It was announced last night that icon of music, film, fashion and life, David Bowie died from cancer after an 18-month battle. The world is a bit grayer today than yesterday.
Great artists always tend to zig when the populous thinks they will zag. Radiohead following up “OK Computer” -their most commercially successful album at that point- with “Kid A” a drastic sonic departure from its predecessors comes to mind. But no one, truly no one was as beautifully unpredictable as David Bowie. Take his latest (and 27th) album “★” which is an experimental, jazzed-out masterpiece, with dark and haunting imagery, and is completely unlike any other Bowie record. “★” exists as a stunning cap to Bowie’s prolific cannon and remarkable life.
The record, it has now been confirmed by producer Tony Visconti was recorded and released as a “parting gift” to Bowie’s fans. Listening to the completed piece now, it’s clear its thesis is based upon an artist dealing with the looming presence of death the only way he knew how. The last single, and video released off “★” “Lazarus,” begins:
Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
David Bowie was a gender-bending, relentlessly innovative and impossibly vibrant superstar unlike anything the world had ever seen – and possibly ever will. He very well may have been the least derivative artist that has ever existed on this level – he was the core from which so many others derived. His ability to transcend genres, personalities, and formats seemed effortless. He thrived in a space of such vibrant fluidity and indulgence – and his default setting was as uninhibited as it was graceful and explosive.
The Overgrown will undoubtedly publish several pieces on what David Bowie meant to music, fashion and creative expression in general. But for now, let’s just all be grateful that we had a David Bowie in the first place, and let’s take today to honor the career of one of the greatest artists of our time.
From Ziggy Stardust to Thin White Duke to Jareth the Goblin King and Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s inimitable color and theatricality, his idiosyncratic croon, and his luminous presence will continue to flare on through generations.
I’ll close with the same words the man himself used to close his latest single, “Lazarus”:
Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?
(1/8/1947 – 1/10/2016)
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the Editor-in-chief of The Overgrown.