Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, has died of cancer at the age of 69.
A statement was issued on his social media accounts, saying he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family” after an “18-month battle with cancer”.
Tributes have been paid from around the world to the “extraordinary artist” whose last album was released days ago.
Sir Paul McCartney described him as a “great star” who “played a very strong part in British musical history”.
Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, who directed Bafta-winning film Moon, wrote on Twitter: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”
The artist’s hits include Let’s Dance, Changes, Space Oddity, Starman, Modern Love, Heroes, Under Pressure, Rebel Rebel and Life on Mars.
He was also well known for creating his flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust.
The singer, who had been living in New York in recent years, only released his latest album Blackstar on his birthday on Friday.
The album, which includes just seven songs, has been well received by critics and was intended as a “parting gift” to the world, according to long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti.
Visconti wrote on Facebook: “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.”
Blackstar is on course to be number one this Friday, according to the Official Charts Company, with combined sales of more than 43,000.
Sir Paul McCartney said he would “always remember the great laughs” the pair shared, saying in a statement: “David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together.
“His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world.”
Friend and collaborator Brian Eno said: “David’s death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. I feel a huge gap now.”
He said he received an email from Bowie a week ago, which was “as funny as always, and as surreal”, which ended with the line: “Thank you for our good times, Brian. They will never rot.”. Eno added: “I realise now he was saying goodbye.”
‘Light of my life’
The Rolling Stones paid tribute to “an extraordinary artist” and a “true original”.
Brian May, guitarist with Queen – with whom Bowie collaborated on Under Pressure – said: “He was a fearsome talent, and the loss to music and culture from his passing is inestimable.”
Friend and collaborator Iggy Pop wrote on Twitter: “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”
Madonna said she was “devastated” and that Bowie had “changed her life”. Shewrote on Twitter: “Talented . Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”
Rapper Kanye West said: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, who convinced Bowie to star as himself and ridicule Gervais in an episode of 2006 sitcom Extras, simply wrote: “I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”
Scottish musician Midge Ure, who helped organised the Live Aid concert in 1985 – at which Bowie performed – told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “He wasn’t just a brilliant songwriter and an amazing creator, he excelled at everything.”
Prime Minister David Cameron 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.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Bowie was a “great musician, great entertainer”, saying he felt “very, very sad” about his death.
“Life On Mars comes flowing back into my mind,” he said. “Wonderful song, wonderful guy.”
The Vatican’s chief spokesman on cultural matters, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi,tweeted lyrics to Space Oddity in tribute to Bowie while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was “very very saddened to hear of his death”.
Bowie was born David Jones in Brixton, south London, on 8 January in 1947. He changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom.
His career spanned six decades.
He was in several bands before he signed with Mercury Records, which released his album Space Oddity in 1969, with the title track becoming his first UK number one
His breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
Bowie also carved out a successful acting career, including his role as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976.
He did a three-month stint as The Elephant Man on Broadway in the 1980s, with other roles that decade including Labyrinth, Cat People, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Hunger.
The late 1980s were dominated by Bowie’s involvement with his new band, a postmodernist heavy metal outfit, Tin Machine.
The 1990s saw David Bowie flirting with drum-and-bass on the Earthling album, while his 2002 album Heathen saw a long-awaited return to form for the singer.
He had headlined Glastonbury in 2000 – his first appearance there since 1971.
Festival founder Michael Eavis told the BBC: “He’s one of the three greatest in the world, ever – Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and David Bowie. There’s no one else even close.”
Bowie’s last live performance was at a New York charity concert in 2006.
But after a decade without a studio album he released The Next Day in 2013, surprising fans who thought he had retired. It became his first UK number one for 20 years.
He co-wrote Lazarus, a musical featuring his songs and inspired by his role in The Man Who Fell to Earth, which opened in New York last month.
And a truncated version of Blackstar, the title track of his new album, appears as the theme music for the TV show The Last Panthers.
A retrospective of Bowie’s life, originally staged at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, is being shown at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, which was opening its door specially on Monday to allow fans to remember the star.