On Jan. 11, David Bowie’s official Facebook page posted the following message:
“January 10 2016—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 announcement came as a huge shock for many reasons. David Bowie was an icon with success not only in music, but in the fashion and film industries. His death came two days after he celebrated his 69th birthday and released his highly anticipated album, Blackstar, on Jan. 8.
Bowie remained relevant throughout his career. His battle with cancer was unknown outside of his inner circle, which is what made his passing so unexpected. Toward his final years, he aged greatly, but was actively making music. In 2013, he released his twenty-fourth album, The Next Day, which was met with acclaim. That same year, he also sang in Arcade Fire’s song Reflektor.
Blackstar’s producer Tony Visconti, in an interview with British music magazine New Musical Express,said Bowie deliberately made Blackstar as a “parting gift” to his fans. Several songs on the album allude to mortality, in particular the song Lazarus, which opens with the words, “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”
The music video for the song features Bowie struggling on a hospital bed.
Throughout his lengthy career, Bowie explored countless sounds and styles, establishing himself as a fearless chameleon. He experimented with various genres: folk, glam rock, ambient music, krautrock, disco, funk, and jazz. Some of his iconic releases are Aladdin Sane, Heroes, Let’s Dance, and Ziggy Stardust. As an actor Bowie starred in the films The Man Who Fell to Earth, Just a Gigolo, and Labyrinth. Bowie was also known for his unique style, which defied gender and fashion norms. His eclectic works influenced countless artists, many of whom expressed their grief on social media, such as Bono, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Michael Stipe, Kanye West, and Madonna.
It is always dreadful when someone with such an impact on modern culture leaves our world so abruptly. The persona Bowie built around himself gave him a sense of timelessness that made him ethereal and ever present. Truly one of a kind, Bowie left this world as a visionary, one who managed to touch the lives of many with his art, even in his final moments.