Here are 10 defining moments from the career of rock's greatest chameleon:
Space Oddity - David Bowie first displayed his knack for seizing the zeitgeist with this out-of-the-world track released in 1969, the year of the first moon landing. Beautiful and melancholy, it told the story of astronaut Major Tom, adrift in space, lamenting Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do. Real life astronauts embraced the song, with Cmdr. Chris Hadfield memorably performing it aboard the International Space Station in 2013.
Hunky Dory - David Bowie appeared on the cover of this 1971 album as an androgynous figure with long golden locks - one in an ever-changing array of styles and personas he would adopt and abandon. The songs explored sexual ambiguity, fame, new fatherhood and more. Changes was almost a career mission statement, while Life on Mars, the tale of a misfit girl and her wild imagination, became one of his most enduring hits and gave its name to a 2006 TV show set in the 70s.
Ziggy Stardust - Mr Bowie adopted the persona of the flame-haired alien rock star for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. A generation of teenagers stopped and stared when the androgynous, seductive character appeared on the British TV show Top of the Pops performing Starman. Ziggy made David Bowie a star, but even then he was clear-eyed about the capricious nature of fame and ruthless about moving on. When the kids had killed the man, we had to break up the band, he sang on the album's title track.
Young Americans - After Mr Bowie killed off Ziggy in 1973, he moved through guises including the edgy Aladdin Sane before going to the United States and immersing himself in the sound of Philadelphia soul. Produced by frequent collaborator Tony Visconti and featuring a roster of funk and soul talent that included guitarist Carlos Alomar and a young Luther Vandross, his 1975 album Young Americans, was a complete change of pace, and featured the exuberant title track and the acid-tipped dancefloor-filler Fame, co-written by John Lennon.
The Man Who Fell to Earth- Mr Bowie was perfectly cast as an alien adrift in the New Mexico desert in Nicholas Roeg's 1976 film, which opened up a parallel career path as an actor. He went on to play parts including a World War II prisoner of war in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, a vampire in The Hunger, Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ and Andy Warhol in Basquiat. On Broadway, critics praised him as disfigured Victorian John Merrick in The Elephant Man in 1980.
Heroes - Exhausted by work and too much cocaine, Mr Bowie holed up in West Berlin in 1976, and he worked with synth pioneer Brian Eno and produced three of the most remarkable albums of his career. Low, Heroes and Lodger fused electronic experimentation and Cold War anxiety into a sound that inspired a new crop of musicians. The 1977 single Heroes, a defiant shout of love in the face of potential armageddon, became an anthem for a generation.
Ashes to Ashes- Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom's a junkie. The first single from Mr Bowie's 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a bittersweet sequel to Space Oddity that the singer called his epitaph for the 1970s. It also saw him looking to the future and embracing the new art form of music videos, with an eerie clip in which he appeared as a spectral Pierrot alongside figures from London's emerging New Romantic scene.
Let's Dance - David Bowie embraced the mainstream - or the mainstream finally caught up with him - in 1983 for one of his biggest albums, considered by many to be the last flourish of his golden period. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues, Mr Bowie sang, and the fans obeyed, flocking to shows on a monster North American tour.
After a decade of public silence, Mr Bowie took fans and music critics by surprise in 2013 with a new album, The Next Day. It saw the musician looking back on songs such as Where Are We Now, which referenced his 1970s Berlin days. Fans hoped in vain that the new songs meant the singer might return to live performance.
Blackstar - Another surprise album was released January 8, David Bowie's 69th birthday - a jazz-inflected journey that saw him exploring new sonic worlds. In the video for the title track, a blindfolded David Bowie offered enigmatic incantations on life and death. Two days later, Mr Bowie died, aged 69, following a battle with cancer. Music writer Graeme Thomson captured the shock felt by many: "We were so thrilled to have him back, we failed to notice he was saying goodbye," he tweeted. (Also Read: Ground Control to David Bowie: 10 Songs to Remember Him By)