David Bowie dies at 69: British icon transcended music, film, fashion, generations

In a career that spanned 50 years, and included numerous identity and aesthetic incarnations, Bowie was one of the world's first true multi-medium superstars.
By Shawn Price and Doug G. Ware  |  Updated Jan. 11, 2016 at 4:32 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- David Bowie, a British rock megastar who rapidly ascended to superstardom and remained there for a half century, died Sunday at the age of 69 following a yearlong battle with liver cancer.

Relatives and his publicist confirmed the singer's death Monday, prompting a massive outpouring of grief worldwide. Bowie's death occurred just two days after the arrival of his final album, Blackstar, which was released on his 69th birthday.

"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer," an official statement said Monday. "While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief."

Bowie's son, filmmaker Duncan Jones, also confirmed his father's death on Twitter: "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."

Bowie's longtime producing partner, Tony Visconti, paid tribute to his friend in a Facebook post Monday, which called the singer's death "a work of art."

"He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way," Visconti wrote. "He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. ... For now, it is appropriate to cry."

In a career that spanned 50 years, and included numerous identity and aesthetic incarnations, Bowie was one of the world's first true multi-medium superstars -- starting with music in the early 1960s and eventually finding success in film, fashion, art and philanthropy.

Some of Bowie's biggest hits included "Ziggy Stardust," "China Girl," "Under Pressure" with British rock band Queen, "Let's Dance," "Changes," "Rebel Rebel," "Young Americans," "Fame" and "Dancing In The Street," a duet with Mick Jagger.

In addition to his status as an iconic singer, Bowie had more than two dozen acting credits to his name -- including his breakout role as alien Thomas Jerome Newton in 1975's The Man Who Fell To Earth, which earned him a Saturn Award for Best Actor.

In the following decades, he would appear in additional films, including The Hunger (1983), Labyrinth (1986) and Christopher Nolan's The Prestige (2006). He also played the role of John Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man, during a three-month run on Broadway in 1980.

In 1984, Bowie led a consortium of rock stars in a campaign against famine in Africa -- starting with a Christmas single, the proceeds from which went to feed the hungry in Ethiopia, and culminating with the British and U.S. Live Aid concerts eight months later.

Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

He was born David Jones on Jan. 8, 1947 in South London. He changed his name to David Bowie after the Monkees' Davy Jones became a teen idol in 1966.

Bowie is survived by his wife, model Iman, and the couple's 15-year-old daughter, Alexandria "Lexi" Zahra Jones. Duncan Jones was born during Bowie's 10-year marriage to his first wife, Angela, which ended in 1980. He married the Somali-born Iman in 1992.

"I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss," British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

"I'm devastated! This great Artist changed my life," fellow musical superstar Madonna said, noting that Bowie was the first singer she ever saw in concert.

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