David Bowie died on Sunday night after an 18 month battle with cancer. The internet is swirling with the news that David Bowie has died. But David Bowie also lived, and he lived magnificently.
Bowie recently turned 69-years-old, and on that day, he proved that he wasn’t done with the music scene quite yet. At that stage, only hours before his death, only a select few people knew about Bowie’s terminal cancer: to the rest of the world, he was a megastar coming out of partial retirement to release another album. Now fans know that it was intended as a “farewell” album, but at the time it was heralded as an amazing studio release from a timeless artist.
Bowie’s birthday was on January 8 and Vogue reports that his wife, Iman, posted a stylish photo of him dressed in a tailored suit made by designer Thom Browne. The Instagram caption spoke of David Bowie’s birthday, as well as his new album.
“Why is this man so happy? Is it because it’s his 69th birthday or that he has released his 28th studio album today and it’s a corker? Who knows, but we’re sure you’ll want to join us in congratulating him on both. Many happy returns of the day to David Bowie and (Fashion fans may like to note that our man is wearing Thom Browne).”
David Bowie’s new album, Blackstar, was his 28th studio album.
— SpyHollywood (@TheSpyHollywood) January 10, 2016
According to the New Yorker, Blackstar is a different beast from Bowie’s 2013 album, The Next Day, which was his first album release in a decade. David Bowie accomplished with Blackstar precisely what he built his career on.
“From the beginning, Bowie showed an interest in exploring the fragmentation of identity and meaning. His career depended heavily on performance, which allowed him to actively deploy various signifiers inside and alongside his music — signifiers of gender, of sexual orientation, even of humanity itself. (The question of radical others, up to and including aliens, surface frequently in his early work.) At some point, he began to look more rigorously into the idea of meaninglessness, and to write songs that were willful participants in their own fragmentation.”
A video for one of the songs of the album was released before his death. Called “Lazarus,” it is quite remarkable and is reminiscent of his older works.
Jimmy Fallon even got onboard the new David Bowie bandwagon. Pitchfork reports that Fallon jokingly said on The Tonight Show that he inspired Bowie’s “Lazarus” video, in which Bowie coincidentally mimics Fallon’s “Thank You Notes” gestures.
— Vanessa Clark (@FoxxyGlamKitty) January 8, 2016
In the wake of his death, Jimmy Fallon again addressed David Bowie on his Tonight Show, but this time the mood was entirely different.
Rarely one to speak on his Tonight Show without some kind of joke, Fallon said that this time he tried to “think of something funny to say, but it just wouldn’t come out right.” Instead, he spoke from his heart.
Aside from Jimmy Fallon, David Bowie has inspired so many people in the 50 years he has been making music. The Guardian writer Peter Ormerod reminisces about the moment when David Bowie changed his life.
“It’s easy to remember the moment that changed me. It was listening to Hunky Dory for the first time, shortly after 6pm on Wednesday 27 March 1996. Until then, my life had been somewhat disparate and rootless. I didn’t know who on earth I was, and it wasn’t good. After listening to Bowie, my life was still somewhat disparate and rootless and I still didn’t know who on earth I was, and it was great.”
That is what David Bowie’s music is all about, has always been about. His new album is no different and no less inspiring and the reviews of Blackstar have been very favorable: even before Bowie’s death was announced. NPR reported that the album sounds very human, even though David Bowie was one of the pioneers of the use of electronics in music.
“Bowie helped pioneer the use of electronics in rock ‘n roll, and he uses them extensively here. But what makes Blackstar radical is how human it sounds. The dazzling quartet of saxophonist Donny McCaslin defines this album. They sound like hyper-evolved cyborgs.”
It’s easy for an album to become popular posthumously. But the final miracle of David Bowie’s 69 years is that he lived to see his Blackstar album be heralded a success before people even knew he was unwell. It’s almost like he wanted an honest opinion on his final body of work before he passed away.
[Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images]