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David Bowie—Musical Icon, Innovator, Recovering Cocaine Addict—Dies at 69

By May Wilkerson 01/11/16

The music legend often lamented his addiction to cocaine as his biggest mistake.

David Bowie
Wiki Commons

The world lost a musical monolith yesterday. David Bowie, legendary singer-songwriter, actor and cult icon, died after a secret 18-month battle with cancer, just days after his 69th birthday. Among the many eras of his constantly transforming career, the British-born rocker struggled with cocaine addiction in the 1970s, shortly after moving to the United States from Britain.

While living in Los Angeles, the singer came to rely on drugs to help fuel his bombastic stage performances. He later said cocaine “took over his life,” driving him to consider suicide at age 28. "I really did think that my thoughts about not making 30 would come true," he recalled later of this dark era. "Drugs had taken my life away from me. I felt as though I would probably die and it was going to be all over."

But Bowie bounced back, leaving Los Angeles for Switzerland, and later moving to Berlin, leaving his drug-ridden environment behind. He credited this change of environment, as well as his assistant, Coco, with helping him stay clean, and said he hadn’t touched cocaine since he regained custody of his son in the late ‘70s.

Bowie was able to successfully salvage his career and go on to release many more hit records, as well as building a successful career in film. He said later that getting into drugs was a huge regret. “Best advice, which I wish I had known at 18? Don’t do drugs,” he said in 2013. “I was told that before I took them, when I took them and afterwards. Every time, that advice was right.”

The Internet has exploded with expressions of admiration and grief for the iconic singer, who has been widely praised by celebrities and fans across the globe for his innovation and unparalleled impact on a variety of genres of music, film and art. "His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure,” wrote his biographer David Buckley in 2005.

Bowie released his latest album, Blackstar, just two days ago on his birthday. He is survived by wife Iman Bowie and his two children, director Duncan Jones and daughter Alexandria Jones.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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