I’m listening to Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, released to the public on his 69th birthday, 100 hours or so before his death. And there are 100 reasons I am overwhelmed by it. Not only as a body of work from a significant artist but as the ultimate period at the end of his life’s book.
I didn’t know that his death would have such a strong impact on me. I grew up with “Space Oddity” on the radio, “Golden Years” at high school parties, and “Ashes to Ashes” coming out of college dorm room windows. His music was ubiquitous and always welcome, but David Bowie was never one of my go-to artists growing up.
Of course, he wasn’t just an artist, he was an Artist in the most righteous way, earning that capital “A” for a full and fearless life of stunning and prolific creativity. He sang, danced, acted, painted, and followed whatever intelligence his muse was willing to offer over five decades. The proof is in this beautiful .gif by artist Helen Green.
I look at this today and am staggered by his courage.
We know now that Bowie lived with cancer in his final 18 months–a diagnosis that was kept remarkably private in an age of over-sharing on social media.
I am both a cancer survivor and a musician, so this gives me pause. In 2002, I knew that my own odds for survival were quite good, but as I listen to Blackstar, I’m asking myself, “What would I do with my energy if I learned I had a year to live? What would I create? Would would be the period on my life?”
I can’t help but imagine that David Bowie knew within days of his diagnosis that there were projects to be made manifest: his off-Broadway play Lazurus and this final album.
We’ve heard sports coaches talk about “leaving it all on the field” for the big game. And yes, we all want to leave it on the field. David Bowie knew better, though. Listen to the final track , “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” and just try to keep from crying.