David Bowie never seemed to be of this world. It seems odd to think the malleable and erudite musician who influenced so many could have died because he appeared to live outside of the reality of a day-to-day existence. Of course, in the end, he was a living, breathing man and last night he was taken by the most mundane of killers, cancer.
It makes perfect sense that he would leave this world only two days after releasing the bleak and beautiful, “Blackstar”. Album producer, Tony Visconti, who collaborated with Bowie throughout his career, called the album, “his parting gift.” The record puts a bold exclamation point at the end of a career spent changing the fabric of the industry.
Bowie toyed with image as a child plays with colorful clay. He was Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, and the Thin White Duke. He put on his red shoes and danced the blues, and he was the Earthling. With each of his changing personas, he brought something new and exciting into the world. His ability to transform his persona and sound may have influenced many performers, but it seems unique now as we inhabit the world of the “brand”.
Bowie didn’t have a brand. He slipped in and out of many skins and sounds. He pioneered British glam rock as Ziggy Stardust before exploring Philadelphia funk and soul with “Diamond Dogs” and “Young Americans”. He moved into experimental electronic music with the Berlin trilogy of albums, “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” before swinging back into the mainstream with, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”. His collaboration with Nile Rodgers on 1983’s, “Let’s Dance” presented Bowie to an all new audience by shedding his sexually ambiguous persona for one of designer suits and funky beats. Never to rest on his laurels, he went on to produce straight forward rock music with Tin Machine and exploring alternative and industrial sounds with Nine Inch Nails.
Bowie surprised everyone by releasing “The Next Day” in 2013 after a decade-long hiatus that most took as retirement. The album found Bowie back on form and received positive reviews throughout the industry. In the last year of his life, he brought “Lazarus”, the sequel to “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, to the stage and wrote the song, “Blackstar” as the theme for the television show, “The Last Panthers.”
Bowie’s version of the title track to “Lazarus” appears on the album, “Blackstar”. The video was released the same day as the album and features him in a hospital bed singing the lyrics, “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.” The visuals and lyrics take on new meaning now that we’ve lost the immortal icon who turned out to be far too mortal.
LJ Moskowitz is a photographer and writer based out of New Jersey specializing in concert, product and fine art photography. She is an active member of the National Press Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America. You can find her at Shutterchick Photography, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.