11 Jan 2016

David Bowie: tributes from across planet Earth and beyond

Musicians, statesmen, the Vatican and fellow space travellers pay their respects to the original Starman.

Floral tribute to David Bowie (Getty)

While fans left flowers and messages outside Bowie’s childhood home in Brixton, south London, musicians from all genres were quick to pay tribute online to the singer, who embraced countless musical styles in his long, eclectic career.

Madonna said he was the first artist she saw in concert while growing up in Detroit, while MIA tweeted that Bowie “was connected to the source”.

Rapper Kanye West said: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

Former Stooges frontman Iggy Pop, whose most successful album Lust for Life was produced by Bowie, said:

David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.

Record producer Tony Visconti, a long-term collaborator, called Bowie’s last album Blackstar, released to critical acclaim just two days before the singer’s death, a “parting gift”.

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.

“He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.

“I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

Old rock allies Queen, the Rolling Stones and the Foo Fighters also posted messages of condolence online.

Fittingly for a singer who scored his first hit with 1969’s Space Oddity, and regularly returned to the theme of space travel in his songwriting, Bowie was remembered by two astronauts.

Former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield shot to fame after covering Bowie songs like Space Oddity, which features the famous line: “Ground control to Major Tom.”

He tweeted using the words “ashes to ashes”, the title of the 1980 Bowie song that revisited the Major Tom character.

British astronaut Tim Peake, who is currently orbiting the earth on the space station, tweeted: “Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many.”

The Vatican also turned to the lyrics of Space Oddity, with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeting: “Ground Control to Major Tom/ Commencing countdown, engines on/ Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie).”

Bowie rarely spoke about his religious beliefs, but did once say he was “not quite an atheist”.

He generally avoided politics too, after blaming an apparent flirtaion with the far-right in the 1970s on being “out of my mind” on drugs.

But several statesmen said they were saddened at the news of his death.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote: “I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.”

Another politician who posted a tribute was Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who referenced the 1977 hit Heroes, calling the star “a hero for so much more than just one day”.

Bowie controversially weighed into the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, when he ended a speech accepting a Brit award – read out by supermodel Kate Moss – with the plea: “Scotland – stay with us.”

One intriguing tribute came from the German Foreign Office, who posted live footage of Bowie performing Heroes, a song that contains an apparent reference to the Berlin Wall: “I can remember standing by the wall/And the guns shot above our heads.”

The star recorded a trilogy of acclaimed albums in Berlin in the late 70s, and in 1987 took part in a concert near the Wall that divided West Berlin from the communist East.

Bowie sang Heroes and spoke German to the crowd. Frustrated East Berliners trying to listen from the other side of the border rioted. A few days later, US President Ronald Readan urged his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev: “Tear down this wall!