David Bowie’s Dead: Musicians, Celebs and World Leaders React on Social Media – new Album ‘Blackstar’ Is Filled With Songs About Death and Doom

David Bowie has died after a battle with cancer, his rep confirmed to Billboard. He was 69.

“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,” read a statement posted on the artist’s official social media accounts.

The influential singer-songwriter and producer excelled at glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during his eclectic 40-plus-year career. He just released his 25th album, Blackstar, Jan. 8, which was his birthday.

Bowie’s artistic breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, an album that fostered the notion of rock star as space alien. Fusing British mod with Japanese kabuki styles and rock with theater, Bowie created the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Three years later, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the No. 1 single “Fame” off the top 10 album Young Americans, then followed with the 1976 avant-garde art rock LP Station to Station, which made it to No. 3 on the charts and featured top 10 hit “Golden Years.”

Other memorable songs included 1983’s “Let’s Dance” — his only other No. 1 U.S. hit — “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” “Rebel, Rebel,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Panic in Detroit,” “Fashion,” “Life on Mars,” “Suffragette City” and a 1977 Christmas medley with Bing Crosby.

With his different-colored eyes (the result of a schoolyard fight) and needlelike frame, Bowie was a natural to segue from music into curious movie roles, and he starred as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s surreal The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Critics later applauded his three-month Broadway stint as the misshapen lead in 1980’s The Elephant Man.

Bowie also starred in Marlene Dietrich’s last film, Just a Gigolo (1978), portrayed a World War II prisoner of war in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), and played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). He also starred as Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 cult favorite Labyrinth, opposite Jennifer Connelly. And in another groundbreaking move, Bowie, who always embraced technology, became the first rock star to morph into an Internet Service Provider with the launch in September 1998 of BowieNet.

Born David Jones in London on Jan. 8, 1947, Bowie changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom. He played saxophone and started a mime company, and after stints in several bands he signed with Mercury Records, which in 1969 released his album Man of Words, Man of Music, which featured “Space Oddity,” a poignant song about an astronaut, Major Tom, spiraling out of control.

In an attempt to stir interest in Ziggy Stardust, Bowie revealed in a January 1972 magazine interview that he was gay — though that might have been a publicity stunt — dyed his hair orange and began wearing women’s garb. The album became a sensation.

Wrote rock critic Robert Christgau: “This is audacious stuff right down to the stubborn wispiness of its sound, and Bowie’s actorly intonations add humor and shades of meaning to the words, which are often witty and rarely precious, offering an unusually candid and detailed vantage on the rock star’s world.”

Bowie changed gears in 1975. Becoming obsessed with the dance/funk sounds of Philadelphia, his self-proclaimed “plastic soul”-infused Young Americans peaked at No. 9 with the single “Fame,” which he co-wrote with John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar.

After the soulful but colder Station to Station, Bowie again confounded expectations after settling in Germany by recording the atmospheric 1977 album Low, the first of his “Berlin Trilogy” collaborations with keyboardist Brian Eno.

In 1980, Bowie brought out Scary Monsters, which cast a nod to the Major Tom character from “Space Oddity” with the sequel “Ashes to Ashes.” He followed with Tonight in 1984 and Never Let Me Down in 1987 and collaborations with Queen, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, The Pat Metheny Group and others. He formed the quartet Tin Machine, but the band didn’t garner much critical acclaim or commercial gain with two albums.

Bowie returned to a solo career with 1993’s Black Tie White Noise, which saw him return to work with his Spider From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, then recorded 1995’s Outside with Eno and toured with Nine Inch Nails as his opening act. He returned to the studio in 1996 to record the techno-influenced Earthling. Two more albums, 1999’s hours … and 2002’s Heathen, followed.

Bowie also produced albums for, among others, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Stooges and Moot the Hoople, for which he wrote the song “All the Young Dudes.” He earned a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2006 but never performed onstage again.

Bowie was relatively quiet between the years of 2004 and 2012, reemerging in 2013 with the album The Next Day. Its arrival was met with a social media firestorm which catapulted it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, his highest charting album ever.

While demand for a tour by the reclusive rock star had been relentless, Bowie kept a decidedly low profile, maintaining a residence in New York but rarely seen.

Bowie recently opened the rock musical Lazarus in New York City, in which he revisits the character he played in The Man Who Fell to Earth. The project — based on American writer Walter Tevis’ 1963 sci-fi novel, directed by Ivo van Hove and starring Michael C. Hall — was initiated by Bowie, who has long nurtured the idea of a return to the character he played onscreen.

A video for the song “Lazarus,” which is included on the album Blackstar, was released on Jan. 7.

Survivors include his wife, the model Iman, whom Bowie married in 1992; his son, director Duncan Jones; and daughter Alexandria.

The new David Bowie release, Blackstar, begins with an execution, and from there the tidings only get ­grimmer. His 25th studio album features just seven songs, but they serve up a veritable Grand Guignol of dread, death, even dismemberment.

Blackstar opens with the sprawling title track, whose scene is laid in a candlelit villa where “On the day of execution/Only women kneel and smile.” Images of ­sadomasochism and castration flicker through the lyrics in “Tis a Pity She’s a Whore”; “Lazarus” is narrated from beyond the grave, by a ghost who drops his ­cellphone from heaven to the earth below, presumably adding to the body count. There’s a straight murder ballad, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” and a menacing song delivered largely in Nadsat, the lingo spoken by the teenage thugs in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. (“Choodesny with the red rot/Libbilubbing litso-fitso,” Bowie hisses.) The album ends with the churning “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” which seems to offer some relief from the bleakness, until you listen more closely: “The blackout hearts, the flowered news/With skull designs upon my shoes.” The reaper wears a skate-rat’s high-tops, and he’s tiptoeing up behind you.

It’s tempting to say Bowie is ­channeling the zeitgeist, filling songs with the fury and foreboding of the scourged world of 2016. (Bowie reportedly told Donny McCaslin, the jazz saxophonist whose ­quartet forms the core of the backing group on Blackstar, that the title track is about ISIS.) On the other hand, for Bowie, such subject matter is nothing new. From the ill-fated astronaut of “Space Oddity” to the lovers cowering beneath flying bullets in “Heroes,” much of his greatest music has been streaked with violence and doom.

In any case, a listener may leave the ­precise meaning of the album to Bowie’s most dedicated decipherers. What grips your attention on Blackstar is not sense but sound — the rumble, snarl and screech of the music, which is as potent as any he has produced in quite some time. (It’s far more focused than The Next Day, Bowie’s ­appealing but mushy 2013 comeback.) Much has been made of his choice of jazz ­collaborators, but to call this album jazz is as wrong as it would be to call it art rock, or funk, or electronica — though all of those styles and more are stirred into the mix. Blackstar is unmistakably a band record, showcasing a talented group of musicians who are comfortable navigating the songs’ harmonically twisty byways. Together with Bowie’s intrepid longtime right-hand man, producer Tony Visconti, they give the record a distinctively eerie, muscular stamp.

You can hear that chemistry on the title track, which justifies the sprawl of its nine-plus minutes, moving from a stuttering intro bolstered by McCaslin’s honking sax into a plangent soul ballad and then a sinister, groaning coda. The combined effect is goth, in the sense that Chartres Cathedral is goth: The song is a grand edifice, ornamented with spires and gargoyles, with towering vaults beneath which the music echoes and howls.

Nothing on Blackstar quite matches the majesty and weirdness of that opener, but nearly everything comes close. Special credit goes to the rhythm section, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana, who lock into Bowie’s grooves, tilting the music in the direction of spooky funk. Then there’s guitarist Ben Monder, who plays the Robert Fripp role impressively on songs like “Lazarus” and the lovely “Dollar Days” with a lyrical combination of delicacy and clatter.

Bowieologists already are likening the album to his great Berlin experiments Low or “Heroes.” It’s to Bowie’s credit that the comparisons don’t quite fit. Blackstar is its own strange, perverse thing, the ­latest move in a boundlessly ­unpredictable career. Bowie turns 69 on its release date, Jan. 8, yet he remains as ­committed to novelty as ­anyone in pop. He also remains a ­powerful and effective singer, ­displaying the full range of his tricks on Blackstar — ­whispering, ­warbling, ­shrieking and ­dropping into his most romantic baritone-Bowie croon to deliver lyrics like “I want eagles in my ­daydreams and diamonds in my eyes.” That line is one of the more ­hopeful on a ­discomfiting record, an album that keeps you riveted even when — ­especially when — it creeps you out.

David Bowie was known as the Thin White Duke to some. Or Ziggy Stardust, the Starman, or simply “Bowie.” Though the multi-talented artist’s various nicknames were always coupled with the word “legend”.


Bowie, who has died at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer, was one of the music influential artists of the past 50 years.

His shock passing has been noted by many artists and celebrities (and even world leaders) who took to social media to share their sadness and recall his impact on contemporary music.


Madonna was among the many artists to share her admiration for David Bowie upon hearing news of the singer’s death in the early morning hours of Jan. 11.

Tweeting that she was “devastated” and that Bowie changed her life, Madonna referenced her very first concert in Detroit at age 15, where, while living in her father’s house, she snuck out despite his protests.


Some 23 years later, when Bowie was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996, Madonna was there to do the honors.


“I don’t think that I breathed for two hours. It was the most amazing show that I’d ever seen, not just because the music was great, but because it was great theater,” she said at the ceremony. “Here’s this beautiful, androgynous man, just being so perverse … as David Byrne so beautifully put it … so unconventional, defying logic and basically blowing my mind. Anyway, I came home a changed woman, as you can see, and my father was not sleeping and he knew exactly where I went, and he grounded me for the rest of the summer. But it was worth every minute that I sat and suffered in my house that summer.”

Madonna, like much of the music community, is in shock with news of Bowie’s death at the age of 69. She shared three tweets in quick succession to share her grief and mark the singer’s passing, the last featuring a snap of the pair during a happy moment in the ‘80s.