12 Jan 2016

David Bowie 1947 - 2016

8:09 am on 12 January 2016

Legendary rock star David Bowie has died at the age of 69.

David Bowie

David Bowie in 2010 Photo: AFP

A posting on the official David Bowie website said the rock star died peacefully surrounded by his family after a "courageous 18 month battle with cancer".

Sky News and The Hollywood Reporter said Bowie's representatives have confirmed the death.

His son with first wife Angela Bowie, movie director Duncan Jones, also confirmed the news in a tweet.

Bowie's wife, the former supermodel Iman and their 14-year-old daughter, Alexandria, have remained silent since the announcement, but in the days leading up to his death, his wife posted a series of philosophical quotes on social media. "The struggle is real but so is God," she posted in one and "Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory," she put in another.

The singer only released his latest album Blackstar on his birthday on Friday.

There had been rumours about Bowie's health for years.

His last live performance was at a New York charity concert in 2006.

Blackstar, which includes just seven songs, has been well received by critics.

He toured New Zealand four times.

The first time was the Heroes tour in 1978 when he played at Auckland's Western Springs and in Christchurch at QE2 Park.

He came again in 1983 with his Serious Moonlight Tour - again performing at Western Springs and also in Wellington at Athletic Park.

In 1987 he brought his Glass Spider Tour, but only played in Auckland.

The last time he toured New Zealand was with his Reality Tour in 2004, where he performed his sole gig in Wellington at Westpac Stadium.

Read about the day Bowie was welcomed at Takapūwāhia Marae - the first rock star to be officially welcomed onto a marae - here

David Bowie during the whaikorero at Takupuwaahia Marae in Porirua in 1983.

David Bowie during the whaikorero at Takupuwaahia Marae in Porirua in 1983. Photo: Image courtesy of Ngati Toa

The life of David Bowie

Bowie was born David Jones in January but reinvented himself as David Bowie, in 1966, in order to avoid confusion with the Monkees' Davy Jones.

He went on to study Buddhism and mime, and released his first album, the World of David Bowie, in 1967.

But it was the title track of his second album, Space Oddity, which aroused more than passing interest.

The atmospheric tale of an abandoned astronaut, Major Tom, orbiting the Earth, Space Oddity became a hit in 1969, the year of the first moon landing.

David Bowie in 2002

David Bowie in 2002 Photo: AFP

Initially a hit throughout Europe, it took four years to 'break' the United States.

Bowie followed up this initial success with The Man Who Sold the World, a complex album, whose title track has been covered by artists as diverse as Lulu and Nirvana.

His second album of 1971, Hunky Dory, was arguably Bowie's first great work. Its eleven songs, including the haunting Life on Mars? and Oh, You Pretty Things, redefined serious rock for the 1970's generation.

And a line from the Hunky Dory's final track, The Bewlay Brothers, seemed to perfectly sum-up David Bowie, "chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature".

The following year saw the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a superbly-executed concept album which included hits like Starman, Suffragette City and Rock 'n' Roll Suicide.

The album's huge popularity and the accompanying tour, featuring Bowie as the sexually-ambiguous Ziggy, brought him worldwide stardom.

By now married to the former Angie Barnett (divorced in 1980) and with a young son, Zowie (now Joe), Bowie was a hedonist of breathtaking scale, living a rock and roll lifestyle fuelled by drink, drugs and vigourous bisexuality.

Having killed off Ziggy, 1973 brought Aladdin Sane, which cemented Bowie's reputation in the United States.

Songs like Cracked Actor explored the dark, seedy, side of fame, while Jean Genie was an old-fashioned rocker.

As well as writing and performing, Bowie now branched-out, producing Lou Reed's Transformer album and writing and producing Mott the Hoople's hit single, All the Young Dudes.

While he was touring with his next album, the apocalyptic Diamond Dogs, David Bowie recorded the Young Americans album in Philadelphia.

This dalliance with 'plastic soul' continued on the album Station to Station and brought Bowie hits including Golden Years, Knock on Wood and his first US number one single, Fame, co-written with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar.

But, once more, David Bowie changed direction, moving to Berlin and working on a triptych of albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger.

Produced in collaboration with Brian Eno, these dense works were perhaps the most experimental of Bowie's career, mixing electronic sounds and avant-garde lyrics to produce a radical, and influential, song cycle.

The late 1970s saw Bowie concentrating on acting, starring in Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth and opposite Marlene Dietrich in the lamentable Just a Gigolo.

David Bowie

David Bowie Photo: AFP

The critically-acclaimed Lodger album was followed by Scary Monsters, notable for its groundbreaking video accompaniment and the single Ashes to Ashes, which updated the story of Major Tom.

But 1983 saw a new, driven, David Bowie return to form with the Let's Dance album.

Hits like China Girl and Modern Love, coupled with the spectacular Serious Moonlight world tour, introduced Bowie to a whole new generation.

And his 1985 duet with Mick Jagger, a cover version of Martha and the Vandellas' Dancin' in the Street, was a major factor in the success of the BandAid project and its accompanying Live Aid concert.

Bowie returned to acting, playing the lead in The Elephant Man on Broadway as well as typically exotic characters in the films Cat People, Labyrinth and The Hunger.

The late 1980s were dominated by Bowie's involvement with his new band, a postmodernist heavy metal outfit, Tin Machine.

This project, which was designed to allow Bowie to re-examine his rock 'n' roll roots, produced two albums of questionable quality and was panned by the listening public and critics alike.

David Bowie performing in Paris in 2003.

David Bowie performing in Paris in 2003. Photo: AFP

The 1990s saw David Bowie flirting with drum-and-bass on the Earthling album, setting up his own highly-popular website and debuting on Wall Street with the Bowie Bond, sales of which netted him $55m.

In 1992, he married Iman. He told Hello magazine in 2000 that the moment he saw her he knew they would wed.

"My attraction to her was immediate and all-encompassing. I couldn't sleep for the excitement of our first date. That she would be my wife, in my head, was a done deal. I'd never gone after anything in my life with such passion in all my life. I just knew she was the one."

Their daughter Alexandria was born in 2000.

The 2002 album Heathen saw a long-awaited return to form for the indefinable master of rock style, and the man who, throughout his long and varied career, influenced everyone from Iggy Pop to Boy George.

After a decade without a studio album he released The Next Day in 2013, surprising fans who thought he had retired. It became his first UK number one for 20 years.

His latest album, the critically acclaimed Blackstar, was released on his 69th birthday last Friday.

Watch videos of some of his biggest hits here: