Just two days after pop music legend David Bowie celebrated his 69th birthday and released his latest album, Blackstar, the singer-songwriter has passed away following a battle with cancer. The news came to Bowie’s native UK in the early hours of the morning, leaving fans the world over shocked and mourning one of the most influential artists of the past century. In addition to his diverse music career that spanned almost 50 years, Bowie was also known for his paintings and his roles in films such as Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Born David Robert Jones on January 8th, 1947, Bowie grew up in Brixton, London, and then later in the London suburb of Bromley. His parents, Margaret Mary and Haywood Stenton Jones (known as Peggy and John) worked as a waitress and a promotions officer for the children’s charity Barnardo’s, respectively. Bowie left school at the age of 16 with the intention of embarking on a career in pop music – a plan that proved more successful than even he might have imagined.
Bowie leaves behind a legacy of great music, with countless hit songs that still fill the soundtracks of movies to this day, including Ridley Scott’s 2015 space exploration drama The Martian and Marvel’s 2014 adventure Guardians of the Galaxy. The timeless appeal of his music – and the fact that he kept on putting more material out into the world right up until his death – means that Bowie’s fanbase encompasses all ages.
His first screen role was in the 1967 short film The Image, directed by Michael Armstrong, and his first major leading role was in in Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 sci-fi film The Man Who Fell To Earth, in which Bowie played an alien who crash-lands on Earth and uses his advanced knowledge of technology to become a wealthy inventor, with the purposes of constructing a spaceship that can bring much-needed water back to his parched home planet. Another highlight of his acting career was his role as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – an unforgettable film for anyone who grew up in the 1980s. He also played himself on-screen on several occasions, including the time he was called upon to judge a walk-off between Hansel and Derek in Zoolander.
The news of Bowie’s death arrived via his official social media accounts with the following message:
“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.”
Bowie is survived by his wife, Iman, and by his children Alexandria “Lexi” Zahra Jones and Duncan Jones, the latter of whom is a film director whose works include the critically-acclaimed sci-fi film Moon and the upcoming fantasy epic Warcraft. Duncan Jones took to Twitter to confirm the news and share a childhood photo of himself and his father.
Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter.com/Kh2fq3tf9m— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016
Most people have had their life touched by Bowie’s career in one way or another, and the singer-songwriter/actor/artist has truly earned his status as a pop culture icon. His hit songs include “Space Oddity”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Starman”, “Life on Mars”, “Modern Love” and “Rebel, Rebel” – two of which would go on to become the titles and music inspirations for BBC time travel police procedurals Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
Whether remembered by his birth name David Robert Jones, his adopted name David Bowie or his pop star alter ego Ziggy Stardust, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Bowie will be remembered. There’s too little space in a single obituary to cover all of his contributions to culture, so share your favorite highlights from his prolific career in the comments.
R.I.P. David Bowie: January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016