Art isn’t necessarily just an output, or a mere creation. It’s who you are. It flows through your veins.
David Bowie personified that, from his fashion to his role in movies. The man was a true artist in everything he did, even his own death. While the general public remained blissfully unaware of the cancer that was slowly killing him, Bowie turned to music to tell his story through 2016’s Blackstar. The album was unusual not because it was released shortly before his demise, but because the album was created with the artist fully aware of his own impending death – it was a parting gift, you might say.
For that reason, Blackstar was and still is a very unique record. At a mere seven songs, there’s not a single moment that doesn’t hit listeners right in the gut. However, it’s difficult to select any track other than ‘Lazarus’ – the song that most directly addresses his death – as one of the most emotional moments of the entire decade. “Look up here, I’m in heaven…I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” he sings, slyly alluding to the cancer that he was hiding at the time the song was written. It ends with him saying, “Oh, I’ll be free…Ain’t that just like me?” – foreshadowing his spiritual ascension from this world. It’s all very haunting, and devastating to think that he knew all along.
Musically the track is downtempo, with jazz influences and jarring interrupt passages. It’s not overly complex or showy by his standards – it’s just Bowie, pouring out his soul into a recording that he knew he wouldn’t be around very long to experience. In a sense, it’s a musical time capsule – this vessel in which he placed his words and song to be heard at a later date. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to write and record this song, fully knowing the implications that it would bear once he passed on. It’s almost unsettling the way that we were able to listen to Bowie’s farewell for days without realizing what it was. He was essentially writing his own eulogy; expressing to us through music a secret that he kept hidden for eighteen months. As a fan of Bowie the person, ‘Lazarus’ is eerie and depressing. As a fan of Bowie the artist, it’s downright brilliant. He was a true artist in life, and he remains one in death.
Rest in peace to an absolute legend.
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