Bowie and his Tunbridge Wells family roots

    Margaret Jones

    Tributes continue to flow in from across the world for music legend David Bowie who died this week and had close family ties with Tunbridge Wells.

    Fans have inundated the late rock star’s website and social media sites with praise for his hugely influential career over more than four decades.

    Though he had lived latterly in New York, his family’s roots in Kent have not been forgotten by those who have loved his music.

    Bowie’s mother, Margaret, grew up in Southborough and met the star’s father Haywood Stenton Jones at Tunbridge Well’s former Ritz cinema, which now stands derelict awaiting eventual redevelopment.

    The couple moved to South London just before Bowie was born, but he famously attended Bromley Tech and played a number of gigs across Kent during his early years before finding fame in the late 1960s with Space Oddity.

    Fans have flocked to buy Bowie’s 25th and final album, which was released just last week on his 69th birthday. According to his publicist, he died with his friends and family at his side, having suffered from cancer for the past 18 months.

    Praise from the music community was equally forthcoming for the man who went by a number of exotic guises including Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, which propelled him to a global audience in the 1970s.

    He had been constantly asked to continue touring, but after feeling ill on stage in 2004 in Germany, after which he had emergency heart surgery. From there he only made fleeting live appearances on medical advice. But after decades of touring the world, he was content to focus on studio recordings for his final musical chapters.

    Jeremy Pritchard, who grew up in Tunbridge Wells and has enjoyed chart-topping success with his band Everything Everything, felt that David Bowie had been a huge influence on so many musicians around the world.He said: “Last year I was lucky enough to be in Melbourne at the same time as the V&A’s exhaustive exhibition of his life and work that I had missed while it was in London.

    I was moved to tears by the end of it.

    “Bowie will forever be a guiding light for musicians. One that says ‘It’s okay to take huge risks, okay to make mistakes, just don’t be boring!’ I constantly find that hugely comforting. I, like all musicians, artists, writers, fashionistas, freaks, lefties and weirdos of all kinds, owe him an enormous debt. RIP.”

    The Tunbridge Wells HMV music store reported that copies of his new record, Blackstar, had sold out due to a huge surge in demand.

    A spokesperson for the store said: “It was a real shock to hear that David had died – our stocks of the album have been completely wiped out. He was such an influential musician.”