David Bowie: Farewell to the Thin White Duke

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | January 11, 2016 0

David Bowie has died at the age of 69 surrounded by his family following an 18-month battle with cancer. A statement was issued across the musician’s official social media profiles, asking the public to respect the “family’s privacy during their time of grief”. Bowie’s followers largely rejected the statement as a “hoax”, but Sky News reported it had spoken to the singer’s publicist to confirm the news.

The statement on Facebook read: “January 10 2016 – David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”

Bowie’s death comes just two days after he released his 25th and final album ‘★’ (Blackstar). The influential singer-songwriter and producer dabbled in glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during his eclectic 40-plus-year career. He just released his 25th album, Blackstar, Jan. 8, which was his birthday.  Bowie_1983_serious_moonlight bowie_aladin_sane_custom bowiecdbowiejonesbowiedavid-robert-jones

Like many this Monday morning I am shocked by the news of Bowie’s passing. He was a true original and for many part of the soundtrack of their lives.

I met him in the best of circumstances in July 1987 after he played at Slane Castle, outside Dublin. I had gone with a girlfriend to  “Risqué” a night club run by Kader Asmal’s son Rafiq on a Saturday night under Vogue restaurant on Dublin’s Grafton Street. We were astonished around 12.30 when this part time club was graced by David Bowie, his Band and entourage who crashed in after performing to 50,000 at Slane Castle earlier. I ended up chatting to David whose management asked for the doors to be closed but very kindly insisted on picking up a bar tab until four in the morning by way of thanks! He looked tired, it was shortly after the “Berlin Years” but there again he had just performed what by all accounts was a great concert at Slane. The irony of not being able to afford the concert ticket but getting to chat to David afterwards has not been lost on me since.

See: Kader Asmal – Freedom’s Friend



Photo of David Bowie taken at Friars Aylesbury, Ziggy Stardust tour 15th July 1972.

There is also an important connection with David Bowie and my local town Aylesbury which was the base for the seminal Friars Music Club. Friars became famous for its great atmosphere, iconic bands and infectiously enthusiastic audience. Friars is universally acknowledged as having played a role in the careers of David Bowie, Genesis, Mott The Hoople, The Jam, The Clash, The Ramones, Tom Petty, Split Enz, Kraftwerk, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Buzzcocks and many more … bowie65Bowiefriarsbowie friarsbowie2posters (1)

Friars’ most memorable night took place on January 29th 1972 when David Bowie chose the venue to perform as Ziggy Stardust for the very first time. The birthplace of one of the UK’s most culturally significant icons, a section of Stardust’s satin sequined shirt, which was ripped-off by overzealous fans during the concert was in the Friars exhibition held locally in 2014.

Friars – The Music Club which rocked the world


Bowie’s artistic breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, an album that fostered the notion of rock star as space alien. Fusing British mod with Japanese kabuki styles and rock with theatre, Bowie created the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Three years later, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the No. 1 single “Fame” off the top 10 album Young Americans, then followed with the 1976 avant-garde art rock LP Station to Station, which made it to No. 3 on the charts and featured top 10 hit “Golden Years.” bowie_blackstar_000

Other memorable songs included 1983’s “Let’s Dance” — his only other No. 1 U.S. hit — “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” “Rebel, Rebel,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Panic in Detroit,” “Fashion,” “Life on Mars,” “Suffragette City” and a 1977 Christmas medley with Bing Crosby.

With his different-colored eyes (the result of a schoolyard fight) and needlelike frame, Bowie was a natural to segue from music into curious movie roles, and he starred as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s surreal The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Critics later applauded his three-month Broadway stint as the misshapen lead in 1980’s The Elephant Man. David_Bowie_holywood David-Bowie_Chicago_2002 David-Bowie_Early david-bowie-2013

Bowie also starred in Marlene Dietrich’s last film, Just a Gigolo (1978), portrayed a World War II prisoner of war in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), and played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). And in another groundbreaking move, Bowie, who always embraced technology, became the first rock star to morph into an Internet Service Provider with the launch in September 1998 of BowieNet. bowieguitar

Born David Jones in London on Jan. 8, 1947, Bowie changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom. He played saxophone and started a mime company, and after stints in several bands he signed with Mercury Records, which in 1969 released his album Man of Words, Man of Music, which featured “Space Oddity,” a poignant song about an astronaut, Major Tom, spiralling out of control.

In an attempt to stir interest in Ziggy Stardust, Bowie revealed in a January 1972 magazine interview that he was gay — though that might have been a publicity stunt — dyed his hair orange and began wearing women’s garb. The album became a sensation.

#fbf One of our first public outing early 90's #Bowies #FBF

A photo posted by IMAN (@the_real_iman) on

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Bowie in 2009 with his son Duncan Jones at the premiere of Jones’ directorial debut Moon

Bowie was relatively quiet between the years of 2004 and 2012, reemerging in 2013 with the album The Next Day. Its arrival was met with a social media firestorm which catapulted it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, his highest charting album ever. While demand for a tour by the reclusive rock star has been relentless, Bowie kept a decidedly low profile, maintaining a residence in New York but rarely seen. David_Bowie_at_the_premiere_of_Moon

It is a sad day for Bowie and his family, especially his wife Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid,  his son Duncan Jones and his daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones. His passing puts into perspective the wonderfully curated exhibition at the V & A in London I attended in 2013 which was an international retrospective of his extraordinary career. Bowie was featured in more than 300 objects that include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie’s own instruments.

Enigmatic to the last, it is as if the Thin White Duke aka David Jones of Brixton, London, was laying down his last record.

“I’m feeling very still

I think my spaceship knows which way to go

Tell my wife I love her much she knows”

David Bowie, born David Robert Jones; 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter, and actor.

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