David Bowie, the iconic rock star whose career spanned more than half a century and whose influence transcended music, fashion and sexuality, has died aged 69.

David Bowie dies of cancer aged 69_01The singer’s death was confirmed in a Facebook post on his official page: “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”

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Writing on Twitter, Bowie’s son, the film director Duncan Jones, 44, said: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true.” The news came as a shock to some – Bowie’s publicist, Steve Martin, told the Reuters news agency: “It’s not a hoax.”

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Bowie’s 25 albums produced a string of hits including Changes, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He was known for experimenting across diverse musical genres, and alter egos Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke. He also had a notable acting career.

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His latest album, Blackstar, was released last week to coincide with his 69th birthday, and had received widespread critical acclaim.

Blackstar was the first Bowie album not to feature a picture of him on the cover: instead, a stylised black star heralded a darker work. On re-examination, there is much in Blackstar to suggest Bowie was saying goodbye, particularly the track Lazarus and the video for the title track, which opens with the image of a dead spaceman.

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