, you will be sorely missed. Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and the Ziggy story songs were a major influence for me.”
Mark Ruffalo: “Rip Father of all us freaks. Sad sad day. Love always.”
Jack Antonoff of fun.: “deeply sad to hear about david bowie / his work means more to me than I can express. what incredible things he did that last forever.”
Elijah Wood: “Never imagined a world without him. He has ascended into the cosmos from whence he came. Farewell, David Bowie.”
Adam Lambert: “Bowie was one of the bravest artists of the century. A true Icon. He is the first and foremost Glam Rockstar. Rebel Rebel, Life On Mars, Lady Grinning Soul…..”
Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies: “A hero has fallen.He will never be forgotten. Please allow his family time to grieve. RIP DavidBowie.”
Director Paul Feig: “Absolutely devastated by the death of Bowie. Cannot process this. At this point, the world makes no sense. RIP David. You were a genius..”
Travis Barker: “2016 is off to a bad start. Another one of my musical idols gone, may his legacy live on forever #RIPDAVIDBOWIE “I DONT KNOW WHERE I’M GOING FROM HERE, BUT I PROMISE IT WON’T BE BORING” -DAVID BOWIE.”
Anderson Cooper: “Find it hard to believe David Bowie has died. What an incredible life.”
Foo Fighters tweeted a photo of Dave Grohl with, among others, Bowie, Billy Corgan and Robert Smith of the Cure, and wrote, “Rest in peace, David.”
Pharrell Williams: “David Bowie was a true innovator, a true creative. May he rest in peace.”
Kanye West: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron: “I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.”
Joe Manganiello: “People always asked me what actor I wanted to work with the most, and I’d always say David Bowie. Sad I’ll never get that chance. RIP.”
Bob Saget: “Oh God, rest in peace the genius that was David Bowie.”
Russell Crowe: “RIP David . I loved your music. I loved you. One of the greatest performance artists to have ever lived.”
Ricky Gervais: “I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”
Cher: “DEVASTATED… A LEGEND IS GONE”
Josh Groban: “He never seemed of this earth. Now he’s left it. He bent rules, gender, genres, and our minds. RIP David Bowie. One. Of. A. Kind.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic: “I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me – I was not ready for this. RIP Bowie.”
Chart-topping songwriter Diane Warren: “Oh my God not David Bowie…I don’t want to hear about the stupid fashion at the Golden Globes who gives a f**k I want to play David Bowie records. Unreal.”
Val Kilmer wrote on Facebook, “The last time I saw David Bowie was in Brooklyn, with some very very lucky people who got to hear Lou Reed play his dark glory, BERLIN, live. He was sitting directly in front of me with Lou’s wife, Laurie Anderson…he turned and I recognized him instantly. Instead of saying hello, I just started petting his shoulders. I can’t describe it any more accurately. He was just so special it was the only way I seemed to be able to express my joy. I haven’t petted that many men in my life. I’m so glad I got to do that. And more importantly, that he let me. He just smiled as I apologized for petting him. He seemed to not only understand, but accept the strange offering of gratitude and recognition….we all wanted to be as cool as David. Even Lou. He was the always, always the coolest guy in the room. And he was a master singer – song writer. God bless David Bowie.”
One of the people from whom we’ve not yet heard is Bowie’s first wife, Angie Bowie, whom he divorced in 1980 after ten years of marriage and one child, son Duncan Jones. Turns out, Angie Bowie, 66, didn’t know her ex has died — she’s a contestant on the U.K.’s Big Brother TV show, and as such isn’t allowed outside access. Producers Monday morning wrote on the show’s website: “Following the very sad news of David Bowie’s death, we can now confirm that Angie Bowie has been informed off camera by her representatives. She has taken the decision to continue in the programme. The decision to remain in the House is entirely her choice, and she has been given the option to leave at any time if she changes her mind. Appropriate support will be available to Angie at any time if needed.” Chances of that may be slim: Angie Bowie’s previously admitted she hasn’t seen Bowie since their divorce.
The official Twitter feed of the late Bing Crosby, with whom Bowie duetted on the holiday favorite “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” acknowledged his death, writing, “Peace on earth…” Remembering David Bowie – Godspeed,” and posting the video they did for the song.
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