David Bowie, one of the most legendary pop and rock music stars of all time, died of cancer Sunday afternoon at the age 69. He left behind countless classic songs and albums that were lauded by critics and fans alike.
A spokesperson for the family broke the news of his death by cancer through a prepared statement, reported Express.
“David 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 [Bowie] family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
David may have lost his battle with cancer, but he enjoyed one of the longest stretching careers of any musician from any time period. From Bowie’s first hit with “Space Oddity” in 1969 to the release of his final album Blackstar just this month, he was considered an innovative force in music. David had a strong influence on a number of genres, being at the forefront of the use of electronic instruments in mainstream music. Today, hundreds, if not thousands, of bands cite David as a major influence on their work — from Lady Gaga, to The Killers, to Calvin Harris.
Bowie’s death from cancer will be mourned worldwide; but in 1970s America and Great Britain, he was extremely controversial for his gender-bending look and fluid sexual preferences. Just a few years after England had legalized gay sex, David was clearly telling Melody Maker that he was at least bisexual. Dylan Jones, the editor of British GQ, recalled the day that he first saw Bowie on Top of the Pops as an unforgettable moment of his youth. As David took the stage to sing “Starman,” Jones saw an strange looking man unlike any he had seen before, he told BBC.
“I was alone in a terrace house in Deal watching Top of the Pops. Normally it would have been a forgettable Thursday but I was about to be astounded. It was the first time we were exposed to Ziggy Stardust in all his androgynous glory… In those days Top of the Pops could easily be watched by 14 million people, so the next day Bowie was all anyone was talking about… David genuinely did become common currency overnight. He was a dangerous figure on British TV at a point when television didn’t do danger. Forty-one years ago, it was an extraordinary experience.”
But Bowie’s unpredictability was far from limited to his flirtatious rejection of gender norms. During David’s career he jumped between glam rock, mainstream pop, industrial, ambient and practically every other rock and electronic affiliated genre of music. Some of his best material was even given a lukewarm reception upon release. Low, for instance, jumped from middling review from Rolling Stone in 1977 to a perfect 5 stars when the magazine looked back at his re-issue in 2001. Bowie was the kind of artist who even the music elite had to catch up with sometimes.
Even cancer will not be able to extinguish David Bowie’s legacy. Among his best remembered songs are undoubtedly pop hits like “Modern Love” and “China Girl,” but it is his work in the 70s across the Berlin trilogy that he is perhaps most renowned for: Low, Heroes and Lodger. The title track from the second album is, in particular, one of the most iconic songs not just of the man, but of the entire decade. Then again, you could easily say the same of work on Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane. There was truly always enough Bowie for everyone.
[Image via George de Sota and Hulton Archive/Getty Images]