With the liberate of Blackstar on his 69 th birthday, the mysterious singer establishes he has rediscovered his offering for strangeness

It was a horribly mundane behavior for such an otherworldly figure to fade from public view. While performing at a celebration in Scheessel, Germany, on 25 June 2004, David Bowie began to experience pains in his arm and shoulder. What the singer thought was a captured nerve turned out to be an acutely blocked artery expecting emergency angioplasty. What was chagrining was not so much that this beloved figure the totem for generations of social, sex and psychic foreigners could descend so seriously ill but that Bowie could be human at all.

His subsequent disappearance from live performance has since developing into one of the most fascinating vanishing acts in pop music. Bowie has not toured since his illness his final performance to date was a three-song set at New Yorks Hammerstein Ballroom in 2006 and, predictably, speculation has replenished the vacuum of absence. Depending on who you listened to Bowie was either dying of lung cancer or he was healthy and gladly watching SpongeBob SquarePants at home with Alexandria, his young daughter, and wife, the pattern Iman. There was simply no way to know.

Unsurprisingly, Bowie managed to parlay this enforced sabbatical into a uniquely effective occupation move. His stock rose tremendously while he was away, shifting anything he did into an happen in its own claim. The unpredictable liberate of Where Are We Now ? his first brand-new sung in a decade, on his 66 th birthday on 8 January 2013 was such a astonish that reportedly even Bowies own PRs had not heard it until they were called upon to write a press release in the small hours of that very morning. Bowie has created a nature where, just as in his 1970 s magnificence, everything he does is a news story. The exhaustive retrospective exhibition that followed, David Bowie Is, at the V& A burnished his reputation further.

Now on Friday, the working day he makes 69 comes Blackstar, his 26 th book, which is as surprising as anything he has done, taking in hip hop-skip, Brechtian theatre and abstract jazz.

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David Bowie on theatre at the Bercy in Paris in October 2003. Photograph: Bertrand Guay/ AFP/ Getty Images

The layoff was a necessity that he turned into a benefit; it became part of the Bowie mystique, says Paul Trynka, writer of the acclaimed Bowie biography Starman and a former writer of Mojo magazine. I actually think hed been privately longing to go away for some time. Julian Temple[ who directed Bowie in the movie Absolute Beginners] told me that even in the 80 s Bowie wanted to perform a magnificent disappearing act a magicians stunt. The heart attack pressured that upon him, but it entirely changed his fortunes. By not being as disadvantaged as the average dad ace, that puts you on a inferno of a pedestal.

Bowie has plenty of past to escape. Born in Brixton in 1947 and raised in suburban Bromley the son of waitress Peggy and nightclub owner rotated Dr Barnardos promotions man Haywood Jones young David Jones attempted to insert himself into every one of post-rocknroll Britains ever-changing incidents before succeeding on his own terms. In todays parlance, he was a try-hard. He adopted and dumped modes, musicians, both managers and devotees with regularity.

When he lastly interrupted through in 1972, it was as the shock-haired, rail-thin, androgynous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, who remade rocknroll for the period. Henceforth pop would become a rallying point for the bizarre and the marginalised, a permanent anger and especially succour to young people whose virility did not conform.

As Bowie dumped Ziggy for a succession of personae the cadaverous, cocaine-addled mind son of Young Americans, the austere European man-machine of his trilogy of Berlin albums it became a cliche to describe him as a chameleon of dad. But this was to miss the point.

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David Bowie performing a Ziggy Stardust in Los Angeles in 1973. Image: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images

The idea that he puts on a mask simply to marketplace what hes done is unfounded, says Trynka. Actually, he composes the mask in order to become the art. A chameleon a modification to simulated its background. Bowie coerces the background to switch to simulated him. His great achievement is not to marketplace himself with a persona, its to create a persona with which to make art.

His most globally successful book, 1983 s Lets Dance, appears to be expose the real David Bowie, but it left Bowie the artist with nowhere to extend. He subsequently fell into a steep inventive worsen. Whether trying to courtroom an gathering with the gauche stadium interference of Never Let Me Down or elicited it with his garage strap Tin Machine , nothing seemed to work.

All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or satisfy an gathering, Bowie admitted to Paul du Noyer of The Word magazine in 2003, in one of his last-place interviews before disappearing. My work is always stronger when I get very greedy about it.

The Bowie that Du Noyer convened had mainly repaired his reputation with a landmark performance at Glastonbury in 2000 and a series of well-received albums. He was also well into their own lives as health-conscious New York homebody, rising at 6.30 am, boxing three times a week and warding off cigarette pangs with minty herbal toothpicks. He talked of writing a novel about female trade unionists in the 1890 s and of his love for his young daughter. Its not that work doesnt seem their own priorities, but it puts it in view, Bowie told Du Noyer, adding with sardonic prudence, You realise that working in front of a gang is not a life-threatening situation.

He was as charming and polite as the best theatre Englishman you could ever hope to meet in New York, Du Noyer remembers. The misfortune of David Bowie is that hes spent their own lives accepting personae with research results that no one is quite belief him when he tries to do normal. Nowadays he might be every bit as ordinary as he wants us to think he is.

His traitors detect an impassable omerta backed up by strict non-disclosure agreements. This is also possible painful. I was on the comprise of the Christmas issue of Guitar Player magazine, the long-time Bowie guitarist Earl Slick told Alexis Petridis in January 2013. Im making a brand-new Bowie album and I cant tell them anything.

Even Bowies finest farmer, Tony Visconti, who returned for The Next Day and Blackstar, works on a need-to-know basis. Whenever he calls me its always a astonish because theres no leading up to it, theres no indicate, he told Mojo magazine this month. Its exactly Im ready.

Which leaves us with simply the music to go on. Theres frequently an inexorable float to the centre as experience goes on, says Du Noyer. Bob Dylan stimulates Christmas albums nowadays. Not so David Bowie. Hes rediscovered his offering for strangeness.

In an overmediated experience where social media robs everything of its whodunit, Bowies obstinate refusal to play along is almost a work of art in itself. Sphinx-like, he may rile. But at the least hes consistent. When Im actually famous, he told a colleague in the 1960 s, when the concept of young Davey Jones as a ace of any significance seemed laughable, Im not going to talk to anyone. Not even the band. Today, he is as good as his word.

David Bowie: fact file

Born : David Robert Jones, 8 January 1947 in Brixton

Career : Studied art and layout at Bromley Technical high school( a ended exhibitionist, said his fifth time report. If he were capable of continuous endeavour their capabilities would have been put to better help .) Trainee commercial artist at marketing organization Nevin D Hirst in New Bond Street. Subsequently full-time musician, actor, dancer and househusband.

High extent : Forming the single Heroes with Brian Eno in 1977. Inspired by the sight of farmer Tony Visconti caressing his German girlfriend Antonia Maass by the Berlin Wall, the sung became an hymn of individual freedom. Bowie acted the sung at the wall up 1987: We heard that a few East Berliners might get the chance to hear the thing, but we didnt realise in what numerals, he remembered. It was one of the most psychological actions Ive ever done. I was in tears. He would subsequently play the sung at Paul McCartneys post-9/ 11 Concert for New York in 2001.

Low extent : A toe-curling form of Martha& The Vandellas Dancing in the Street, registered with Mick Jagger for Live Aid. The strap started playing it and it reverberated fucking frightful, lamented the record farmer Alan Winstanley to Bowie biographer David Buckley. I had my manager in my hands thinking what the fuck is this?

What he says : The source of all my annoyances is hammering away at the same inquiries Ive had since I was 19, this daunting spiritual hunting, he told The Word magazine in 2003. Theyre incessant the issues and they seem to be the essence of what Ive written over experience. And Im not going to stop.

What they say : Without David Bowie, popular music as we know it pretty much wouldnt dwell. Moby.

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