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DAVID BOWIE,
1947-2016

David Bowie, whose 69th birthday Friday (1/8) was celebrated with the release of his 27th album, Blackstar, died 1/10 after an 18-month battle with cancer. A post on his Facebook page announced “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family.”

The following statement was issued by Columbia:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of David Bowie. It was an honor and a privilege to release his music to the world.

And this from the Recording Academy's Neil Portnow:

David Bowie was truly a Renaissance man and visionary artist with extraordinary talent as a singer, songwriter, performer, actor and producer, and was a musical hero to millions. A Grammy Award Winner and a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, he is remembered and celebrated today for his audacious approach to pushing creative boundaries and ability to reinvent himself time and time again, changing the course of pop music in the process. David was a true original who influenced so many and his art will live on forever. We offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends, creative collaborators and to all of David’s fans across the globe.

A rock star who changed sounds, visual imagery and personas with nearly every album he recorded in the 1970s, 1980s and '90s, Bowie had retreated from the spotlight for more than a decade, returning in surprise fashion in 2013 with The Next Day and last year with the Off Broadway musical, Lazarus, a sequel to his 1976 film role in The Man Who Fell to Earth. As he did throughout his career, the back-to-back releases had little in common, the former being rooted guitars and glam rock, the new album dark and brooding with backing from a quartet of jazz musicians.

Brian Eno, who worked extensively with Bowie in the late 1970s and again on the 1995 album 1. Outside, released a statement noting Bowie's death came as a surprise. “I feel a huge gap now.” The two, who had been friends for more than 40 years, had been communicating mostly by email.

"I received an email from him seven days ago,” Eno wrote. “It was as funny as always, and as surreal, looping through word games and allusions and all the usual stuff we did. It ended with this sentence: 'Thank you for our good times, brian. they will never rot'. And it was signed 'Dawn'. I realize now he was saying goodbye."

Outpourings of grief, remembrances and thank yous poured in via social media from across a wide spectrum of music and pop culture. LeAnn Rimes, author J.K. Rowling, The Dandy Warhols, Cher and composer Angelo Badalamenti were among those expressing condolences.

“David Bowie,” Kanye West tweeted, “was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

Justin Bieber wrote: “Thank you for all you have given us.” The folk singer Mary Gauthier noted “David Bowie showed this queer kid from Baton Rouge that gender outlaws are cool. Androgyny=rock & roll, not a reason to kill myself.”

Iggy Pop weighed in: "David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”

The Rolling Stones posted: “As well as being a wonderful and kind man, he was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”

Def Leppard's Joe Elliott put Bowie's influence in perspective on the band's Facebook page. “He's been a massive part of my life since I first heard 'Starman' in 1972. So many of us came in at that moment, myself, Bono, Boy George, Morrissey, Gary Kemp, Jim Kerr, Brett Anderson, Pete Murphy, Gary Numan, millions of fans, all very different from each other but all with one thing in common, the belief that a true rock & roll alien had landed on earth & he was ours. I own every record he ever made, he was plastered all over my bedroom wall as a kid, he was my very first bootleg, his CDs take up 2 whole shelves in my collection. I have personally recorded over 25 of his songs either on my own, with Leppard or with the Cybernauts. I met him 2 or 3 times & always found him charming & engaging. It is said, never meet your heroes, they will let you down. Bullshit. He was open, funny, a good listener!! & when myself & Phil joined David on stage with Queen, Mick Ronson & Ian Hunter at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Gig in 1992 it became one of the most memorable musical moments of my life.

“The Starman waiting in the sky waits no longer. Rest in Peace David Bowie and thank you for giving us believers something to believe in.”

The stretch of Bowie's appeal owed to him following his own advice from the song “Changes”: “Turn and face the strange... look out now you rock and rollers, pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”

He arrived on the U.K. pop scene before the Apollo 11 moon landing with “Space Oddity” and made space and a glammed-up alien look part of his visual appeal while his music was firmly grounded on Earth. With the song “Space Oddity,” the character Ziggy Stardust and the album Aladdin Sane, in a few short years, Bowie cemented the roots of his singular rock 'n' roll style after recording albums such as The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory that sat in an acoustic-electric space that married Bob Dylan with T.Rex and included covers of songs by Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen.

He would move on from there to embrace Philadelphia soul and funk in the guise of The Thin White Duke; turned to the European avant-garde and the punk roots of Iggy Pop with his Eno collaborations Low, Heroes and Lodger; hit a commercial peak in MTV's early days with radio-friendly collection Let's Dance and eventually work in the darker shades of electronic music in the late '80s and 1990s. His final album is a collaboration with a quartet of jazz musicians he discovered through their work in the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

Along the way, he found kindred spirits in Lou Reed, John Lennon, Queen, Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails, Pat Metheny, Philip Glass, Nile Rodgers, Arcade Fire and others. He recorded a Christmas duet with Bing Crosby and narrated Peter and the Wolf with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra; hired Luther Vandross and Stevie Ray Vaughan when they were unknowns. And, beginning in 1976, he acted in films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, as well as appearing as The Elephant Man on Broadway

His work, style and history would serve as a touchstone for artists such as Madonna and Lady Gaga.

He sang about alienation and death, fashion and fame, dancing and life on Mars. He worked often as a storyteller, which complemented his affinity for theatrical elements in rock & roll. When many other performers were content to wear street clothes onstage, Bowie reached for the spectacular—sparkling outfits and makeup, stage sets and, in the mid-1980s, a giant spider that occupied the entire stage.

He retired his hits in an early '90s tour that saw him singing behind a screen that showed a filmed image of Bowie. It was an odd show, but one in line with his discarding of skin throughout his career as he retired one persona after another until the late 1990s when he was doing shows with a stripped-down band that included longtime keyboardist Mike Garson and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and minimal production.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Prior to The Next Day, his last release was a decade earlier Reality; heart problems kept him from touring to support the album.

 

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