Music legend David Bowie dies aged 69

11th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

British music legend David Bowie has died at the age of 69 after a secret battle with cancer, prompting a cascade of tributes for one of the most influential and innovative artists of his time.

A notoriously private person, Bowie's death was a shock with his death coming just two days after he released his 25th studio album "Blackstar", on his 69th birthday on Friday.

"David Bowie died peacefully today (Sunday) surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer," said a statement posted Monday on his official social media accounts.

It was not immediately clear where Bowie died, although some media reported he passed away in New York, where he had been living. There were also no details of what form of cancer he suffered from, or on his funeral arrangements.

His death brings the curtain down on an extraordinary career which generated some 140 million record sales, spanned styles from glam rock to jazz and took in stage personas from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke.

The Rolling Stones hailed Bowie as an "extraordinary artist", collaborator Iggy Pop called his friendship "the light of my life," Madonna described him as "Unique. Genius. Game Changer" and Bruce Springsteen dubbed him a "visionary artist."

"He will be remembered amongst the greats but not just one of them, as a unique great," said Bowie biographer Paul Trynka, describing him as "a creative force" who redefined pop music.

Fans -- including some in face paint inspired by his 1973 "Aladdin Sane" album cover -- left flowers beneath a mural of Bowie at his birthplace in Brixton, south London.

Others gathered in tears outside his final home in New York.

- Master of re-invention -

Born David Jones, Bowie took his stage name in 1966 to avoid being mixed up with Davy Jones, lead singer with Beatles rivals The Monkees.

After his first major hit, "Space Oddity" in 1969, he hit the big time in the 1970s with a string of shape-shifting albums like "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", dazzling teenagers with a mix of glamour and escapism.

His ever-changing fashion sense was as ground-breaking as his music.

Among his most memorable outfits were a pair of huge, billowing trousers in black vinyl and white stripes from his "Aladdin Sane" period in 1973, inspired by Japanese kabuki theatre.

The previous year, he appeared on primetime British chart show "Top of the Pops" with a look inspired by the ultra-violent dystopian movie "A Clockwork Orange".

Married twice, Bowie also drew publicity in the 1970s for his hedonistic lifestyle and ambiguous sexual orientation, once declaring he was bisexual before retreating from his comments.

In the late 1970s, he switched musical gears once more, moving to Berlin, where he hung out with former Stooges frontman Pop and worked with electronic experimentalist Brian Eno on a trio of albums -- "Low", "Heroes" and "Lodger".

Bowie again reinvented his sound in the 1980s, winning over a new generation with the "Let's Dance" album and teaming up with Mick Jagger to cover "Dancing in the Street".

He also built up a film career which had started with Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth" in 1976.

Bowie played a goblin king in Jim Henson's fantasy film "Labyrinth" (1986), a prisoner-of-war in Japan in "Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence" (1983) and inventor Nikola Tesla in "The Prestige" (2006).

His sound became ever more experimental from the late 1980s onwards and critics were not always kind to projects such as Tin Machine, his foray into hard rock.

But he surprised the world by launching a surprise single "Where Are We Now?" on his 66th birthday in 2013 after nearly 10 years of silence.

This recalled his days in Berlin in the 1970s and was hailed by critics as a major comeback, alongside new album "The Next Day".

- 'His parting gift' -

An innovator to the end, Bowie on Friday released his final album "Blackstar," whose lyrics take on new poignancy with news of his death.

The video for one song, "Lazarus", shows Bowie singing from a hospital bed, blindfolded, with buttons for his eyes.

"Look up here, I'm in heaven / I've got scars that can't be seen," Bowie sings. "You know I'll be free / Just like that bluebird."

Long-time collaborator Tony Visconti wrote on Facebook that he had known for a year what was coming.

"His death was no different from his life -- a work of art," Visconti wrote. "He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift."

Bowie leaves behind second wife Iman, a Somali-born supermodel who he married in 1992 and with whom he had a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones.

He also had a son, film director Duncan Jones, with first wife Angie Bowie.

She was informed of her ex-husband's death while cut off from the outside world on the reality television show "Celebrity Big Brother".

Germany thanked Bowie for what it said was his role in helping topple the Berlin Wall in 1989, with a tweet linking to a video of his Cold War-era anthem "Heroes" set in the then-divided city.

Many fans said his boundary-pushing career had helped inspire them to find their true identities.

"For gay people, he was a leading light to give us hope," said charity worker Charlie Rice, 66, who was visiting the Brixton mural.

One tribute came from one starman to another.

British astronaut Tim Peake, who wrote a message from the International Space Station, said: "Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer -- his music was an inspiration to many."

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© 2016 AFP

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