Music legend David Bowie was famously private during his lifetime - and in death, as a string of questions about the circumstances of his passing remained unanswered on Tuesday.

His official social media accounts had announced the shock news of his death at 69 on Monday: ‘David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,’ adding a request for privacy for the grieving family. Little information was available on how or where he died, and requests for comment to Bowie’s record company Columbia Records were not answered. Born and raised in south London, Bowie was a long-time resident of New York and some British media reported that he had died there. But the New York Post claimed that the ‘Heroes’ and ‘Life On Mars?’ singer had ‘passed away at his London home’. With no official comment available, Bowie’s place of death remained a mystery, as did funeral arrangements. Yet a small circle of close collaborators were aware that the iconic performer, who repeatedly reinvented himself across six decades in the music industry, was in poor health.

Belgian theatre director Ivo Van Hove, who worked closely with Bowie on his musical ‘Lazarus’ which opened in New York in December, told Dutch public radio NPO that Bowie had been suffering from liver cancer. ‘I’ve known for more than a year. We began working together on our show ‘Lazarus’, and at one moment he took me to one side to say that because of his illness, he would not always be able to be around,’ Van Hove told NRC Dutch daily.

Bowie’s supermodel wife Iman, who has not commented publicly on his death, posted a series of poignant messages on social media in the days before he passed away. ‘The struggle is real, but so is God,’ she wrote on her public Twitter and Facebook accounts Sunday. The previous day, she had written: ‘Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory’. Bowie’s son, film director Duncan Jones, confirmed news of his father’s death Monday with a short message on Twitter and has not commented further. ‘Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all,’ he wrote.

All but an inner circle were kept in the dark about the singer’s illness as he worked to complete his final album, ‘Blackstar’, released on his 69th birthday, just two days before his death.

Van Hove said Bowie was desperate to finish ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’ before it was too late. At the musical’s New York premiere on December 7, few knew that anything was amiss. ‘The press wrote that he looked so well and so healthy. But as we went off the stage, he collapsed. And I realised that it might be the last time I saw him,’ said Van Hove. Tony Visconti, who worked with Bowie on many of his albums, was another who knew the singer was ill. ‘His death was no different from his life - a work of Art. He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift,’ Visconti wrote on Facebook. ‘I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.’ Highlighting how secret Bowie kept his illness, long-time collaborator and friend Brian Eno said his death came as ‘a complete surprise’.

He told the BBC he received an email from Bowie a week before his death which he now believes was a farewell message. ‘It was funny as always, and as surreal, looping through word games and allusions and all the usual stuff we did. It ended with this sentence: ‘Thank you for our good times, Brian. they will never rot’,’ Eno said. ‘I realise now he was saying goodbye.’

Blackstar sales soar as Bowie’s musical legacy endures



Sales of David Bowie’s last album - released two days before his death from cancer - soared on Monday along with downloads of his greatest hits, testimony to the powerful appeal of a pioneer in pop culture and the music business.

Streaming giant Spotify said streams of Bowie’s music were up 2,700 percent on Monday, while the Official Charts Company in the UK said Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ album was headed to the top spot on the charts with sales of 43,000 since its Friday release. Bowie, who produced hits such as ‘Ziggy Stardust’ during a career featuring daringly androgynous displays of glittering costumes, died at age 69 on Sunday.

He was the first recording artist to sell bonds, known as ‘Bowie Bonds,’ against his intellectual property and backed by future earnings of his music. The bonds, which are now paid off, were bought by Prudential Insurance in 1997 for $55 million, and let Bowie retain ownership of his work rather than selling the copyright. The model, constructed by investor David Pullman, was later adopted by artists such as James Brown and the Isley Brothers.

In an interview on Monday, Pullman estimated that Bowie’s estate could be valued upward of $100 million, in part because Bowie owned 100 percent of his music.

‘He was smart enough to have confidence in himself. Most artists sell themselves short, and they don’t hold out for the rights,’ Pullman said. ‘He was able to retain his legacy. His songs were his baby.’

The move also spared Bowie taxes he would have faced had he sold the rights, Pullman said. ‘The real annuity for an artist’s estate is owning copyright and catalogue.

That’s the revenue stream,’ said Bill Werde, chief executive of entertainment agency Fenton and former editor of music trade publication Billboard. Still, he said, Bowie bonds were not all about money.

‘This was more about Bowie’s blood, sweat and tears, and the idea that someone else owned part of it never sat right with him,’ Werde added.

The critically praised ‘Blackstar’ was the top-selling album on Apple’s iTunes US and UK platforms on Monday morning. Bowie’s longtime producer, Tony Visconti, called the album the singer’s ‘parting gift.’

The 2002 ‘Best of Bowie’ compilation album was the second most popular on the US site, outpacing Adele’s blockbuster album ‘25.’ Bowie’s 1972 album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ was in fourth place on the US iTunes platform, according to the site. Apple does not generally release iTunes sales or download figures.

On Amazon’s US and UK websites, ‘Blackstar’ was the No. 1 ‘best seller’ on Monday. In a music video accompanying the album’s first single, ‘Lazarus,’ the singer is shown in a hospital bed with bandages around his eyes. ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven,’ Bowie sings. ‘I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.

I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.’