David Bowie passed due to cancer. He seemed invulnerable to the conditions around him so perhaps it had to be something internal that took him from The World too soon.
This was the exact moment I became aware of his work, 1971. I was working in a gas station too close to the local rock radio station's (WMEX) transmission tower in Quincy, Mass. We could hear their broadcast on our phone line. WMEX would play their #1 song at the top of the hour, every hour. Space Oddity was played at least that often. We finally got a radio and were able to hear the song more clearly. (Why it took 2 years for this song to break out in the U.S. I never did learn.)
I followed Bowie's work from that time forward. It wasn't immediately accessible most of the time, and I think that was a part of his appeal, too. He wasn't writing, performing, producing and touring for everyone...he was living for the rest of us. The World is a smaller place today.