In Memoriam: The Day Bowie Died
Music lost a legend last week, but the eccentric David Bowie got a chance to say goodbye in his own avant-garde and allusive way.
When “Blackstar” was released on Jan. 8, Bowie’s 69th birthday, he seemed to be on the fast track to a major comeback. Critics loved the record. Bowie was also working on music for an off-broadway production called “Lazarus” with a star-studded, tribute concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall planned.
What critics and fans did not know; however, was that Bowie had been battling cancer for 18 months. He discovered his liver cancer was terminal back in November, soon after the completion of “Blackstar.” Long-time producer Tony Visconti helped with Bowie’s final record and later confirmed Bowie’s plans for the record to serve as a farewell to his fans.
“He was so brave and courageous,” Visconti told Rolling Stone. “His energy was still incredible for a man who had cancer. He never showed any fear. He was just all business about making the album.”
Perhaps the record’s most potent track, “Lazarus,” stumped listeners with its overtly morbid themes. After giving the record another spin on Monday, these themes made all too much sense. The record’s lyrics became downright eerie. Lines from “Lazarus” are sure to bring a tear to listeners’ eyes. Bowie is free as a bluebird looking down from heaven, singing to us all one last time, with nothing left to lose.
Despite such a final and beautifully orchestrated goodbye, Bowie wasn’t planning to stop at “Blackstar.” Visconti said Bowie contacted him just a few weeks before his death with plans for a new album. Both men assumed Bowie had a few months left for them to work together. Weeks before his passing, Bowie had already written demos for five more tracks and was excited to get back into the studio.
Bowie’s desire to keep making music until the end isn’t surprising. Over the last 40 years, he had released almost 30 studio albums with records like the epic “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” and the gender-bending, in-your-face “Hunky Dory.” He will forevermore influence music culture’s aesthetics and inspire artists from all different genres.
Despite his extensive discography, “Blackstar” is rising to become Bowie’s only number one release on Billboard 200 chart.
On Monday, an outpour of support online from famous fans flooded in shortly after news broke of Bowie’s passing. Kendrick Lamar, who Bowie credited with being a huge influence on “Blackstar,” tweeted, “What a honor, what a soul. David Bowie, Spirit of Gold. RIP.” Queen’s official Twitter posted a video of late frontman Freddie Mercury and Bowie’s duet “Under Pressure” quoting the chorus, “This is our last dance…”
Stories about the fascinatingly strange life and legacy of the space oddity filled news feeds this week illustrating Bowie’s influence on popular culture. His genre-bending tunes and gender-bending fashion defined cool for decades. Bowie’s strange spirit will continue to live on through anyone brave enough to embrace their own individuality.