British pop artist, songwriter and actor David Bowie has died after an 18-month bout with cancer, having turned 69 just last week.
The star’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts featured statements confirming the star died on Sunday.
They 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.”
January 10 2016 – David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle… https://t.co/ENRSiT43Zy
— David Bowie Official (@DavidBowieReal) January 11, 2016
Bowie stayed active until the end, and released his 25th album, “Blackstar,” on Friday, his 69th birthday. The album rocketed to the no. 1 position on the iTunes chart in the U.K. and no. 2 in the U.S., illustrating his enduring appeal even after more than four decades in the music business.
The album contains only seven songs, including a piece called Lazarus which, perhaps prophetically, contains the lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”
The music publication NME called it an amalgamation of “warped showtunes, skronking industrial rock, soulful balladeering, airy folk-pop, even hip-hop” and Rolling Stone magazine said it was Bowie’s “best anti-pop masterpiece since the Seventies.”
Since breaking onto the music scene with “Space Oddity” in 1969 and his hugely successful 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” Bowie never ceased entertaining and shocking the public with his ever evolving sound and often outrageous antics.
Pioneering what would come to be known as “gender fluidity,” Bowie had a seemingly inexhaustible ability to reinvent himself, with an often androgynous look as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, modifying hairstyle, makeup, facial hair and outfits into myriad personae.
His hair and outfits stunned and amazed fans for decades, as he sported everything from slicked back orange hair to bangs to a blond mullet. His music followed suit, defying easy classification and overlapping genres.
Born Davy Jones, he changed his name to Bowie in 1966 after the band The Monkees achieved success, making their lead singer’s name—also Davy Jones—a household word.
Bowie’s first No. 1 single in the United States was his 1973 hit “Fame,” and afterwards he continued to produce songs that delighted audiences and endured through time as classics, such as “China Girl,” “Changes,” “Rebel, rebel,” “Suffragette City,” “Under Pressure,” “Let’s Dance” and “Golden Years.”
Bowie produced albums for others as well, including Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Stooges and Mott the Hoople, and he earned a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2006.
He also acted in a number of films, beginning with Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and even did a three-month stint on Broadway as the lead in The Elephant Man.
“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,” said a statement posted on his official social media accounts.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome