12 months ago today millions of music fans including the biggest names in showbiz were mourning the shock death of David Bowie from cancer at the age of 69.
Admirers ranging from the Prime Minister to Paul McCartney and from film stars to governments joined a worldwide outpouring of grief.
Most were stunned by the total secrecy surrounding the Ziggy Stardust singer’s deteriorating health. Bowie had told only those closest to him of his 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer, which is believed to have spread to his liver.
The Golden Years star kept his condition from friends. Kate Moss, who looked on Bowie as a father figure, had no idea he was sick. She and Rolling Stone Ron Wood’s ex-wife Jo texted Bowie on his birthday on Friday but got no reply. They were unaware he was on his deathbed in New York, surrounded by his
closest friends and family.
It is believed Bowie learned he was dying about a year ago — and spent his remaining months writing and recording his 25th and final album, Blackstar. He made the project his priority — over and above efforts to prolong his life.
Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti, whose work with the singer dates back to the 1969 album Space Oddity, was stunned when Blackstar was completed in just three sessions spread across three months. The lyrics of third track Lazarus, released as a single, serve as Bowie’s poignant farewell to his fans. He sings the opening line: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The accompanying video also foretold his death, showing Bowie in a hospital bed before ending with him retreating into a dark closet. Album and single were released on his 69th birthday on Friday, two days before his death
He was seen in public for the last time on December 7 at the New York premiere of musical Lazarus, a production based on his songs.
David Cameron was among the high-profile fans tweeting tributes. He said: “I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He
was a master of re-invention. A huge loss.”
Mick Jagger, who teamed up with Bowie for 1985 single Dancing in the Street, said: “David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. “He was wonderfully shameless in his work. We had so many good times together. He was my friend. I will never forget him.”
The German government said Bowie, who lived in Berlin in the late ’70s, had helped tear down the wall that divided the city during the Cold War. Its
Foreign Office said: “Goodbye, David Bowie. You are now among Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the wall.”
News of Bowie’s death led to a series of impromptu shrines, at his childhood home, his New York apartment, the London street where the Ziggy Stardust
album cover was shot and a Dutch museum.
In his birthplace of Brixton, South London, flowers and candles were left by a mural of the cover of his classic album Aladdin Sane, featuring Bowie with a
lightning zig-zag across his face. One note read simply: “The stars look very different today’” — a line from Space Oddity.
Outside his ex-home in Stansfield Road fans with guitars sat strumming the Space Oddity chords.