The sudden news of David Bowie’s death from cancer has shocked the country of his birth, with TV news and radio stations breaking into their regular coverage and reactions pouring in from leaders and other prominent Brits.
The U.K. woke up to the news that Bowie, real name David Jones, passed away aged 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer. As well as a brief statement on Bowie’s official social media accounts, his son, the director Duncan Jones (Warcraft, Source Code, Moon), tweeted to confirm the news of his father’s death after initial confusion and claims of a hoax — Bowie had been subject of death hoaxes before.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was among the first to pass on his condolences, tweeting: “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.” Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, also added his tribute to the London-born star: “Terrible news to hear Brixton born David Bowie has died. No one in our age has better deserved to be called a genius.”
The music industry in Britain was also quick to pay tribute to one its greatest exports. British industry lobbying group U.K. Music tweeted: “There will never be another David Bowie. R.I.P.” Britain’s Official Charts Company shared Bowie’s chart success, saying: “To date, he has scored 61 top 40 singles, including five number 1s, and 44 top 40 albums, nine of which hit the top spot.”
A globally influential artist, Bowie’s trailblazing cultural legacy was keenly felt by his compatriots in particular. Electronic artist Gary Numan called Bowie “a true legend.” The Soft Cell singer said: It’s not often I truly cry at the loss of an artist but I’m devastated. He meant so much. Goodbye David Bowie and our youth.”
Former Ultravox frontman Midge Ure, who covered Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” in 1982, told BBC Radio that fellow musicians were “still walking in [Bowie’s] slipstream,” and that “none of us can compare to what he did what he has done.”
Billy Idol said on Twitter he was “nearly brought to tears” by the news of Bowie’s death.
John Peel, the founder of the Glastonbury Music Festival, where Bowie first appeared as a relative unknown as a 24-year-old in 1971 and later headlined in 2000, said that the singer sat alongside Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. “With those three you have said it all,” he told The Mirror newspaper.
Paul McCartney used his own website to post a tribute to Bowie.
“Very sad news to wake up to on this raining morning,” the former Beatles frontman wrote. “David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world. I send my deepest sympathies to his family and will always remember the great laughs we had through the years. His star will shine in the sky forever.”
Toni Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, including the last, Blackstar, said in a statement of the late pop star: “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.”
Fellow collaborator Brian Eno tweeted simply: “Words cannot express: RIP David Bowie.”
Bowie’s varied life and willingness to take risks inspired a generation of Britons to enter the arts. Actor and comedian Simon Pegg said: “If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.” Royals actress Elizabeth Hurley tweeted: “Goodbye brilliant, talented David Bowie. What a loss to music and the world.”
Neil Gaiman tweeted: “Stunned and sad. The world is emptier now, and all they stars crashing down. My love and sympathies to @ManMadeMoon.”
Across the Channel in France, celebrities also mourned Bowie’s death. Catherine Deneuve simply wrote “RIP David Bowie” and posted a photo of the two of them from their 1983 film The Hunger on Facebook.
France’s most famous rocker of Bowie’s generation, Johnny Hallyday, wrote: “Sadness that David Bowie has left us. Au revoir my friend.”