The Man Who Fell to Earth has passed away at age 69, just days after the birthday release of his new album. After an 18-month battle with cancer, David Bowie died peacefully, surrounded by family, according to representatives.
The new album, Blackstar, according to long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti, was intended to be a “parting gift” to the world. It’s on track to be number one in the UK by this Friday, and has been well received by critics.
Son Duncan Jones, director of Moon and the upcoming Warcraft, also confirmed the news on his Twitter account:
Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter.com/Kh2fq3tf9m
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016
Born David Robert Jones in January 1947, he invented the David Bowie persona in 1966 to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. From there, he spent his entire career reinventing and redefining himself, experimenting with musical techniques that influenced generations of musicians. His breakthrough would stay with him throughout his entire career: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), an album that dealt with the idea of the “rock star” as another form of “space alien” — complete with the flamboyant alter-ego Ziggy Stardust.
In 1976, Bowie starred as the alien Thomas Jerome Newton, seeking help for his dying homeworld, in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Perhaps his most popular film role, however, was Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. How many people have quoted “You remind me of the babe” to themselves? Bowie’s performance of “Magic Dance” cemented his role as a cult favorite, despite its being a box office disappointment. Henson had wanted a musician to play the Goblin King, and considered Bowie the best choice among many British rockers: “I wanted to put two characters of flesh and bone in the middle of all these artificial creatures,” Henson explained, “and David Bowie embodies a certain maturity, with his sexuality, his disturbing aspect, all sorts of things that characterize the adult world.”
Bowie explained why he agreed to participate, saying, “I’d always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages, as well as everyone else, and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it. The script itself was terribly amusing without being vicious or spiteful or bloody, and it had a lot more heart in it than many other special effects movies. So I was pretty hooked from the beginning.”
Besides Jareth, Bowie also played Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Scarlett Johansson. Nolan said, “David Bowie was really the only guy I had in mind to play Tesla because his function in the story is a small but very important role.” It is perhaps the first time Tesla was portrayed as a character in film, although there are similarities with the “mad scientist” in the Superman cartoons by Max Fleischer.
Bowie’s songs have also been featured in a number of genre projects, most recently The Martian, American Horror Story, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
And of course, there was that one song that was about an astronaut in space, performed by an astronaut in space:
Clear skies, Major Tom.