David Bowie Death, Cause of death – Until the last, David Bowie, who has died of cancer, was still capable of springing surprises. His latest album, Blackstar, appeared on his 69th birthday on 8 January, and showed that his gift for making dramatic statements as well as challenging, disturbing music had not deserted him.
Throughout the 1970s, Bowie was a trailblazer of musical trends and pop fashion. Having been a late-60s mime and cabaret entertainer, he evolved into a singer-songwriter, and a pioneer of glam-rock, then veered into what he called “plastic soul”, before moving to Berlin to create innovative electronic music.
In subsequent decades his influence became less pervasive, but he remained creatively restless and constantly innovative across a variety of media. His capacity for mixing brilliant changes of sound and image underpinned by a genuine intellectual curiosity is rivalled by few in pop history. Blackstar was proof that this curiosity had not diminished in his later career.
Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London. His mother, Peggy, had met his father, John, after he was demobilised from second world war service in the Royal Fusiliers. John subsequently worked for the Barnardo’s children’s charity. They married in September 1947, eight months after David’s birth, when John’s divorce from his first wife, Hilda, became absolute.
In 1953 the family moved to Bromley, Kent, where David attended Burnt Ash junior school and showed aptitude in singing and playing the recorder. Later, after he passed his 11-plus exam, he turned down a place at a grammar school and went to Bromley technical high school and studied art, music and design. His half-brother, Terry Burns, nearly a decade older than David, introduced him to jazz musicians, such as and , and in 1961 David’s mother bought him a plastic saxophone, introducing him to an instrument that would become a recurring ingredient in his music.
After a 1962 schoolyard punch-up, the pupil in David’s left eye remained permanently dilated, having the serendipitous effect of lending him a vaguely unearthly appearance (the thrower of the punch, George Underwood, remained a close friend and later designed Bowie’s album artwork).
At 15, David formed his first band, the Kon-rads, a primitive rock’n’roll combo that contained a fluctuating number of members, including Underwood. He quickly became disillusioned with his band’s lack of ambition and quit to form a new outfit, the blues-influenced King Bees. They released a single called Liza Jane, but when it disappeared without trace, David jumped ship again and joined the Manish Boys. Named after a Muddy Waters track, they too were blues-orientated. Their single I Pity the Fool proved no more chart-friendly than Liza Jane had done, after which the restless Davy Jones was on the move once more.