Such a singular talent as David Bowie would inspire comments from all corners on his passing, yesterday at 69, after a long, unpublicized battle with cancer that left the music world universally in shock.
“Can’t sleep,” guitarist Carlos Alomar, who recorded and toured extensively with Bowie, wrote on Facebook. “It’s like my heart is frozen, and my gaze is fixed. Nothing comes to mind. Stunned. Not making much sense right now…gotta sleep.”
“Very sad news to wake up to on this raining morning,” Paul McCartney wrote on his Facebook page. “David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world. I send my deepest sympathies to his family and will always remember the great laughs we had through the years. His star will shine in the sky forever.”
On the other end of the cultural galaxy, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson invoked Bowie’s cosmological manifestations, namely, his 1969 hit “Space Oddity”—and his 1976 sci-fi film The Man Who Fell to Earth, via Twitter: “I wonder if some forms of creativity can only be generated by a Space Oddity that Falls to Earth.” Echoed Sandra Bernhard’s tweet, “He fell to earth we were better for it #DavidBowie innovator artist & kind man.”
Tributes appropriately came in all the way from Outer Space, where British astronaut Tim Peake tweeted from the International Space Station, “Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer–his music was an inspiration to many.” Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who strummed “Space Oddity” on his guitar while orbiting Earth aboard the space station in 2013, tweeted: “Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust. Your brilliance inspired us all. Goodbye Starman”—Starman being a reference to Bowie’s single “Starman” from his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
In an email, May Pang said, “It’s a shock and a sadness to have learned that David is gone. He was there for me when John [Lennon] died. As we will miss his creative energy, he did leave us with so much of his work to the very end.” Her ex-husband and Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti said, on Facebook, “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 [final album, released two days before his death] 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.”
Also on Facebook, Elvis Costello’s longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve said, “I am unable to express my sadness. Two days ago I played the beautiful Blackstar album for the first time. Now this. Since I started loving modern music, this man has been a top hero of mine. And will always be. I once had the honor to work in the studio with him, and will never forget.”
Nieve’s English new wave contemporary Graham Parker tweeted, “Impossible to imagine David Bowie is not with us anymore. Simply a giant of imagination, creation and performance.” Madonna, quoting from Bowie’s 1974 hit “Rebel Rebel,” tweeted, “So lucky to have met you!!!! Hot tramp I love you so!”
Lulu, who preceded Bowie into rock stardom, tweeted, “At the news of David Bowie’s death I feel a deep and profound sadness.” Fellow ‘60s rocker Howard Kaylan of The Turtles tweeted, “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD. DAMN IT! Loved you so much.” And Iggy Pop, whose career benefited greatly thanks to Bowie producing and covering him and co-writing with him, tweeted, “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”
English music journalist Charles Shaar Murray noted in his Facebook post that “just yesterday I was submerging myself in Blackstar,” and that “a showman to the last, he dropped that final album (a classic ‘weird’ Bowie album, just as its predecessor, The Next Day, was a classic Bowie ‘rock’ album) without warning or advance publicity, just as he had with The Next Day. No one outside his immediate circle had known that either album was coming, just as no one but his nearest and dearest had known he was dying.”
During his long career Bowie “did everything an artist should do,” continued Murray. “He enchanted, intrigued, inspired, confused, angered and delighted his audience and–more than any other artist in his field–he championed the power of the imagination.”
Legendary rock photographer Chalkie Davies, prefacing his Facebook post as “the hardest thing I have ever written,” focused on “what a lovely person” Bowie was and remembered him “smiling, happy, a joy to be with, and an incredible person to know and work for.”
“You were beyond special, you were unique. I think the entire world would agree on that, too,” added Davies, who cites his photos from Bowies final Ziggy Stardust tour show at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973 as his career turning point. Another of his favorite photography subjects, Squeeze’s Chris Difford recalled on his website how he wrote his first song in 1971 to Space Oddity’s “constant revolving” on his record player. Listening to his first demos now, “I can hear how much I leant on David Bowie’s inspiration, even the voice. [He gave me the] voice that started me on my way.”
“I even wrote a song called ‘Welcome to Mars,’” wrote Difford. Meanwhile, on Howard Stern’s radio show this morning, Stern recalled Bowie’s performance at his birthday show in 1998, when the event was moved to the night to accommodate him. He noted that while he is not a memorabilia collector, an autographed picture from Bowie, also including the message, “Hot tramp, I love you so,” is displayed in a prominent place in his apartment.