Bowie was diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months ago, but his condition was not disclosed to the media.
“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. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
Known for his musical innovation, sophisticated lyrics and flamboyant personas, Bowie’s 40-plus-year career encompassed folk, glam rock, dance pop, electronica.
Following a UK top five hit with 1969’s Space Oddity, Bowie’s breakout came with the glam rock album (and alter ego) Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Six years later he achieved US success with Young Americans (described by Bowie as “plastic soul”), reaching his commercial peak in the mid-eighties with the worldwide smash Let’s Dance.
In addition to a prolific, 26 studio-album musical output Bowie also appeared in 33 films, including the 1976 cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth; Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, arthouse vampire B-movie The Hunger and Jim Henson’s fantasy adventure film Labyrinth. Though Bowie’s films were rarely financial successes, his portrayal of several iconic characters – including Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, Andy Warhol (Basquiat) and as Nikola Tesla in 2006’s The Prestige – gained critical approval.
In the mid 90’s, Bowie – along with his financial manager Bill Zysblat, and investment banker David Pullman – created ‘Bowie Bonds’, asset-backed securities of the current and future revenues of the 25 albums Bowie recorded before 1990. The bonds were bought by the Prudential Insurance Company of America in 1997 for US$55m. With an average life span of ten years, the bonds performed well, paying an interest rate of 7.9% – a higher rate of return than a 10 year Treasury note at the time – however by 2004, the bonds had been lowered from an A3 rating to Baa3, just one notch above junk status.
In a 2002 interview with the New York Times, Bowie accurately predicted that the internet was about to disrupt, if not decimate, the music industry’s then-current model.
“I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way,” he said. “The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.”
“Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,” he added. “So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what's going to happen.”
Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar, was released on Sunday, just two days before his death.
He is survived by his second wife, former model Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, and children Duncan and Alexandria Zahra Jones.