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(Yahoo!) - David Bowie was "the man who sold the world," all right--the man who sold the world on the idea that he was retired for good.

It was only in January that we found out his decade-long disappearance wouldn't be a permanent one--when he used his 66th birthday as the occasion to spring a new single on us without so much as a leak that he'd even darkened the doorway of a recording studio. With this week's release of his comeback album,The Next Day, he's the man who got good reviews from the world, too, as critics rush to proclaim it his best work since the 1980s, if not '70s.

The supersecrecy leading up to the release represents quite a hat trick in an age when literally almost nothing about celebrities is held secret. How'd Bowie manage to pull the wool over our eyes for the past 10 years, when fans assumed he was in failing health since his 2004 heart problems, or content to quit the business to quietly raise his daughter out of the limelight, or both?

For starters, he wasn't fooling for the first eight of those last 10 years, when he apparently really had resigned himself to musical inactivity. "I’d had some correspondence with him where he’d said that he just wasn’t interested in writing music any more," his longtime bassist, Gail Ann Dorsey, told England's NME magazine, "because he didn’t have anything to say."


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