David Bowies last days – changing looks, remission hope and hidden song message

When David Bowie suddenly died from cancer at the start of 2016, fans all over the world were shocked and devastated.

The glam rock icon is one of the best-selling artists of all time, known for his iconic alter egos like Ziggy Stardust and hits like Ashes to Ashes, Under Pressure and Let's Dance.

Rolling Stone even named him the "greatest rock star ever" after he tragically died from liver cancer almost six years ago.

However, fans at the time were surprised to hear that he'd been struggling with his health as David had reportedly shielded his fatal diagnosis from the world, taking on the terminal illness in private.

A true showman until the end, David battled through his cancer to record his final studio album, Blackstar, and it became his swan song as he died on January 10, 2016 – two days after its release.

He also left some emotional messages to his followers in the record, including the music video for Lazarus.

Final days

David's last ever appearance out in public was at the opening of his theatre show, Lazarus, in New York on December 7, 2015.

Bowie had written lyrics and music for the play, and the book was written by Enda Walsh, a famous Irish playwright.

The story follows that of The Man Who Fell to Earth, a 1963 novel by American author Walter Tevis about a humanoid alien who falls to earth from a distant planet.

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David starred in the film adaptation of the sci-fi book in 1976, and he played the leading character of Thomas Jerome Newton, who tried to bring water back to his home planet, which is devastated by a drought.

It became one of the last works Bowie completed before his death, and the sold out musical opened at the New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan.

Bowie had first been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014, when he was still working on the musical, and Retuters reported that the singer only told his family and colleagues at the time.

Death

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Bowie was 69 when he died of cancer on January 10, 2016 after being diagnosed with the killer condition 18 months earlier.

He passed away in his New York City apartment.

It had been hoped that Bowie would be able to go into remission, but by November 2015, the cancer had spread and he was told that it was terminal.

Ivo van Hove, who had directed Bowie's off-Broadway musical, explained that the singer had been unable to attend rehearsals for Lazarus as his cancer had worsened.

He told of Bowie struggling through his illness anyway and continuing to work.

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Bowie's long-term collaborator, Tony Visconti, said that the singer had become bald from chemotherapy when they met to begin work on his final record, Blackstar.

News of Bowie's death rocked the globe and tributes poured in from adoring fans and the biggest names in the industry.

Fans made memorials in Berlin and Los Angeles as well as outside of his apartment in New York, and street shrines were made in the UK to celebrate the singer and in his birthplace of Brixton, where his followers laid flowers and sang his songs.

Bowie had insisted that he did not want to have a funeral, but sales of his songs and albums soared after his death.

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On what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday, a charity concert was held in Brixton, hosted by Harry Potter actor Gary Oldman, a close friend of his.

Tony Visconti, Bowie's long-term collaborator, wrote: "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."

The legendary Space Oddity singer also won five Grammy Awards after his death on February 12, 2017.

Cryptic messages in his last album

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Bowie's final album Blackstar was a work of art, and the dark and brutally honest record seemed to address his impending death.

CNN claimed that the album "reveals a man who appears to be grappling with his own mortality".

Bowie's long-term collaborator, Visconti, even hailed the record as a "parting gift" to his fans.

Lyrics for the title track reads: "Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside / somebody else took his place, and bravely cried, 'I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar'."

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These lines could suggest that Bowie was looking back on his life and anticipating his passing.

His song Lazarus also features the lines: "Look up here, I'm in heaven / I've got scars that can't be seen," which paints a picture of Bowie himself looking on from heaven.

Fans could certainly read the lyrics, as well as the poignant hospital-based music video for Lazarus, as a farewell from their hero.

The lyrics about hidden "scars" could also refer to his private battle with cancer, and Lazarus is a Biblical figure who was raised from the dead.

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One of Bowie's most powerful and vulnerable videos is that for Lazarus, which shows Bowie struggling as he sits blindfolded in a hospital bed.

David apparently decided to stop his cancer treatment during the filming of the music video, which occurred prior to the opening of the Lazarus musical.

David was survived by his supermodel wife, Iman, and his two children, Duncan and Alexandria.

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