Mourners have laid flowers and lit candles beside a memorial to David Bowie in the edgy Brixton district of south London where the visionary British rock star was born.
There were similar tributes in Berlin, where David Bowie recorded his Heroes album, outside the star’s old apartment and in Hollywood, where his Walk of Fame star was covered with candles, flowers and glitter.
Titans of popular music, including the Rolling Stones, Madonna and rapper Kanye West, after Bowie died aged 69 following a secret battle with cancer, took to social media to remember the singer.
A pioneering chameleon of performance imagery, Bowie straddled the worlds of hedonistic rock, fashion and drama for five decades, pushing the boundaries of music and his own sanity to produce some of the most innovative songs of his generation.
“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” read a statement on Bowie’s Facebook page dated January 10. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, confirmed the death.
A spokesman for Bowie said he died on Sunday but declined to say where he died or from what type of cancer.
“The Rolling Stones are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend David Bowie,” the Stones said.
Madonna said on Twitter: “Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had grown up with Bowie’s music and described his death as “a huge loss”.
The Vatican said: “Check ignition and may God’s love be with you” – borrowing a verse from Bowie’s first hit Space Oddity.
In a music video accompanying Bowie’s new, jazzy Blackstar album, released on his 69th birthday last Friday, the singer was shown in a hospital bed with bandages around his eyes.
Born David Jones in south London two years after the end of World War II, he took up the saxophone at 13 before changing his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees’ Davy Jones, according to Rolling Stone.
He shot to fame in Britain in 1969 with Space Oddity, whose words he said were inspired by watching Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey while stoned.
But it was Bowie’s 1972 portrayal of a doomed bisexual rock envoy from space, Ziggy Stardust, that propelled him to global stardom.
Bowie and Ziggy, wearing outrageous costumes, make-up and bright orange hair, took the pop world by storm.
By now an influential icon of artistic reinvention venturing into the theatre, film and fashion worlds, Bowie continued to innovate, helping produce Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life album, delving into American rhythm & blues and co-writing the hit Fame with John Lennon.
He scored his first US No.1 with Fame and created a new persona, the “Thin White Duke”, for his Station to Station album.
But the excesses of a hedonistic life were taking their toll.
In a reference to his prodigious appetite for cocaine, he said: “I blew my nose one day in California. And half my brains came out. Something had to be done.”
Bowie moved from the US to Switzerland and then to Cold War-era Berlin to recuperate, working with Brian Eno from Roxy Music to produce some of his least commercial and most ambitious music, including Low and Heroes in 1977.
In 1983 Bowie changed tack again, signing a multimillion-dollar five-album deal with EMI. The first, Let’s Dance, returned him to chart success and almost paid off his advance.
His love life fascinated gossip columnists and his marriage to Somali-American supermodel Iman in 1992 guaranteed headlines.
Bowie kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004. It was not widely known that he was fighting cancer.
“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings from a hospital bed in the video accompanying his last album.
“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.”