David Bowie used Art to Deliver a Final Message

David Bowie used Art to Deliver a Final Message


In the video for David Bowie’s “Lazarus,” released last week, the mythic singer and rock ’n’ roll shape-shifter, ever thin but bordering on gaunt, is blindfolded and writhing in a hospital bed. “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings. “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” In the end, a shaking Mr. Bowie retreats backward into a darkened armoire.Mr. Bowie, who in his 50-year career reimagined the worlds of pop music, art and fashion, told very few people about the cancer that preceded his death on Sunday, at 69, a year and a half after his diagnosis. Even those working closely with him on a sudden burst of new projects were surprised to learn he had been dying.At the same time, it turns out, he was telling everyone through his art.In recent months, after years of relative silence, Mr. Bowie went on a prodigious streak, inspired in part by his fading health, according to the few people who knew. His formidable artistic output included a musical featuring new and revamped songs; “Blackstar,” a vibrant jazz-inspired album (his 25th over all); and two epic music videos that addressed death head-on.Only now, with hindsight, does the scope of Mr. Bowie’s oracular farewell become clear: His latest works were haunting, conflicted and not entirely subtle — both the Off Broadway show he co-wrote and a new song are named “Lazarus,” for the biblical figure brought back from the dead.

James C. Nicola, the artistic director of New York Theater Workshop, where “Lazarus” runs through Jan. 20, said, “What seemed not too long ago intriguingly complicated, ambiguous and opaque now seems pretty clear: a man who was yearning for immortality.”During his life, Mr. Bowie pushed his music relentlessly forward while reinventing himself as many personas — from Davie Jones, a young rhythm and blues singer from the London neighborhood of Brixton, to the interplanetary pop star Ziggy Stardust and the dapper hedonist the Thin White Duke. He explored androgyny and otherworldliness, and sampled cultures from different continents (and galaxies) as his musical and visual palettes continued to evolve, always theatrical and deeply layered until his focus turned to his own looming end.But while laying bare his demons for an audience, Mr. Bowie kept much of his life private, even after his death. Mr. Bowie’s family and representatives have opted not to disclose what kind of cancer he had, or where he died, preferring to let the icon speak, however abstractly, through the thinly veiled characters in his work, all versions of himself.
source:the New York Times


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