David Bowie (1947-2016) – tributes pour in for ‘a true original’

Bowie as the Thin White Duke at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto 1976. Image: Jean-Luc Ourlin

On the morning of Monday January 11, 2016, music fans woke to the news that David Bowie had passed away aged 69.  

The artist’s official Facebook page was updated around 6.30am GMT with the short statement:

“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.”

A shorter version of the statement linking to the Facebook post was tweeted from Bowie’s official Twitter account soon after.

Twenty minutes later, Duncan Jones, Bowie’s son with model, actress and journalist Angela Barnett, tweeted the message:

The tidal wave of coverage and mentions that continues to circle the world following the announcement – across TV, radio, social media and online news websites – is testament to the impact of David Bowie’s work in music, film, fashion, art, sexuality and social commentary.

Few musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries can claim the influence of the man, born David Robert Jones in Brixton, 1947.

In a 44-year career, Bowie experimented with many elements of music and art, the results of which saw him garner further critical acclaim.

Regarded as something of an artistic chameleon, he explored popular and avant-garde genres and disciplines such as rock’n’roll, blues, mime, folk, glam rock, theatre, soul, funk, sketching and painting, ambient electronica, new wave, video,  hard rock, pop, dance, industrial rock, mainstream film and latterly – on his last album Blackstar, released just two days before his death – jazz fusion, prog-rock and drum’n’bass.

Bowie gave a reported 13 performances in Birmingham over the years, including a mime set supporting T-Rex at Birmingham Town Hall in 1969 followed by a headline set at the same venue three years later as part of the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars tour.

Subsequent LP releases led to further performances in the city during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s; Bowie’s last official public show in Birmingham was on November 20 2003, at the National Exhibition Centre in support of his 23rd studio album Reality, released earlier that year.

In the wake of his death, fans and artists from across the world have been paying tribute to ‘The Thin White Duke’, as Bowie was often known – a reference to a character from his 1976 album Station to Station.

Some of the biggest names in music, many of whom either collaborated with, or were produced by Bowie, have issued statements following the news. Brian Eno, Duran Duran, Iggy Pop, Kanye West, Nile Rodgers, Madonna, Yoko Ono and U2 were amongst those paying their respects, citing the star’s influence on their work.

We’ve collated messages, memories, thoughts and contributions to David Bowie from across the world, shared in the immediate hours after his death was announced. The shockwaves of the passing of an artist who once famously said, “I wouldn’t like to make singing a full-time occupation,” will undoubtedly be felt for generations yet.

“Its a Thursday in 1982. I’m looking forward to Top of the Pops. I’ve got a pirate copy of Bladerunner on VHS and my football team are the ‘Kings of Europe’…but I know that life in the English Midlands can be bleak and provincial.

“I’m cleaning a thousand potatoes for my dad’s chippy, playing a DIY mixtape of David Bowie and Ashes to Ashes comes on. All is well, until my dad shouts, “Why are you listening to girls music?” I was confused. My dad was confused, but Bowie obviously wasn’t.

“Although I had little understanding of music, art, fashion, culture or glamour, I knew that Bowie was important. He was ‘arty’ and more interesting than the New Romantic music of the time – even the then local boys of Duran Duran – he was ‘something’ different that I couldn’t quite label by the musical genre in my bespoke cassette classification system.

“Top of the Pops finally aired later that night and Laurie Anderson was the finale. She sang, spoke,’O Superman’. My dad was confused again and said, ‘Is this a song? At least that Bowie can play a tune’.

“I suppose that fashion goes around in circles but Bowie was the exception. An ‘artist’ in every sense of the word. A magpie that even managed to out new romance the New Romantics – certainly with Ashes to Ashes. Some years later I attempted a modest pilgrimage to the Berlin studio that he recorded the Scary Monsters album – but I couldn’t quite find it.

“I eventually got to see Bowie live – in 2003 at the NEC. He played Ashes to Ashes, Fashion and ended with Heroes, as I recall. My dad had sadly passed away the previous year, but as I listened to the set, I remembered those cutting and confusing words: “Why are you listening to girl’s music?”

– Darryl Georgiou

“David Bowie was the first concert I attended. In Manchester’s Old Trafford, Bowie strode onstage in torrential rain. Smiling, he opened his arms as if to embrace us all. The rain stopped immediately, the sun came out and he began: ‘It’s a god awful small affair…’. I am not speaking in metaphor. The papers the next day said ‘Bowie, The Sun God’.

“I listened to his debut self-titled album when I was six and felt I suddenly had an identity that set me apart from others. The lyrics were other-worldly and incomparable with anything I’d heard. That set me up for being a songwriter. I heard Cate Le Bon claim that she once thought that she was Jarvis Cocker and this is how I briefly felt about David Bowie – connected by something no one else would understand. Apparently it’s a not too uncommon condition. Through today’s outpourings and books like The Buddha Of Suburbia, I realise I am not alone.

“He constantly brought the avant-garde into the mainstream, that’s what he did and he constantly moved on.”

– Jack Goodall

“David Bowie was a musical legend, an icon, a cultural chameleon, a genius.

“His influence ranged far beyond just the music, enriching art, theatre, film, and fashion. From Ziggy Stardust to the Goblin King, Aladdin Sane to the Man That Fell To Earth, he was an artist that could slip into any guise, treating life as just one long performance.

“His constant re-invention meant that he was always a pioneer, soaking up culture and becoming part of it. He wasn’t afraid to challenge social norms and he wasn’t afraid to be different. He mixed individuality with universality. He wrote lyrics about the everyday human condition, as well as shooting us into orbit with his tales of junkie spacemen and girls with mousy hair.

“He was a Hero, a Rebel, a Starman, a Genie and The Man Who Sold The World.

“There will never be anyone like him and we should all feel privileged that he gave us such Golden Years. His last album, Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday on January 8 was his final curtain call, completing a musical journey that spanned six decades, composing the soundtrack to many lives.

“You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it

And the clock waits so patiently on your song”

– Andrew Gutteridge


“What can I say about David Bowie?

“That he was the bohemian uncle that drifted in and out of my life throwing sparkles of possibility.

“That he was the musak in the elevator of my life.

“That the stunned wonder that surrounded me when I saw Ziggy Stardust will stay with me forever.

“That I will always smile when I see him in Twin Peaks.

“That he was brave, brilliant, selfish, pompous, amazing, never, ever, boring, and that he will be missed.”

– Teresa Bruce


“What did/does Bowie mean to me? He got me into music and touched me in a way that no other artist ever has.

“Boys Keep Swinging on Top of the Pops when I was 10; Changes One and then Ziggy – the first albums I ever had of my own and like all first albums the ones you play and pore over for months; then I’m off – copying everything I could get my hands on at Sutton lending library, some of which I ‘forgot’ to return.

“My first gig at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1983, the artistry of which I’ve never quite got over; the musical introduction to Lou Reed, Iggy, Kraftwerk and jazz; the first time I head of Kerouac and On the Road; the dyed hair and Oxford bags I discovered you couldn’t get hold of in suburban Sutton; and then with me ever since, some of his music brilliant, some of it less so but all of it always worth a listen.

“Really surprised today to find myself crying over the death of someone I obviously never knew but that’s music for you.

RIP David Bowie x”

– Philip Parkin

“Being brought up in the 1960s and 1970s meant that I spent my childhood experiencing some of the most amazing and radical changes to music and culture. This is not to say that the music was better then, it’s simply that it was all completely new and anything new always shocks.

“The era of glam-rock was particularly amazing. At school (even in working class areas such as Hackney, where I was) the glamour and showmanship captured everyone’s imagination.

“We’d all already taken Marc Bolan to our heart as he was one of our own, coming as he did from nearby Stoke Newington, but the explosive arrival of David Bowie was something completely different.

“Suddenly here was a genius. It wasn’t just the incredible music but also the theatre and the fashion that went with it. His Top of the Pops Starman appearance in 1972 was the talk of school, not just for days on end, but for months. We’d never seen this style before and although we weren’t allowed to dress like him (school uniforms, etc) we all wanted to sing like him and the somewhat questionable impersonations could be heard all the time.

“Every time he brought out a new single we’d all be rushing to P & J Records in Mare Street, Hackney (right next door to the old Home and Colonial food store), to be one of the first to buy it.

“As time moved on so did Bowie. There were new characters, new albums and new styles.

“I’m not saying I liked all the albums he produced but I’d say 90 per cent or more is music I could listen to at any time. When I saw him in 1987 at Wembley during the Glass Spider tour it was 15 years after being entranced by him for the first time on TV…, and I was still entranced all these years later, and nearly 30 years after that, I still am.

“The news of his passing has left a big gap, but he has left an amazing legacy. His music is still being played 40 years or more after it was first released and will probably still be played many years from now. Pure genius lasts and his genius will go on. He is without doubt the most influential music artist in my lifetime and I can’t imagine he will ever be replaced.”

– Tony Cordell

“What’s so inspiring about Bowie is that he was still moving forward right up to the end, he didn’t stay trapped in 1972 or 1980 or whenever. Blackstar was one the most inventive singles of last year. That’s the mark of a real artist.”

– Shaun Patrick Hand

“Bowie is by far, to me, one of the greatest men to have ever graced the world of music. In a weird way it almost feels like I’m grieving for a much loved relative. I do honestly think that when making this last album he was fully aware that this would be his last piece of work for the world to enjoy. And what an album it is.”

– Steven Gilligan

“By the time I first heard this song in the mid-80s as a wide-eyed young pop fan I’d already been exposed to the eclecticism of Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans, Station to Station, Heroes and Lets Dance, so Bowie doing swinging jangly pop on Sound and Vision came as no surprise. 

“But there was something about the bass and pounding snare on the number, combined with that rhythm and lead guitar, that really grabbed my attention. Bowie’s voice and words seemed to speak of a new era of music ahead, yet Mary Hopkin’s backing vocals recalled something of the glamour of late Sixties R&B. 

“The Thin White Duke’s part in the record beyond writing it is pure magic; laying down his voice 45 seconds into the three-minute song (reportedly after the musicians had left the studio) makes us wait, and wait, for Bowie’s ‘ultimate retreat song’ to come alive. 

“That one man can have such a profound effect on the human race through his art is truly awe-inspiring. To you, David.”

– Lyle Bignon


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