The strange thing about the death of David Bowie is that many of us heard the news in the exact same place we heard he’d sprung back to life: bed.
It was on the morning of January 8th 2013 that we sleepily took in the magical shock that David Bowie had returned after a decade’s retirement with a new single, ‘Where Are We Now?’. Three years later, almost to the day, we woke up to incomparably sadder news.
That a master artist like Bowie twice managed to surprise us in that woozy, dreamy state between wake and sleep is probably just a coincidence. Probably. Yet, on this sad day, it’s hard not to feel a similar swell of congratulations for this great artist – just like we did three years ago. For anyone that’s been around someone with a terminal illness, the manner of David Bowie’s death is a very beautiful thing.
Two years ago, my dad also died of cancer. That’s him above, many years ago, moustachioed to the max and stood next to a mildly terrifying waxwork of the man himself at the Trocadero’s short-lived Rock Circus exhibition. Yes, the kid in the brown jacket is grabbing David's nuts.
Like Mr Bowie, who (it’s been revealed today) had battled with cancer for 18 months, my dad’s illness was a very long, very drawn out affair. What kept him going, on the rollercoaster of hope and disappointment that is chemotherapy, was having a sense of purpose. In his case, purpose was hanging on long enough to meet his granddaughter, who he met just weeks before he died.
For Bowie, it now seems that purpose must surely have been ‘Blackstar’ – his twenty-fifth and last album, released just three days before his death. As befits an artist so totally dedicated to being on the cutting edge, ‘Blackstar’ was yet another step forward. Long-time producer Tony Visconti said it was in part influenced by Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar – which would be a staggering thing for any other 69-year-old to say, of course, yet totally appropriate for a wide-eyed creative magpie like Dave.
If your experience is anything like mine, then Facebook and Twitter has probably become a rolling feed of Bowie’s greatest hits. That’s wonderful of course, but if you truly loved David Bowie, and understand the importance both of artistic progress and purpose, then I urge you to listen to ‘Blackstar’ on this incalculably sad day. It sounds silly to say it, but I've got a hunch that it might have kept him alive just that little bit longer.
Listen to ‘Blackstar’ on Spotify: