David Bowie, 69


(CN) – David Bowie, the trend-bending rock star whose career also encompassed the world of film, fashion and the Broadway stage, died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer.
     According to post on his Facebook age dated Jan. 10 and datelined “London, United Kingdom,” the 69-year-old artist died “peacefully … surrounded by his family.”
     “While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” the post continued.
     Bowie’s death comes just two days after his birthday, and the week of the release of his latest album, “Blackstar,” which showcased him backed by a jazz quartet and features mediations on fame, spirituality, and death.
     To fans of a certain age, however, Bowie will always be one or the other personas he adopted and adapted over the course of the 1970s, when his music was a cornerstone of what was then called progressive rock radio.
     Whether he was Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or the Thin White Duke, Bowie remained defiantly himself on albums as varied as “Diamond Dogs” and “Station to Station,” and he was remarkably able to extend that aesthetic to those whose records he produced during this period, including Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.
     Born David Robert Jones in London on Jan 8, 1948, Bowie had his first British hit in 1969 with “Space Oddity,” which became a number one single in the U.S. when it was finally released here in 1973. In between, with “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and “Aladdin Sane,” he became rock’s first and biggest glam-rock star.”
     Reflecting on those days several years later, guitarist Mick Ronson, who played on “Ziggy Stardust” and numerous other Bowie albums, including “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Hunky Dory,” said, “With David Bowie, I played the guitar for all it was worth.”
     “I wasn’t trying to be clever. I always thought the act of playing guitar on those records was the act of trying to make a point,” said Ronson, who would feature prominently on such Bowie hits as “Suffragette City” and “Rebel Rebel.”
     Seeking to escape the excesses of the 1970s that included his own significant drug problem, Bowie moved to Switzerland and then West Berlin where he began to work with the producer Brian Eno on the critically-acclaimed “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger” albums.
     Yet Bowie’s biggest commercial success was 1983’s, “Let’s Dance,” which he produced with Nile Rodgers, a musician best known for his work in disco and soul, and the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
     By this time, Bowie had made his Broadway debut in the physically-demanding title role in “The Elephant Man,” but he was far from done musically. In 1989 he became a member of the short-lived band Tin Machine, and then reunited with Eno for one last album, “1. Outside.”
     His most recent albums were 1997’s “Earthling,” 2013’s “The Next Day,” and the aforementioned “Blackstar.”
     Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and he continued to perform until he was beset by heart problems during a 2004 world tour.
     He married the former Mary Angela Barnett in 1970, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1980. In 1992 he married the Somali model Iman. The couple had one daughter together.
     Bowie’s death inspired an outpouring of reflections on Monday.
     “I’m very, very saddened to hear of his death,” said the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury during an interview with BBC Radio 4. “I remember listening to his songs endlessly in the ’70s particularly, and always really relishing what he was, what he did, the impact he had.
     British Prime Minister David Cameron also reflected on a youth spent listening to Bowie’s records, describing the musician’s passing as “a huge loss.”
     In a group statement, the Rolling Stones said they were “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 artists and a true original,” the band said.
     Yoko Ono reflected on Bowie’s relationship with John Lennon, which whom he wrote and recorded the song, “Fame.”
     “John and David respected each other,” Ono said in a written statement. “They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends we felt David was as close as family. After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva.
     “For sean, this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever,” Ono said.

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