mon 23/10/2017

David Bowie, 1947-2016 | reviews, news & interviews

David Bowie, 1947-2016

David Bowie, 1947-2016

The greatest rock star of them all is gone; maybe only his own words will do now.

Black Star, the first of Bowie's cover not to feature an image of him

He knew.

18 months of dealing with cancer, and rather than withdraw and rest – as he'd done before – David Bowie knuckled down made a record as intense and disturbing as anything he's done before. The Next Day was a worthy return to the fray but Blackstar... Even before we heard the terrible news, just taken on its own merits, Blackstar was something else. And now, knowing that he knew, it's absolutely fearsome in its confrontation with death.

I know something is very wrong
The pulse returns the prodigal sons
The blackout hearts, the flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes
(“Can't Give it All Away”)

If I'll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see
(“Dollar Days”)

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
(“Lazarus”)

Bowie Shhh

There's so much more to Blackstar: of course there is, it's Bowie. He'd never give us a simple message. There's the weaknesses and terrors of religion, there's the myths of stardom (Ziggy in the age of Kanye), there's science fiction everywhere, there's kitchen sink domestic drama, there's age, there's beauty – and all this set to giddily dark unfolding electronic-jazz-rock narratives that shines with a sparkling newness that musicians a third Bowie's age would be proud of. But right now it's almost too much to listen to, such is the intensity of its unblinking gaze into the abyss.

There are millions of words to say, and already being said, about what Bowie was and what he meant, but I can't really say any of them now. I can't remember a musician's death affecting me this much: I'm having to withdraw from social media because every post – and of course there are thousands of them, streaming past like a river of love and sadness – about him hits with a physical impact. His influence is incalculable, and even in the final act, he showed us a whole new way for a rock star to be, and a whole new way to create. He KNEW.

Even in the final act, he showed us a whole new way for a rock star to be, and a whole new way to create

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters