David Bowie performing in Boston in 2002. Photo: Getty Images
Planet Earth is blue - the death of David Bowie has left
music fans reeling.
It was confirmed last night the legendary musician - singer
of Space Oddity and creator of Ziggy Stardust - had
died of lung cancer, aged 69.‘
"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family
after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,'' a statement
on Bowie's Facebook page read.
The news triggered an outpouring of grief in Dunedin, where
Otago Boys' High School teacher and music writer George Kay
said he was "absolutely shattered''.
Mr Kay, whose list of star interviews for Rip It Up
magazine included Mick Jagger, Neil Young and Yoko Ono,
recalled a 45-minute phone interview with Bowie as
"absolutely'' a career highlight.
Mr Kay told the Otago Daily Times he was a "huge fan''
of Bowie's music, having seen him perform in Christchurch,
Wellington and Auckland.
He had also met Bowie in person at a press conference in
Christchurch while writing about the star's 1978 New Zealand
tour, and later interviewed Bowie's band - but not the man
himself - during his 1983 tour.
But it was the sprawling telephone interview with Bowie,
speaking from London in the mid-1990s, that remained in Mr
Bowie had spent the first part of the interview trying to
recall their previous meeting, and then pretending he could,
speaking in his ‘‘extremely affable'' thick London accent, Mr
But he also displayed his philosophical nature, fretting
about a significant upcoming birthday, Mr Kay recalled.
"He was asking about what was the meaning of life? What was
it all about? ... he was quite philosophical in many
respects, but I think that was the way he was. He thought
about everything he did, pretty much.''
The lengthy interview later formed the basis of a series
about Bowie, prepared for National Radio.
Mr Kay said Bowie's death was "tragic'' so soon after the
release of his latest album, Blackstar, but his music
would live on.
"He owned the 1970s. If you look at his output, what he did
was absolutely unbelievable, from electronic stuff to glam to
the funk stuff.
"His lasting legacy is he wrote some absolutely phenomenal
songs, advanced rock and roll through a lot of different
phases and stages, created glam music, then ended it, and
just was prepared to try things.
"The guy was absolutely one of the greats - one of the few
geniuses in rock'n'roll.''
Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, south London, in 1947
and enjoyed a career spanning five decades, from the 1960s
and Space Oddity through Ziggy Stardust and his outrageous
costumes of the 1970s to his later incarnation as a soulful
rocker, the BBC reported.
He kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart
surgery in 2004, but surprised many with the release of
The Next Day in 2013, on his 66th birthday.
He marked his 69th birthday on Friday with the release of his
last album, Blackstar, which dealt with themes of
illness and death.
University of Otago music lecturer and die-hard Bowie fan Dr
Ian Chapman, who has written a book and taught a paper about
the musician, said he was "one of the most important artists
in the history of rock'n'roll music''.
Bowie "blew apart'' what it meant to be a rock star with the
release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the
Spiders from Mars in 1972, Dr Chapman said.
"His approach was to take an actor's approach to rock music,
which was totally new.
"He changed the face of rock'n'roll.''
His influence went beyond music to movies, theatre and
A big reason why Bowie was such a hero to him was that he
made "being different OK''.
"For me and many other people I know, Bowie has been a real
champion of the alienated and the marginalised.
"Part of the whole appeal when he was [alter-ego] Ziggy
Stardust was he looked so outlandish that anyone else who
felt marginalised by way of their sexuality, gender, or age
felt empowered by him because he was saying it was OK to be
His death came as a shock so soon after the release of
Blackstar, but in a way it was no surprise he managed
to keep his battle with cancer hidden from the public.
"He was very good at that; when he came out with his surprise
album , no-one knew he had been recording.''
Dr Chapman was yet to listen to Bowie's latest album, but it
would take on a special significance when he did in the
● David Bowie wowed New Zealand fans four times during his
career. He visited first in 1978 on the Low/Heroes World
Tour, then in 1983's Serious Moonlight Tour, the Glass Spider
Tour in 1987 and A Reality Tour in 2004. Did you attend one
of these concerts? Send your David Bowie memory to email@example.com.
What they tweeted
Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a
while. Love to all. - Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son)
Making a record and a music video while fighting cancer,
releasing it 2 days before his death. An artist like no
other. #DavidBowie - Lizzie Marvelly
Turn and face the strange. David Bowie - Joel Madden
David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so
fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime. -
RIP David. I loved your music. I loved you. One of the
greatest performance artists to have ever lived. #sorrow -
I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie. - Ricky Gervais
Sorry to hear David Bowie has died. Big influence on my
musical upbringing. Loved his Station to Station album -
Labour leader Andrew Little
Nearly brought to tears by sudden news of @DavidBowieReal
David Bowie's passing RIP - Billy Idol
It's not often I cry at the loss of an artist but I'm
devastated. He meant so much. Goodbye David Bowie and our
youth. We loved you. X - Marc Almond
Very sad to hear about the death of David Bowie but through
his music he will live forever - Eddie Izzard
Never imagined a world without him. He has ascended into the
cosmos from whence he came. Farewell, David Bowie - Elijah
When I was 15 and John Lennon died, I locked myself away for
2 days watching Beatles vids on VHS. Might do something
similar now #Bowie - Alison Mau