Rock star David Bowie has died after suffering cancer for 18 months.

The singer died surrounded by his loved ones, a statement on his Facebook page said.

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It 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.''

His son, film director Duncan Jones, tweeted: ''Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all.''

Bowie released his latest album, Blackstar - his 27th studio album - just three days ago.

His ex-wife, Angie Bowie, is currently a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother.

The 69-year-old's death was confirmed by his agent, Steve Martin.

Bowie 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.

The star made a habit of confounding the critics - killing off his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, at the height of his fame - and reinventing himself in roles including glam rocker, soul singer and hippie songwriter.

Bowie, born David Jones in post-war Brixton, south London, kicked off his music career in the R&B boom of the early Sixties.

In 1969 he made his first appearance in the charts with Space Oddity.

A string of albums followed, before 1972's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars made him an international star.

The 1980s saw him combine his pop career with appearances in films including Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Absolute Beginners.

David Bowie enjoyed a glittering career spanning six decades that saw him become one of the biggest recording artists of all time.

Born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, in Brixton, south London, to mother Margaret ''Peggy'', a waitress, and charity worker Haywood ''John'' Jones, Bowie's musical talent was clear from an early age and he had his first taste for rock music through the record collection of his older brother, Terry.

The family moved to south east London, where he graduated from Bromley Technical High School at 16.

He formed a number of bands and led a group calling himself Davy Jones.

He changed his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees' Davy Jones. The name was said to be inspired by a knife developed by the 19th century American pioneer Jim Bowie.

He decided to set out on his own as a solo artist, releasing three singles for Pye Records and his debut album, The World Of David Bowie.

But the records did not achieve the huge success he would go on to experience and he retreated to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland in 1967

After returning to London he started arts troupe Feathers in 1968.

As the group eventually separated he helped create the Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969 before releasing Space Oddity on July 11 that year, his first UK number one.

A string of albums followed, before 1972's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars made him an international star.

Daily Echo: David Bowie (23525828)

The album, which tells the story of an alien rockstar, saw Bowie indulge his eye for the theatrical with a string of live shows and television appearances that saw him conquer America and create an otherworldly reputation that still clings to him.

At the same time, he was producing albums for Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and writing one of his greatest songs - All The Young Dudes - which he promptly gave away to Mott The Hoople who had a massive hit with it. 

Bowie's announcement - during a London gig - that he was retiring Ziggy did not stop the commercial success and the hits kept coming as he toured and recorded albums including Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and his tribute to the swinging London scene that inspired him - Pin Ups .

His soul-inspired Young Americans saw him change direction again and gave him his first US number one when his collaboration with John Lennon on Fame topped the charts in 1975.

Daily Echo: David Bowie has reinvented himself in roles including glam rocker, soul singer and hippie songwriter

Bowie played on his alien alter-ego with a successful move into acting - playing the lead character in the science fiction film The Man Who Fell To Earth, before moving to Berlin.

The influence of the then divided city inspired a trio of albums - Low, Heroes and Lodger - which produced hits including Sound And Vision and Boys Keep Swinging and are widely regarded as among his finest work.

The 1980s saw him combine his rock career with appearances in films including Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Absolute Beginners.

The rise of the New Romantic scene in the UK betrayed an obvious Bowie influence and he continued to record and tour filling massive US stadiums and selling albums by the million.

1988 brought a new venture - and what many fans thought was a new low - when he returned as one quarter of rock band Tin Machine.

Their initial success soon faded and by 1993 Bowie was back on his own with the solo album Black Tie White Noise.

He had married supermodel Iman a year earlier and settled in New York but continued to tour and record until 2003 when he released Reality his 23rd  studio album.

Daily Echo:

In 2004 he headlined the Isle of Wight Festival, pictured above, and was followed by some low-key live appearances, an acting role in the 2006 film The Prestige, but no new music until last year when he returned with the widely acclaimed The Next Day.

The album won praise and earned him a place on the Mercury Prize shortlist, although he missed out to James Blake.

 Stars from the world of showbiz and entertainment have summoned the words of David Bowie to pay tribute to the rock star.

The 69-year-old - known for hits such as Changes, Ashes To Ashes and Starman - left a legacy created by pioneering musicianship and ground-breaking lyrics dating back almost half a century.

Australian actor Russell Crowe, referencing one of Bowie's better known singles which featured on covers album Pin Ups 1973, wrote: ''RIP David. I loved your music. I loved you. One of the greatest performance artists to have ever lived. £sorrow''

Rock guitarist Joel Madden, quoting Changes, simply added: ''Turn and face the strange.''
 Actor Mark Ruffalo wrote: ''Rip Father of all us freaks. Sad sad day. Love always Legendary singer David Bowie dies at 69.''

While comedian and writer Eddie Izzard said: ''Very sad to hear about the death of David Bowie but through his music he will live forever.''

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he became a Bowie fan during the singer's early rise to prominence.

He said: ''I'm very, very saddened to hear of his death.

''I remember sitting listening to his songs endlessly in the '70s particularly and always really relishing what he was, what he did, the impact he had.

''Extraordinary person.''

And Prime Minister David Cameron, whose musical tastes are well documented, also offered his condolences.

He said: ''I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.''

Paying tribute to the singer on Twitter, 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, wrote simply: ''I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.''
 He also uploaded an image of himself from the late 1990s dressed as Bowie's famous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, taken from the comedian's 30-minute Comedy Lab episode in which Gervais played the part of a Bowie impersonator.

Radio DJ Fearne Cotton wrote on Instagram: ''Devastated. There will only ever be one David Bowie.

''A pioneer, a maverick and a visionary. I've been so inspired by him and his intent on doing what he wants without thought of judgment and views of others. RIP to one of the last icons.''

Former Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn wrote: ''So sorry to hear of the death of David Bowie at only 69. A man who really was a giant in the world of music R.I.P.''

BBC 6 Music's Lauren Laverne said: ''Still in shock, this is a huge loss to everyone who loves music. We'll be on air at 10. Tell us what you want to hear and we'll do our best.''

Rapper Kanye West said: ''David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.''

Television presenter Phillip Schofield said: ''We just lost one of the coolest guys on the planet. RIP David Bowie.''

Meanwhile, Bowie's long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti said the late singer's final album - released two days before his death - was "his parting gift" to the world.

Blackstar became available to buy on Friday, the day he turned 69, with its lead single, Lazarus, opening with the lyrics: "Look up here, I'm in heaven."

Little was known about Bowie's ill-health, although Visconti - who produced the star's music dating back to the 1960s - hinted at questions over his mortality.

In a Facebook post, he said: "He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way.

"His death was no different from his life - a work of art.

"He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.

"I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it.

"He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us.

"For now, it is appropriate to cry."