12 Jan 2016

'I realise now he was saying goodbye'

10:20 am on 12 January 2016

The news of David Bowie's death has prompted tributes from collaborators and the many musicians he influenced as well as music fans around the world and other public figures.

Fans, musicians and politicians have paid tribute to the legendary rock star who has died 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

David Bowie in 1983.

David Bowie in 1983. Photo: AFP

The Rolling Stones said they were shocked and deeply saddened, hailing Bowie as "an extraordinary artist, and a true original."

Friend and collaborator Iggy Pop tweeted that their friendship was the light of his life, and that he had never met such a brilliant person.

Brian Eno who worked with Bowie on albums, including his legendary Berlin Trilogy in the mid-1970s, issued a statement paying tribute to his friend:

"David's death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. I feel a huge gap now.

"We knew each other for over 40 years, in a friendship that was always tinged by echoes of Pete and Dud. Over the last few years - with him living in New York and me in London - our connection was by email. We signed off with invented names: some of his were mr showbiz, milton keynes, rhoda borrocks and the duke of ear."

Eno wrote of the last email he received from his friend of 40 years: "I received an email from him seven days ago. It was as funny as always, and as surreal, looping through word games and allusions and all the usual stuff we did. It ended with this sentence: 'Thank you for our good times, brian. they will never rot'. And it was signed 'Dawn'.

"I realise now he was saying goodbye."

Singer Madonna said she was devastated, and that Bowie changed her life, while Queen drummer Roger Taylor described him as "the cleverest and most interestingly brilliant man of our time."

The German government added its accolade, thanking Bowie for his role in "helping to bring down" the Berlin Wall and linking to the track Heroes. Bowie who lived in Berlin in the 1970s returned in 1987 to give a concert close to the wall.

Bowie's wife, the former supermodel Iman, has remained silent since news of his death, but in the days leading up to the announcement she posted a series of emotional posts on social media, including "The struggle is real, but so is God" and "Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory."

His son with first wife Angela Bowie , film director Duncan Jones wrote on Twitter, "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."

In London, fans have been laying flowers at a makeshift memorial to Bowie in the Brixton area where he was born.

Floral tributes are left beneath a mural of David Bowie painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, in Brixton, South London.

Flowers and tributes are left beneath a mural of David Bowie painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, in Brixton, South London. Photo: AFP

Former RNZ reporter Craig McCulloch in Brixton said crowds of people had visited a mural of the star to pay tribute since the news of his death broke.

From the Vatican, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi quoted Space Oddity lyrics: "Ground Control to Major Tom, Commencing countdown, engines on, Check ignition and may God's love be with you (David Bowie)"

'Parting gift'

David Bowie released his 25th and final album Blackstar just last Friday - on his birthday.

It appears to be full of symbolism that suggests he was saying goodbye.

The album's lyrics are cryptic but poignant, with lines such as "Look up here, I'm in heaven, I've got scars that can't be seen."

The jazzy, experimental record, with just seven songs has been getting rave reviews.

The album was intended as a "parting gift" to the world, according to long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti.

Visconti wrote on Facebook: "His death was no different from his life - a work of art.

"He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.

"I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us."

Born David Jones in London on January 8 1947, Bowie released 26 studio albums across his almost 50-year career, including a string of 10 LPs in the 1970s that are among the most influential albums of all time.

His first hit, 1969's Space Oddity, told the story of an astronaut, Major Tom, and was released in time to coincide with the Apollo 11 launch.

He followed that up with a string of albums that defined the ostentatious, androgynous glam rock sound of the early 1970s, before The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars made him an international star.

The persona of Ziggy Stardust - a doomed bisexual alien rock star wearing outrageous costumes and with a shock of bright red hair - catapulted him to huge fame.

Among his many hits were The Man Who Sold the World, Life on Mars, Heroes, Ashes To Ashes, Modern Love, Changes and Let's Dance.

The 1980s saw him combine his pop career with appearances in films including Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Absolute Beginners and Labyrinth.

Otago University music lecturer and 'Bowie scholar' Ian Chapman said the singer was a champion for the outsider who showed generations of fans that being different was a good thing.

"Particularly for the generation who discovered him in the early '70s when he was at his most potent, he was the figure in popular music for a whole generation of people. And unlike many artists he's reinvented himself on so many occasions and brought new audiences in and kept that potency."

- BBC / Reuters