Few rock and rollers have been as exciting, experimental and personable as British musical legend David Bowie. His death January 10 shocked many and saddened even more. Two days earlier, he had turned 69 and released a new album, “Blackstar.”
Bowie discovered he had liver cancer in 2013. He had not made the information public.
Millions of fans expressed their grief and love for the artist in a flood of messages on social media and other outlets. Others have left flowers and notes in honor of the musician at places he lived, work or is honored.
Bowie was famous for more than just music. He was an early gender-bender in his style of dress. He was a famous experimenter with musical styles as well. He was one of the creators of glam rock, and mixed it with hard rock, dance, pop, soul and punk.
He rocketed to fame with his 1969 song “Space Oddity.” The song is about an astronaut in space. It evokes the loneliness of the Cold War space race. The song came out in the same month that men first walked on the moon.
Bowie calls the astronaut Major Tom.
Three years later, David Bowie released "The Rise of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars.” The album introduced one of music's most famous personas: the red-headed, androgynous, futuristic rock star Ziggy Stardust.
He wore shiny clothes, metallic face paint and high boots. Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust in 1973. But he continued to be a beloved character in the world of rock and roll.
In the mid-1970s, Bowie created another persona. The “Thin White Duke” was sophisticated in a bright white shirt and black vest and pants. His white blonde hair was brushed straight back from his head.
He was seen as romantic and yet emotionless. His character was linked to the city of Los Angeles, where Bowie was living at the time. Los Angeles is often seen as soulless.
The character is introduced in Bowie’s “Station to Station” album of 1976. The singer was suffering from a cocaine dependency at the time.
David Bowie was born David Jones in 1947 in London. He was a young music fan and at 13 began to study saxophone. His older brother Terry introduced him to rock and roll.
Jones changed his name to Bowie because of a popular singer named Davy Jones, who performed with The Monkees. Biography.com says he got the name Bowie from the famous Bowie knife.
Among Bowie’s other big hits of the 1970s were the songs, “Changes,” “Fame” and “Heroes.” In the 1980s, he had huge success with the album “Let’s Dance.”
And he never stopped creating.
He told the Associated Press in a 2002 interview, "My entire career, I've only really worked with the same subject matter. The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I've always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety — all of the high points of one's life."
Bowie was also an actor, playing in major movies including “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and “The Hunger.” But he also took part in smaller projects. He played himself in the television show “Extras” and even voiced a character in the popular animated show “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
David Bowie was admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He also co-wrote “Lazarus,” which is finishing its run on Broadway this month.
Bowie is survived by his wife, the model Iman, and two adult children, Lexi and Duncan Jones. David Bowie’s funeral will be private. His family said Bowie told them he wanted to “go without any fuss.”
However, musicians will honor the man and his music with a concert at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on March 31.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
gender-bender – n. the act of dressing and behaving like a member of the opposite sex
evoke – v. to bring (a memory, feeling, image, etc.) into the mind
introduce – v. to mention or refer to (something) for the first time
persona – n. the way you behave, talk, etc., with other people that causes them to see you as a particular kind of person: the image or personality that a person presents to other people
androgynous – adj. having both male and female characteristics or qualities
sophisticated – adj. having or showing a lot of experience and knowledge about the world and about culture, art, literature, etc.
isolation – n. the state of being in a place or situation that is separate from others: the condition of being isolated
abandon – v. to leave and never return to (someone who needs protection or help)