Look up here, I’m in heaven/ I’ve got scars, that can’t be seen
Lazarus from Blackstar (2016)
David Bowie’s last album crowned his work as an unpathetical pure piece of art and poetry. Hunted by death the singer, actor, performer, writer produced seven tracks for his latest album Blackstar. They are full of cryptic lyrics hinting at the terminal nature of his condition. Bowie used the haunting lyrics of his swansong album as a parting gift to say goodbye following a secret 18-month battle with cancer.
Just three days before he died, the avant-garde artist released the video for the song Lazarus, which shows the singer trapped in a hospital bed, his frail body shaking beneath the covers and his eyes covered in bandages. In a most impressive way Bowie performed his death as a piece of art.
In 1969 he released the single “Space oddity”. The song is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut. Besides its title, which alludes to the film 2001: A Space Odysee by Stanley Kubrick, the introduction to the song is a barely audible instrumental build-up that is analogous to the deep bass tone in “Also sprach Zarathustra” (Strauss) that is prominently used in the film.
“Here am I sitting in a tin can, Far above the world, Planet earth is blue, And there’s nothing I can do.”
As the song Lazarus ends, Bowie sings: ‘This way or no way, you know, I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird, Oh I’ll be free.’ The track is a pseudo sequel to the 1976 film he starred in, The Man Who Fell To Earth, and is also the title track of the artist’s off-Broadway musical Lazarus.
He started as an outstanding performing artist and parted in the same unique way. Major Tom has left his Tin can, he got free like that bluebird, Far above the world, Planet earth is blue, And there’s nothing we can do.
Bowies work was both influenced by and has been influencing art and cultural movements. While he drawed his inspiration by different music and art styles like Bruce Springsteen or Andy Warhol his own influence for example on fashion is undeniable. The impact David Bowie made on other artists is so obvious and more often pronounced by them.
For young people socialized in the 70th and 80th his music has been the soundtrack of a whole generation and further. Until today songs like Heroes, Young Americans, Life on Mars, Dancing in the Street, The Jean Genie and more have received a huge audience. Never conformed always pushing the boundaries David Bowie still became one of the most weighty musicians in the last decades and an iconic figure in pop culture.
Besides his music the dalliance with gender identities is his biggest merit. Beyond his death he will be known as a big pioneer of gender equalizing by staging the male body in a before then unknown androgyn way. He created artificial characters such as his extravagant alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Album covers showing him heavily made-up and flamboyant costumes were part of his enactment.
For today’s discourse about gender awareness and transgender his art pointed the way ahead.
The British artist died in the age of 69. One day after David Bowie lost his fight against cancer on 10th of January surrounded by his family the news were published. The recent album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday three days before he passed away.
A current exhibition in Groningen, Netherlands presents the international retrospective David Bowie is in Goninger Museum showing over 300 objects related to the popstar.
His extraordinary career in music and film production is peerless. It spanned six decades.
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