back to article David Bowie: Musician, actor... tech admirer

David Bowie, the iconic rock star, has died aged 69 following an 18-month battle against cancer. Bowie’s death was announced on his Facebook page and confirmed by son Duncan Jones on Twitter. A chameleon, Bowie meant different things to different people thanks to a creativity that spanned music, film, fashion, technology, …

  1. Stevie Silver badge


    World just contracted a bit more.


    Time to go listen to Hunky Dory again.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      @Stevie - know exactly how you feel. I like Hunky Dory though my personal fave is Ziggy

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Kimo

          Re: Bah!

          I have the Berlin trilogy as a playlist. Running through it again today.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge


    I remember my first 'real' stereo, big speakers, amp, receiver etc, the first song played on that system was "Golden Years." Now I fear I'm approaching my golden years.

    I really hope all of the musicians that passed before are welcoming David into the afterlife.

  3. Chika

    Moo, moo, electric moo...

    I can recall mishearing that lyric so many years ago now. And yes, I also have the Laughing Gnome.

    But it's saddening that in this world where so much is ripped off, processed and repeated ad nauseum that another original is now lost to us.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch

      Re: Moo, moo, electric moo...

      But it's saddening that in this world where so much is ripped off, processed and repeated ad nauseum that another original is now lost to us.

      Sounds kind of like Bowie's music, apart from the "repeated ad nauseam" part. Before the downvotes, I mean that in the sense that "good artists copy, great artists steal". Bowie was famous for "stealing" all kinds of musical influences (and non-musical, like Brian Gysin's "cut-up" technique) and making something unique and new out of it.

      A case in point: it only struck me only a few months ago that Bowie had actually done a drum n' bass (-inspired) album: Earthling. In retrospect it should have been obvious, but despite many listenings I'd never pigeon-holed it into any particular style or genre---it was just pure Bowie.

      Definitely a great artist, with an amazing legacy. RIP.

      1. Chika

        Re: Moo, moo, electric moo...

        Sounds kind of like Bowie's music, apart from the "repeated ad nauseam" part.

        What Bowie did wasn't repeating ad nauseam. That's the saddest part of it. He was known for using things from other artists and creators but he did it in his own way, making it different. There's nobody these days that can do this anymore.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Moo, moo, electric moo...

          There's nobody these days that can do this anymore.

          Not contracted to a mainstream label such as Sony/BMG perhaps, but I think you are too pessimistic. You just have to go hunting...

          I'm saddened too by Bowie's demise. I have enjoyed his work since the late 60s. None more so than his collaborations with Eno.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    You Don't Know What You've Got 'til It's Gone

    We all have heroes in our lives. Idols. Whether they are famous or personal to you only. Every day you live your life, and your actions are because of these people. Some people will have first learnt to play guitar because they saw Ziggy Stardust. Other people may decide to attend social events because a friend of theirs showed them that it's possible to have a good time without feeling you're not wanted in those situations.

    Our problem, and it's a problem everyone has, is that these people don't last forever. You can wake up tomorrow, and hear the news someone who affected you so much has gone. And what makes it worse is that there will always be one thing that you've wanted to tell them but have never got round to it. Tomorrow makes it too late to say it.

    Personally, Lemmy and Bowie weren't massive heroes of mine. But they made up part of who I am in terms of music. But to know they both succumbed to a scum bag of a disease that my own father died of who had a massive effect on my life, is I think the most upsetting part. It's shit to lose your Dad to something as awful as cancer, but it's worse to never have an opportunity to tell them how you feel as well.

    So the one thing I think we can all do today is think about those people who are like Bowie to you, and call them or write to them and let them know what they mean to you. Tomorrow will always be too late.


  5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    Ground Control to Major Tomb

    Too soon?

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: too soon?


      Have an upvote.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Ground Control to Major Tomb

      Probably not - had he carried on by bounds of what was considered conventionally decent? In any case, he was ahead of you - a deceased astronaut features in Bowie's recent 'Blackstar' video. Much of that album, only released a couple of days ago, and its associated imagery takes on a new feeling in the wake of this sad news, the inevitably of which he had clearly grokked some time ago.

      But hey, he's stage-managed his own departure! I can't think of a better way to go for a man who lived by playing with the myth of rock n roll, a genre known for elevating its deceased.

      Well played, that man.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Ground Control to Major Tomb

        The entire Black Star video is online here: If anyone thinks the start isn't strange enough for them, I suggest they wait until the second half when it gets truly bizarre. And bizarre in a way that other artists that have to try to be different just don't come close to.

        He must have known he had only months to live when he put this video and song together. I have complete respect for someone who at such a point can dedicate themselves to making a final artistic statement. And the lyrics in retrospect are deeply moving considering how very personal they must have been: "And on the day he died / His spirit rose a metre, stepped aside / And someone else took his place and bravely cried...". I think that's a call that that someone will take his place and a recognition of the bravery of such a person. If that is what it means, then saying someone will take on what you do and replace you, and being glad of that, shows a remarkable soul.

        I watched The Man Who Fell To Earth as a child. David Bowie can only really be described as "David Bowie".

  6. Anonymous Coward

    David Bowie is dead...

    And I am feeling kind of old!

    RIP David--YOU ROCKED!!!!

  7. Anonymous Coward



  8. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    RIP Goblin King

    RIP Goblin King

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first


    Chipping away at my lost youth, one icon at a time.

    RIP to a great artist, and a decent bloke as far as one can tell from his various interviews.

    I thought it was a fogey-based illusion that "music was better back then" until I looked at a few "100/200/500 best albums of all time".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Glum

      "I thought it was a fogey-based illusion that "music was better back then" until I looked at a few "100/200/500 best albums of all time"."

      No way. The late 60's/70's/early 80's music was revolutionary - we will never see it again.

      Most of today's music is pretty shite/bland compared with all the innovation and different styles that people like Bowie et al produced during these eras.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Glum

        There's more innovation than ever, but it gets compared to that period you mention, which gets compared to the era before it, gawd help us. ANY acts coming after the 50's would look really innovative.

        1. Keven E

          Re: Glum

          "There's more innovation than ever..."

          Actually, if there is innovation, it isn't being recognized by standard media outlets and pushed as such. It's like saying < insert pop star name here> has a cutting edge new sound and listen to that new dance beat. Whoops, nope... still in 4/4 time (lol) and... and... don't get me started...

      2. Dan Paul

        Re: Glum (Me too)

        I have to agree with you about the quality of music today and it's lack of innovation and style. Especially since I'm a 60 year old "fogey" but the younger generations think so too.

        Even 15 to 22 y/o kids (those with musical taste at least) agree. Personal conversations with many of these kids have shown they think most 60's/70's/80's artists are fully head and shoulders above most recent talent.

        Over the last 10 to 12 years at Artpark in Lewiston NY, USA there have been some pretty damn good 60's/70's/80's bands that have come through and I can only lament that when those artists have gone on the final tour, so will be the venue's popularity.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Another sad day.

    Feeling older all the time.

    Ah well. I'll spare a thought for Mr Gravedigger. F***ing' 'ard graft. What's this? Urgh. Bloody dogs. Shouldn't be allowed.

  11. Efros

    Sad news

    Bowie's unexpected and untimely departure is very sad indeed. He was the biggest act in the UK through most of my teenage years, surviving all of the fads and fashions and always seemingly reemerging as something new. Sadly the advent of tech now means that you wont remember where you were when you heard the news, you'll just remember reading it on some website or other.

    1. Tony Paulazzo

      Re: Sad news

      you'll just remember reading it on some website or other.

      Yea, but ars technica? That surprised me, thought it were fake at first, but I'll remember that...

      An ocean of love, a starfield of sorrow, to meet once more in the field of dreams. Safe Journey David.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ashes To Ashes.

    All the Giants are disappearing, just left with pygmies now.

  13. TimeMaster T

    Guess its time to

    put on my red shoes and dance the blues.

    RIP Mr. Bowie, and my sympathies to those, like myself, who will have to carry on in this odd little world that now seems a little less interesting, and a little colder too.

  14. Charles Manning


    C'mon that's a stretch.

    We always want to say nice things about dead people and will often over egg the pudding: "He was an up and coming football player" for a mediocre player etc.

    Bowie was accomplished enough without having to stretch the truth.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Techie???

      He taught me an important tech lesson.

      That lightning bolt across his face? The man who failed to earth.

    2. Kimo

      Re: Techie???

      When he worked with Eno on the Berlin trilogy you couldn't walk into a shop and buy the tech they were using and just plug it in. It was often bespoke equipment and cobbled together set-ups. He incorporated tech and production techniques as music technology evolved and also helped to advance other musicians that embraced syths and electronic effects (Eno produced Devo's first album after Bowie met the band). He explored electronic art and film making, Add that to his early interest in computers and the internet, and yeah, he was a techie.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1969, living in Gibraltar, a young 10 year old.

    Space oddity. Apollo moon missions. Changed my life.

    Then Hunky Dory (a phrase I still use, BTW) ~ and then all the rest. Oh you pretty things, Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, Drive in Saturday- perhaps some of the best songs ever written.

    Bowie changed the world, let alone my life. I nearly cried when I heard this morning.

  16. Grikath

    Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips?

    Ballmer? NoWai.

    Gates? .....There's no denying his presence and activities has changed the face of the world we live in quite comprehensively. More so than any set of wars combined, with far less bloodshed** no less. Good or Bad ( put Opinion™ here..), the impact of his work has been massive.

    **Yes. There's the Penguinistas' bruised Egos. They probably would celebrate/mourn Ballmer as The One Who Made It Possible By Fucking Up Completely.

    1. Turtle

      @Grikath Re: Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips?

      I was struck by the same paragraph as you: Both sides cringingly came together when Windows 98’s launch was soundtracked with "Heroes". Still, we’ll all be playing "Heroes" today. Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips?

      That's some outstanding cluelessness right there. I mean, I understand that the writer was probably a Bowie fan and all that, but he needs to have maybe just a little bit of sense.

      Bill Gates during his Microsoft days and now with his philanthropic efforts has and continues to change the world in a variety of ways, some of which are profound.

      David Bowie, on the other hand, made some recordings that some people enjoyed. Apparently some people think that his records are more significant than Bill Gates' record of achievements. If you compare the two - an imbecilic idea in the first place - then anyone with even a vague understanding of how the world works will immediately see how trivial the Bowie record is, not only when compared to Gates' but on its own "merits". (Nota bene: I will be gladdened and amused to read any comments bashing Gates, Ballmer, Microsoft, and Windows, while not bashing Bowie for letting them use "Heroes" to sell Win98.)

      Let me put this another way: Still, we’ll all be playing "Heroes" today. Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips? Literally billions of people use Windows not just today, but today and every day. The significance of what people will do when using Windows, just today and only today (and not this week, month, or year, or the course of their entire lives), so far outstrips the significance of however many people listening to Bowie's records today, that the comparison can only serve to denigrate Bowie's memory.

      Here's my favorite - and I use the word ironically - quote from David Bowie. "This isn't rock and roll, it's genocide". Probably tells us more about him and his outlook, his superficiality and shallowness, his self-absorption, and his need to generate attention-seeking gimmicks (very well-developed!) than anything else that he's ever said or done.

      It's unfortunate to have to bash the dead like this. But then again, eulogies when sufficiently preposterous only serve to ridicule the memory of the deceased.

      PS: The "techie" claims in the article are laughably weak.

      1. johndrake7

        Re: @Grikath Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips?

        Your points are perfectly valid in the context you posit but unfortunately you completely misunderstand the intended and actual context of both the blockquote that inspired your post, and the man that inspired the obit. You need to find the time-space continuum where 40-plus years later, millions of people feel like "Abort, Retry, Fail?" error messages got them through teenage wildlife with heart and soul intact ... and swap your premise-from-an-alternate-universe and the bearded Mr. Spock ... for the clean shaven one plus a reality check.

        The direct generational and emotional impact of the life and passing of Mr. Jones as a person and creator can only be compared poorly at best to their counterparts in Mr. Gates as a person and creator. Many things could be said of Mr. Gates' philanthropy, and of his direct creative coding involvement with Windows the OS, or of Windows' undeniable impact on billions as you point out ... but surely you don't think that people treasure their first Windows (or any) install CD with anything like the scale or the feelings that a favorite CD from the Bowie canon inspires.

        If you do insist on a comparison in your terms, then frankly, Jesus, Gahndi, Mohammed, Buddha and the FSM would come up short in comparison to Gates/Windows in the context you propose: a major clue that perhaps your critique is windmilling at something different to what was meant.

        I'd say there's rather more Bowie in the Windows98 ad shown (not to mention Bowie chum Brian Eno in the Windows95 startup sound) than there is Windows product placement in Bowie (or Eno) albums or lyrics ... and there's probably a reason for that, yes? Bill G. himself wouldn't (and couldn't) use Bill G. himself to market Windows or code Windows post-inception. In contrast, Bowie did what he did composition-wise pretty much with his own bare hands, and touched people accordingly, a different kind of genius and impact entirely than Gates'. That was the only point being made ... and now defenestrated ... and then hammered flat.

        And ... really ? You passed up "sails of oblivion at my head" and friends in favor of the throwaway TARARTIG piss-take ? You do yourself and musician a disservice. Sad.

        1. Martin Silver badge

          Re: @Grikath Will anyone wheel out dusty Win98 CDs when Gates and Ballmer cash in their chips?

          It should also be noted that if Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer hadn't done what they did, someone else would have. We'd still be using personal computers and cellphones; it's just that it would perhaps have been Digital Research or Borland or someone else who would have written the ubiquitous operating systems. (Or perhaps Sun Microsystems might have seen things better, and it would have worked better too.)

          But if Bowie had never existed, we wouldn't have Ziggy Stardust or Station to Station or.....

          I know which I think is more important, culturally.

  17. Dan Paul

    Bowie truly was "alien" and way before his time...

    David Bowie will be sadly missed. He was always way ahead of trends in almost every aspect of his life and music. If any performer qualified for the title, he was a true "alien". His performances transcended music and influenced the art world and his androgynous persona was light years ahead of recent viewpoints of sexuality.

    It is too bad that age and disease are taking influential artists like Bowie and others from this world.

    It is a darker place without them and there seemingly will be no comparable replacements.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP to a musical hero

    Our cultural world shifted a little on its axis today.

    Bowie's music was an essential backdrop to my university years in the otherwise-grim 1970s. It's difficult to convey the scale of the impact he made at the time, both in his image (always so much more than merely dressing up) and the combination of accessibility and innovation in the music - the establishment were horrified, of course, which just delighted his fans even more.

    His restless musical imagination was always there, and helped his career to remain fresh throughout - his soul and funk experiments, or the "Berlin trilogy" that ensured he survived the punk-rock revolution. I vividly remember his set at Live Aid, his show-stealing stagecraft bringing him to the attention of a new musical generation.

    Even towards the end, his last two albums stand as some of his finest work - a fitting testament to everything that went before.

    Popular music has lost an icon.

  19. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Archer has lost ISIS, and now the Ventures have lost The Sovereign.

  20. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "For many, it’ll be like the passing of Elvis Presley in 1977, or Princess Diana in 1997 – you’ll remember where you were and what you were doing that moment you heard the news."

    Yes. I remember exactly what I was doing - I was lstening to the news.

    It's sad enough as it is - no need for syrupy pathos.

  21. JimWin

    He has left us with an amazing legacy

    I have all his albums and I can pick any one and hear music that spans time. In the classical world, that's a given, but Bowie stands head and shoulders above the regular 'pop' world as the creator of not just songs, but a wonderful musical legacy. He will be sorely missed.

  22. Al Black

    Farewell to an Icon

    Where would we be today without Bowie? If only he could have had Five More Years!

    Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing

    News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in

    News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying

    Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying

    I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies

    I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.'s

    My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare

    I had to cram so many things to store everything in there

    And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people

    And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people

    I never thought I'd need so many people

    A girl my age went off her head, hit some tiny children

    If the black hadn't a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them

    A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac

    A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer

    Threw up at the sight of that

    I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlor, drinking milk shakes cold and long

    Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don't think

    You knew you were in this song

    And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor

    And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there

    Your face, your race, the way that you talk

    I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk

    We've got five years, stuck on my eyes

    Five years, what a surprise

    We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot

    Five years, that's all we've got

    We've got five years,what a surprise

    Five years,stuck on my eyes

    We've got five years my brain hurts a lot

    Five years, that's all we've got

    We've got five years, stuck on my eyes

    Five years, what a surprise

    We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot

    Five years, that's all we've got

    We've got five years, what a surprise

    Five years, stuck on my eyes

    We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot

    Five years, that's all we've got

    Five years

    Five years

    Five years

    Five years

    The ultimate Songwriter


  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. thomas k

    Do gently, dude

    As a classical kind of guy, can't say that I was a 'fan' (only popular musician I can say I'm a fan of, in the sense of buying all the albums (well, pre-Issa), is Jane Siberry) but I always enjoyed and admired his work when I encountered it.

    Coming just a week after the new album's release, his sudden passing is even more shocking. I checked the Guardian before work, as usual; checking again at work a couple hours later and seeing the news ... My first thought was, "but he was just alive!"

    Talk about 'here one moment, gone the next' - you hear that phase your whole life and it's just words, someone says it and you all laugh. But here, now, in this moment, you suddenly know exactly what it means, what it feels like. So, thanks for that moment of revelation, David.

  25. Roj Blake

    Nomad Soul

    A piece on Bowie's tech credentials really should have included a mention of his work on the 1999 computer game The Nomad Soul.

    1. ContentsMayVary

      Re: Nomad Soul


      And people should really watch this interview he did with Paxman:

      Listen carefully to what he has to say about the internet, back in 2000.

      1. bibs

        Re: You Tube link

        grrr... This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by BBC Global News.

        1. ContentsMayVary

          Re: You Tube link

          If you search for "Bowie Paxman Interview" on YouTube it seems there's lots of copies still up.

  26. Unep Eurobats


    That's another new element name sorted.

  27. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Old bloke dies of cancer.

    Elton John to slightly rewrite "Candle in The Wind" for funeral.

    He was the King of Hearts.


    The Daily Mash headlines practically write themselves.

  28. Lloyd

    One thing

    I'm not a huge Bowie fan, I like the odd song here and there but the one thing for me that stands out about him was that I never heard anyone say anything detrimental about him (with the possible exception of his drug taking). The media never really slagged him off, there's never really been any gossip about him and the friends I have "in the industry" never had tales and they have tales about everyone. To my mind if he managed to walk that tightrope without falling off then he must have been a genuinely decent human being and for that alone he should be mourned.

  29. NP-HARD

    The only fitting tribute...

    Rename the planet.

    Dave World.

    Ziggy Sphere.

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