Bowie Reinvented Absolutely Everything He Touched – So Why Would Death Be Any Different?
It's said that Lazarus was his 'parting gift' – but really, it goes much deeper than that
It’s not unusual for an artist to leave this world like a supernova.
Rather than slowly fading into darkness, their star burns perhaps more brightly than ever before; an explosive exit made up of tributes and quotations and artwork and Spotify searches and tweets and posts, all fuelled by a lifetime of creative genius, but ignited by their passing.
If anything, it's fairly inevitable; the a beautiful if standardised template of celebrity death.
But how foolish of us all to think that David Bowie would follow this template; come to that, how foolish of us all to think that he’d follow any template.
And most of all – given that this was the man who created alter-egos and stars in the same way as Tolkien dreamt up new worlds – how foolish of us all to think that he would stand back and allow us to define his legacy when there was a big, shiny supernova for him to play with.
"He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift"
You've probably seen the Lazarus video by now – if you haven’t, take a look above – and read about its eerie but deliberate foreshadowing of today's news.
Opening with the lyrics “Look up here, I’m in heaven”, you can’t help but crack a wry smile as you realise the song you listened to on Friday was actually spelling out ludicrously clearly what was about to happen.
And sure enough, producer Tony Visconti confirmed as much in his Facebook post:
“"He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way.
"His death was no different from his life - a work of Art.
“He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.”
But really, Lazarus and Blackstar form only the tip of the iceberg – when you look back at it all with the clarity he gave us with that opening line, Bowie has always had one eye on the day when he himself wouldn’t be around any more.
"His amazing, terrifying mind understood that no star burns quite as brightly as a supernova; that there’s nothing quite so spectacular as a last hurrah."
Listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars earlier on today, it seemed like every word he sang was a planted message that resonated all the more in death – every line was painted in a new context, just like the opener from Lazarus.
From the mourning population in Five Years, to the buried “brave son who gave his life to see the slogan” in Soul Love, to the Starman waiting in the sky, and on to the concilatory “Oh no love you’re not alone” in Rock’n’Roll Suicide, it’s like he’s been planting these messages for the entire duration of his career.
Not literally of course – but you still get a sense that his amazing, terrifying mind understood that no star burns quite as brightly as a supernova; that there’s nothing quite so spectacular as a last hurrah.
There was a sense that the world turned just for Bowie today.
There was a feeling, vague and unverifiable though it may be, that everybody with a pair of headphones was rediscovering the brilliance of Hunky Dory or perhaps listening to Aladdin Sane for the first time.
And walking home through the crowded streets of Dublin this evening, sensing him everywhere and feeling him burn more brightly than ever, that blazing, fiery supernova provided some much-needed warmth on a night when a lot of us were feeling just a little bit empty.
That – in typical Bowie fashion – was the real parting gift.