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David Bowie’s Blackstar

David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)

I know I’m about five years late here, but recently I’ve become somewhat infatuated with this album. I can’t even say it’s the entirety of the seven song set that intrigues me. There are several songs on it that don’t do all that much for me. 

It’s actually what this album symbolizes that I find so fascinating. The artist here is certainly no stranger. Most any fans of rock are aware on some level of the amazing near-50 year career of David Bowie, as well as the artistic and cultural influence he left on the industry. 

What makes Blackstar so interesting to me is that it was written and recorded by a dying man. Bowie was terminally ill at the time and he knew it. The album was one final gift to his fans. Nearly every track is wrought with the foreshadowing of his impending passing. The title track is nothing short of an epic 10-minute expression of this. 

In typical Bowie fashion, the album is experimental and risk-taking. He recorded it with a jazz band led by the massively talented Donnie McCaslin. 

The real gem is the track, Lazarus. I simply can’t stop listening to it. Some of the lyrics to this song include, “Look up here, I’m in heaven. I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. Look up here man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.” Additionally, “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird. Now ain’t that just like me.”

The end of the video features Bowie walking backwards into a closet and disappearing. The man literally turned his death into an artistic expression. What could possibly be more Bowie than that?

The day he shot the video for this song, his doctor informed him there was nothing left they could do treatment-wise for his cancer. Two days after the release of the album, Bowie succumbed to his disease, which also happened to be two days after his 69th birthday.

While explaining all of this to my wife, who works in the health care industry and previously worked in oncology, she said the entire experience of making this album and the ensuing videos probably served as a therapeutic process for him. I don’t think anyone wants to accept impending death, but how many people have the vision and resolve to produce something like this on their way out?

Though I never considered myself some big David Bowie fan per se, I’ve always respected his talent. After familiarizing myself with this album and learning the story behind it, I now have such admiration for this man and his craft. The rock world is less without David Bowie in the here and now, but it’s so much more for what he left us.

Thanks for reading,

Vic

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