With face paint and flowers, fans worldwide mourn David Bowie

A woman with her face painted, standing outside a house believed to be David Bowie's childhood home, on Jan 11, 2016.
A woman with her face painted, standing outside a house believed to be David Bowie's childhood home, on Jan 11, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - From his birthplace in London to his adopted home in New York, David Bowie fans around the world gathered on Monday (Jan 11) to mourn a star who many said had shaped their lives.

A crowd of around 2,000 people headed in the evening to the gritty south London district of Brixton where he was born - some clutching beers, others wearing Bowie T-shirts - to lay flowers beneath a giant mural of his face.

"I don't think there is another musician in the world that can bring this crowd with so many generations at the same time," said Mr Dan Hunt, 28, his voice wavering with emotion. "This is the sort of thing that happens only once in any of our lives. It would have been stupid to miss it."

Lines of Bowie's hit song Space Oddity rang through the chill winter air as fans played guitar and others sang along, several wearing the lightening bolt face makeup or shocking red mullet of Aladdin Sane, one of Bowie's many stage personas.

A portrait of the musician's 1973 incarnation is featured on the Brixton mural, painted in 2013 by Australian street artist James Cochran, or Jimmy C.

"RIP David, a starman gone to heaven, love his old friend," read one bouquet at the mural.

Many spoke of Bowie as an artist who had an extraordinary impact on both their own lives and times.

"I share a birthday with him. He's so young. He was such an amazing person. He means my youth, the challenge to gender stereotypes," said Mr Charlie Rice, a 66-year-old charity worker in London. "For gay people, he was a leading light to give us hope."

Bowie announced he was gay in an interview in 1972 but was married twice and remained coy about his sexuality in later life.

He lived in Brixton until he was six years old with his waitress mother and his father, who worked for a children's charity.

"I discovered him when I was about 12 or 13 and we all think we're freaks at 12 or 13," said 35-year-old Claire Ronai, describing him as "a great inspiration".

"He helped us through that period. He meant a lot to me," she added.

Nearby, Brixton's century-old Ritzy cinema had replaced the films displayed on its main hoarding with a single message: "David Bowie Our Brixton Boy RIP".

In New York, mourners gathered in tears outside Bowie's building in the city's exclusive Soho neighbourhood.

Berliners left pictures and candles outside the building where Bowie lived during the 1970s as he was trying to kick drink and drug addictions in Cold War-era West Berlin - one of his most creative periods.

Ms Penelope Bagieu, a 33-year-old French cartoonist in New York, cried after leaving a bunch of flowers outside Bowie's former home. "I feel devastated," she said.

Ms Michelle Lynn, who stopped off on her way to work carrying photographs of Bowie in her handbag, said she had been "a fan forever".

"We did feel that on the photos he looked gaunt. We were all concerned but you never think that... you think it will go on forever," she said.

Berlin's Hansa Studios, where Bowie recorded songs including Heroes, said it would hold a memorial for Bowie on Friday, possibly with a public party for city residents featuring live music.

"I think he would have liked that," organiser Thilo Schmied told DPA news agency.

A major exhibition about Bowie in Groningen in the Netherlands reported that its phones had been busy all day with thousands of people trying to buy tickets after hearing the news.

"We expect even more people want to come and pay homage to David Bowie, because if you want to be close to him, you have to be at this exhibition," said Mr Andreas Bluehm, director of the Groninger Museum.