David Bowie died today, 11th January 2016, just three days after he turned 69 and released his final album, Blackstar. Like music fans worldwide, here at PMT we're deeply saddened, and pay tribute to this true musical hero.
There has never been an artist like David Bowie, and there'll never be another. In an era when popular music becomes increasingly bland and devoid of mystery, Bowie managed to keep himself enigmatic and vital until the end - in a way, turning his death into the final act of his remarkable career.
There have been great, influential musicians before, but it's fair to argue that few - if any - were as important as David Bowie. Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley defined what would become known as rock'n'roll - but never released as many influential albums as Bowie.
The Beatles were the biggest band ever, and of course their music inspired countless other musicians (including Bowie) but they split in 1970, so their importance has been delimited by those years they've been active - they're part of our History now. David Bowie, on the other hand, has been part of our lives for over 40 years, still making music until the very end, still present in the pop landscape - even via his absence, when fans would speculate whether he was alive and well, whether he'd make music again, whether he'd tour again.
When Bowie managed to surprise the world with the release of 'The Next Day' in 2013, he proved he could still sound fresh and vital, making his most-acclaimed album since 1980's 'Scary Monsters'. And, just as importantly, he managed to keep its release a complete secret until the last minute - something surprising in the age of social media, when pop stars seem to have lost any aura of mystery.
And so it was... Bowie kept us all in the dark, until the end. It turns out he'd been battling with cancer for the past 18-months, so he surely knew 'Blackstar', released on his 69th birthday, would be his last album. And while fans were hoping for another tour (or at least a comeback set at Glastonbury) little did we notice the hints: 'Blackstar', his most adventurous album ever, was his final, grand statement. An album, as Billboard noted just 4 days ago, filled with songs about death, such as 'Lazarus' and final track 'I Can't Give Everything Away'.
'Blackstar' was also the first Bowie album where he doesn't appear on the sleeve. Bowie was saying goodbye to us, and we didn't even realise. He turned his death into art. What a masterstroke. What a way to end a remarkable career.
After all the sadness and shock subside, as we listen back to his songs over the next weeks, months and years, we'll find some comfort at least, when it becomes clear that David Bowie will always be with us, as long as we listen to his music.
Starman: 7 Songs To Remember David Bowie By
How to summarize Bowie's career in just seven songs? We can't, really! This is just a selection of some of our favourites, but, of course, there are so many to choose from! Let us know your picks, too, in the comments below.
1) Space Oddity
Bowie's first hit, in 1969. Great use of synthesizer and stylophone. Bowie was ready for the world, but the world wasn't ready for him, and despite being a hit, the song didn't make him a huge star...
2) Life On Mars?
From 'Hunk Dory', the album that established him as a great songwriter...
The BIG one. The game-changer. The 60's were dead. The Beatles were over, and the new decade needed something new. And it was Bowie - or rather, Ziggy Stardust. Until then, Bowie had tried to fit in the music scene, but his genius move was to create Ziggy and kick-start the Glam rock era. From then on, Bowie would move to his own beat, set his own rules.
4) Drive-In Saturday
Proof that Bowie was much more than a space alien rockstar. This was his nostalgic, romantic teenage hymn the kids could relate to.
5) Speed Of Life
The first track on 'Low', the first album of his Berlin trilogy made with Brian Eno. It's the sound of an adventurous new era - for Bowie and, as a result, for the rest of Seventies music, and beyond!
Bowie's greatest song? Quite likely.
7) Ashes To Ashes
It could be argued that Bowie inaugurated the 80's with this song. The New Romantics - such as Duran Duran, Culture Club and Adam Ant - who would dominate the 80's chart were heavily influenced by Bowie, so it's not a coincidence Steve Strange, from Visage, appears in the video. And never a #1 hit has sounded so haunting as this, which sounds as strong today as ever...