David Bowie, the shape-shifting rock star and cultural icon who also appeared in films, has died. Bowie turned 69 a few days ago, as knockout reviews celebrating his just-released 25th album were coming in and his first stage venture had been launched. His official Facebook page posted the news tonight: “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.”
The news was confirmed by his son film director Duncan Jones:
Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter.com/Kh2fq3tf9m
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016
A master of reinvention, known at points in his career as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, Bowie had just released Blackstar on January 7, his birthday. His previous album, 2013’s The Next Day, was the first new record Bowie had put out in over a decade, and the singer had not performed in public in a number of years. With the new album and Lazarus, his stage reworking of his character the louche alien Thomas Newton from Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth, opening Off Broadway in December, the influential and multiple award-winning artist was experiencing yet another career resurgence. Bowie — ranked the 29th greatest Briton in a 2002 BBC poll — is set to be honored at Carnegie Hall on March 31 with a concert featuring the Roots, Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, Cyndi Lauper, Bettye LaVette, the Mountain Goats and among others.
Besides his widely known work as a musician with such songs as the 1971 classic “Changes,” “Space Oddity”, “Heroes” and “Ashes To Ashes” and albums including 1972’s The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust, 1975’s Young Americans and his MTV-fueled top seller 1983’s Let’s Dance — featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar — Bowie had an on-screen career and was the inspiration for Todd Haynes’ 1998 film Velvet Goldmine.
A pioneer video artist, Bowie appeared in a number of films including 1983’s The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon (long before vampires were trendy), as well as Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence the same year and 1986’s Labyrinth. He also played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988). In Julian Schnabel’s 1996 pic Basquiat, he played Andy Warhol — a fellow iconoclast who he both knew and had sung about in the early 1970s. Additionally, while pulling back from music after some health issues in the later 1990s, he played Nikola Tesla in 2006’s The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan and co-starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.
Bowie took a turn on Broadway, playing John Merrick, the title role in The Elephant Man in 1980, among other on-stage roles. Frequently included on movie and TV soundtracks, his “Starman” tune is featured in the Golden Globe winning film The Martian directed by Ridley Scott. He also scored a Golden Globe nom in 1983 for the theme song for Paul Schrader’s Cat People, which he sang and co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder.
Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He declined the CBE honor from the British government and also knighthood three years later.
His son Duncan Jones helmed 2009’s Moon and 2011’s Source Code. Jones is also the director of the upcoming Warcraft.
Along with his son, Bowie’s survivors include actress and supermodel Iman, his wife since 1992, and their daughter Alexandria.