David Bowie, the seminal British musician behind such era-defining hits of the 1970s as “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Young Americans” and “Fame,” died Sunday. He was 69.
News of Bowie’s death was confirmed on the artist’s official Facebook page late Sunday. He was widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians and most original songwriters of all time.
“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” Bowie’s family said in a statement.
The androgynous singer and songwriter also appeared in films including Nicolas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Labyrinth,” Tony Scott’s “The Hunger,” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.” He also appeared on Broadway as the star of “The Elephant Man.”
His latest album, the jazzy “Blackstar,” was released Friday to positive reviews. His son, director Duncan Jones, also tweeted the news.
After releasing his first self-titled album in 1967, the singer of astonishing vocal range first gained notice with the song “Space Oddity” in 1969. His 1971 album “Hunky Dory” is widely considered one of the best rock albums ever, spawning the perennial hit “Changes” as well as “Life on Mars.”
Bowie then entered the glam rock phase of his career, releasing the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” in 1972 and taking on the platform-shoe wearing, heavily made-up Ziggy Stardust persona. With arty rockers like “Suffragette City,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Rock and Roll Suicide” and “Moonage Daydream,” it became another all-time classic.
His catalog of releases through the 1970s, also including “Aladdin Sane,” “Diamond Dogs,” “Young Americans,” “Station to Station,” “Low” and “Heroes,” represents one of the towering creative periods in rock history, with songs like “Rebel Rebel,” “Jean Genie,” “Young Americans” and “Heroes” mixing musical genres from glam to soul to electronic music in ways that had never been heard before — or since.
His “Berlin trilogy” albums, “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger,” made while he was living in Berlin and recovering from cocaine addiction, were electronic and more experimental collaborations with Brian Eno that radically departed from what other 1970s rockers were doing, though Bowie never really embraced the punk rock sounds of that era, remain singularly sui generis.
Starting at the beginning of the 1980s, he turned to more danceable sounds, in sync with the new wave and disco movements coming into vogue, with hits like and “Under Pressure,” the 1981 collaboration with Queen and “Let’s Dance” in 1983.
He continued to release albums such as “Tin Machine” in 1989 and more recently, “The Next Day” in 2013. Though none yielded the wildly creative and catchy hits of his earlier years, his increasingly vibrato voice and thirst for experimenting with various styles remained beloved by his many fans. He last performed live in 2006.
Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and was ranked 39th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and 23rd on their list of best singers of all time.
Born David Jones in Brixton, London, Bowie changed his name to the name of the hunting knife maker to avoid being confused with the Monkees band member. He became interested in music when he heard the early rock stylings of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Little Richard, learning the saxophone and forming his first band at 15. He married Angie Bowie in 1970; they divorced in 1980 but he had already told Playboy magazine in 1976 that he was bisexual, a startling revelation at the time.
He is survived by his son, whose original name was Zowie Bowie but later decided to go by Duncan Jones; his wife, model Iman and their teenage daughter Alexandria.