This is horrible news. May he rest in peace.

David Bowie dead at 69 after losing secret battle with cancer

David Bowie has died after losing a secret 18-month battle with cancer, it was announced today.

The music legend’s death came just two days after this 69th birthday and the release of his latest critically acclaimed album, Blackstar.

His supermodel wife, Iman, film director son Duncan Jones, 44, and daughter Alexandria, 15, were understood to be at his bedside in New York when he passed away yesterday.

Only the singer’s family and closest friends knew he had been battling cancer and the news, announced on Bowie’s official Twitter account and Facebook pages, came as a huge shock to fans.

The announcement of his death read: “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.”

Hopes among fans that the message may have been a hoax were crushed when Bowie’s son, film director Duncan Jones, previously known as Zowie Bowie, posted a black and white photograph of him as a toddler with his father and confirmed in a tweet: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

Rumours had persisted about his ill health, dating back to 2004 when he collapsed backstage at a German music festival and underwent heart surgery for a blocked artery.

His public apperances had become rare and he was last seen looking gaunt at the premiere of Lazarus, the off-Broadway musical based on his songs. There were reports today that he had a lung tumour.

Blackstar, which was the first of Bowie’s records not to feature a picture of him on the album cover, features ominous lyrics which now appear to have foreshadowed his death.

In its title track he sings: “Something happened on the day he died, Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside, Somebody else took his place and bravely cried, I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar.”

The third track, Lazarus, starts with the lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen, everybody knows me now.”

Tributes to the iconic star flooded in from well-wishers from all walks of life, from his many collaborators to those who had been touched by his music.

Brian Eno, with whom he worked with on the “Berlin Trilogy” of albums which included his classic Heroes, simply said: “Words cannot express: RIP David Bowie.”

The star, who has been a musical icon for more than four decades, was known for reinventing himself and dabbling in diverse genres including glam rock, electronica, dance and pop.

His breakthough album was 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, after his debit hit single Space Oddity was released in 1969.

Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, who convinced his long-time idol to star as himself – and ridicule Gervais – in an episode of 2006 sitcom Extras, paid tribute just moments after he finished hosting the Golden Globes in Hollywood. He said: “I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”

Fellow artist Pharrell Williams described Bowie as a “true innovator” and a “true creative”.

Actress Mia Farrow said: “David Bowie we will miss you so much.”

Following his initial rise to stardom in the 1970s, Bowie was renown for reinventing himself from the glam rock of hit albums like Space Oddity and Ziggy Stardust to the blue-eyed soul of Young Americans, the enormous pop success of Let’s Dance and the electronic experimentation on Heroes.

He made a surprise comeback in 2013 when he suddenly released a new single on his 66th birthday with an album out just weeks later, his first for 10 years.

He made a habit of confounding the critics – killing off his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, at the height of his fame.

Born David Jones in South London on January 8, 1947, he changed his name to Bowie in 1966.

Bowie married supermodel Iman in 1992 and the pair went on to have a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones. Duncan Jones, his son from his first marriage to Angie Bowie, was his best man at the wedding.

As well as being a reformed chain smoker, Bowie was a heavy cocaine user in the 1970s and moved from Los Angeles to Paris and later Berlin to help him escape the substance. He had not appeared live since a charity performance in New York in 2006.