Today would have been David Bowie ‘s 74th birthday – but instead, Sunday will mark five years since the icon’s tragic passing.
His death on January 10, 2016, came as a complete shock to all but his closest friends, with the star having kept his liver cancer diagnosis a secret.
The disease was first discovered in 2014, and when David turned up for the recording of his final album, Blackstar, with no hair or eyebrows due to chemotherapy, he swore everyone he worked with to secrecy.
In his darkest moments though, he turned to one of his closest collaborators, Tony Visconti.
“Sometimes he would phone me when he just finished treatment,” Tony told Rolling Stone in 2016. “He couldn’t talk very loud. He was really pretty messed up, and I would say, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re going to live.'”
And by mid-2015, David was indeed in remission. Tony continued: “He was optimistic because he was doing the chemo and it was working. I was thrilled. And he was a bit apprehensive. He said, ‘Well, don’t celebrate too quickly. For now, I’m in remission, and we’ll see how it goes.’ And he continued the chemotherapy. So I thought he was going to make it.”
Sadly, that November the cancer returned and this time it was terminal, having spread around David’s body.
Despite his condition, just a month before his death the star made a brave appearance at the opening night of his off-Broadway show, Lazarus , but collapsed backstage.
Determined to keep creating, from his sick bed David recorded demos for five new songs. And just one week before his passing, he FaceTimed Tony and said he wanted to make one more album.
Tony added: “I was thrilled and I thought, and he must have thought, that he’d have a few months, at least. So the end must’ve been very rapid. I’m not privy to it. I don’t know exactly, but he must’ve taken ill very quickly after that phone call.”
For his beloved wife Iman, the pain of her loss was unimaginable.
Since meeting in 1990 and marrying in 1992, the couple had been inseparable. For both of them, there could never be any body else.
Just this month, Iman said: “David is in our hearts and minds on a daily basis, for all of us. You know, this was my true love. My daughter once asked me if I would ever marry again and I said, ‘never.’
“He’s hiding in plain sight. His fans are still around, his music is still relevant.”
For supermodel Iman, who now lives in the countryside north of their former marital home in New York, the most difficult time is the anniversary of his death.
Last year she went to find solace in the woods of San Francisco, where, while walking, she encountered a sign she believes was from her husband.
“On the day of his passing, I went on a hike and a bluebird flew in front of me. A bluebird, above all things!” she said, referencing the lyrics of his last single Lazarus, which said, “You know, I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird.”
Asked if she’d felt his presence, she replied: “Absolutely. I asked the tour guide, and he said, ‘Oh, they’re very rare here, bluebirds.’ And so now, instead of remembering it as sad, it is more of a joyous day.”