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.There had been no previous indication that Bowie had been ill. He suffered a heart attack in 2004 which effectively made him retire from music but he made a comeback in 2013 with the album The Next Day. His latest release, Blackstar, came out on Friday.
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947 in London. He studied a variety of arts including music along with the design trade including layouts and typesetting, but it was his half-brother, Terry Burns, who first influenced him with the complexities of modern jazz.
David formed his first band at the age of 15, the Konrads and later joined the King Bees but it was under the name of Davie Jones that he released his first single, 1964's Liza Jane. It was not a hit and he continued to move between bands and record a series of singles, none of which gained notoriety.
In April 1967, he released his first single as David Bowie, The Laughing Gnome, and, a few months later his self titled debut album but the lack of success soured him for a time on music and he began studying dance and the dramatic arts.
His next single, Space Oddity, was released on July 11, 1969, becoming Bowie's breakout hit and going to number 5 in the U.K. The album of the same name peaked at 17 that same year.
Bowie's reputation as an album artist truly began with his third album, 1970's The Man Who Sold the World and 1971's Hunky Dory. Then came 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars with Bowie taking on the persona of the title character while touring. The tour not only catapulted Bowie to a new level of stardom (and fandom) but it also brought much of his earlier music back onto the charts.
His next album, 1973's Aladdin Sane, was his first to hit the top of the British charts and was followed by two more chart toppers, the cover album Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs. He was also racking up hit singles in the U.K. with Starman (1972 / #10), The Jean Genie (1972 / #2), Drive-In Saturday (1973 / #3), Life on Mars (1973 / #3), Sorrow (1973 / #3) and Rebel Rebel (1974 / #5); however, that chart success did not travel to the U.S., that is until 1975.
The album Young Americans, recorded in Philadelphia, finally broke Bowie into the mainstream in America with Fame hitting number 1 (it only made it to 17 in the U.K.) and Golden Years to number 10. He followed in 1976 with a new character, The Thin White Duke, for the album Station to Station.
It was during this time that Bowie also began to flex his acting muscles, starring in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Bowie moved to Switzerland in 1976 and began his Berlin era marked by the albums Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). He followed by embracing New Wave with the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) while also continuing to act by taking on the lead in the Broadway production of The Elephant Man.
In 1981, he recorded Under Pressure with Queen and, two years later, hit another commercial peak with the album Let's Dance and it's three major hits Let's Dance (1983 / #1 U.S. / #1 U.K.), China Girl (1983 / #10 U.S. / #2 U.K.) and Modern Love (1983 / #14 U.S. / #2 U.K.). He followed with another dance oriented album, Tonight (1984) but put his solo career on hold in 1989 to form Tin Machine, releasing two albums.
He returned to solo work for 1993's Black Tie White Noise, moving him into yet another musical period of his career introducing more electronic instruments to his sound and followed with Outside (1995) and Earthling (1997).
Two albums marked the beginning of the new millennium, Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003) but it was during the tour for the latter that he was hit with a blocked coronary artery, requiring an emergency angioplasty. For the next ten years, Bowie was only heard from occasionally until January 8, 2013 when he announced the release of his album The Next Day.
The album became a critical and commercial success, giving him his highest charting album ever in the U.S. at number 2 and his first U.K. number 1 since 1993. Although he did not tour behind the album, it continued to sell well throughout the year and ended up near the top of most critic's lists for 2013. That was his last album until the release of Blackstar last Friday.
Bowie has sold an estimated 140 million albums worldwide and was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
He is survived by his wife Iman, his son, movie director Duncan Jones, and his daughter Alexandria.