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'He Was the Best There Is': Tributes Pour in from Across the World for the Legendary David Bowie

The enormous influence of David Bowie on people and places across the world was achingly self-evident on Monday morning, as tributes pour in from all quarters mourning his death.
January 11, 2016, 12:05pm
Un fan di David Bowie osserva un murale raffigurante il suo idolo a Brixton, Londra, dove il Duca Bianco era nato. Foto di Andy Rain/EPA

From religious leaders to celebrities, politicians, and soccer clubs, the world was united on Monday in mourning the loss of David Bowie, who has died at the age of 69.

"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer," read a statement on Bowie's Facebook page dated Sunday.

The enormous influence of the singer, whose portrayal of a doomed bisexual alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust, originally propelled him to global stardom, quickly became evident in the scope of the tributes being paid around the world.

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The German Foreign Ministry credited Bowie with helping to bring down the Berlin Wall. Bowie lived in Berlin from 1976 to 1979 with punk legend Iggy Pop, where he helped produce Iggy's seminal album The Idiot as well as releasing three of his own.

In 1987, two years before the wall was pulled down, he returned to play a concert in West Berlin close to the partition so that East Germans could hear it. In German, he sent best wishes to the thousands of people listening on the other wall before launching into Heroes, a song he wrote there, sparking rioting in East Berlin.

Good-bye, David Bowie. You are now among #Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall. https://t.co/soaOUWiyVl #RIPDavidBowie

— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 11, 2016

As soon as the news broke, fans began making pilgrimages to pay tribute to the singer at places in London, Berlin, and New York where the singer lived or worked.

Flowers were laid outside what used to be the Three Tuns pub in London, where Bowie set up the Beckenham Arts Lab in the late 1960s, and in front of a mural in the singer's birthplace of Brixton, London. Candles and bouquets were left outside Bowie's apartment building on Lafayette Street in Soho, New York, where the doorman told the Guardian no one knew he was sick.

Bowie had kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004, and rumors that he was ill had circled for years. But in recent years he had come back into the spotlight with the release of two albums, The Next Day in 2013 and Blackstar, which was released on January 8, Bowie's 69th birthday. The title track Lazarus opens with the line "Look up here, I'm in heaven."

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There was an immediate outpouring of tributes from fellow musicians and friends. Tony Visconti, who produced a series of Bowie's albums, including Young Americans, his seminal 'Berlin trilogy' of Low, Heroes, and Lodger, as well as Blackstar, wrote a eulogy on his Facebook page: "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… He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry."

Iggy Pop, who remained a close friend after the Berlin years, said, "David's friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is." Brian Eno, another close collaborator, wrote simply: "Words cannot express: RIP David Bowie."

RIP David Bowie. A true InspIration pic.twitter.com/My0BrfSqgS

— PIXIES (@PIXIES) January 11, 2016

Madonna said that Bowie had changed her life, and she was "devastated." "Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever! #rebelheart," she tweeted.

So lucky to have met you!!!! Hot Tramp I love you So! ?? #rebelheart pic.twitter.com/INKPRCeofK

— Madonna (@Madonna) January 11, 2016

British Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon all tweeted their own tributes, and eulogies also came from some more unexpected quarters. The Vatican's culture minister Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeted some of the lyrics from Space Oddity, the single that propelled Bowie to fame in Europe in 1969.

Ground Control to Major TomCommencing countdown, engines onCheck ignition and may God's love be with you (David Bowie)

— Gianfranco Ravasi (@CardRavasi) January 11, 2016

Sunderland AFC, one of the UK's Premier League soccer teams, tweeted a picture of a ticket for a gig Bowie played in the club's former stadium in 1987.

Rest in peace David Bowie, who played Roker Park in June 1987. He was the only music artist to headline the stadium. pic.twitter.com/vGfCWftY7U

— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) January 11, 2016

Reuters contributed to this report.