Legendary singer David Bowie has died at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

A statement on his official Facebook page this morning 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 Duncan Jones wrote on Twitter: "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."

Bowie had a top five UK hit with Space Oddity in 1969, and his artistic breakthrough came with 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, an album that fostered the notion of rock star as space alien. Fusing British mod with Japanese kabuki styles and rock with theatre, Bowie created the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Three years later, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the No. 1 single Fame from the Top 10 album Young Americans, then followed with the 1976 avant-garde art-rock LP Station to Station, which made it to No. 3 on the charts and featured Top 10 hit Golden Years.

Other memorable songs included 1983's Let's Dance - his only other No. 1 U.S. hit - HeroesChangesUnder PressureChina GirlModern LoveRebel Rebel, All the Young Dudes (a big hit for Mott the Hoople), Fashion and a 1977 Christmas medley with Bing Crosby.

With his different-coloured eyes (the result of a schoolyard fight), Bowie was a natural to segue from music into curious movie roles, and he starred as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg's surreal The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Critics later applauded his three-month Broadway stint as the misshapen lead in 1980's The Elephant Man.

Bowie also starred in Marlene Dietrich's last film, Just a Gigolo (1978), portrayed a World War II prisoner of war in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), and played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). And in another ground-breaking move, Bowie, who always embraced technology, became the first rock star to morph into an Internet Service Provider with the launch in September 1998 of BowieNet

Bowie released his 26th album, called Blackstar, last Friday.

Take a look at David Bowie's Life in Pictures here