This week I joined the rest of the world in mourning the iconic musical legend David Bowie. In my time of mourning I came across this write up by Gordon Rayner in The Telegraph examining how David Bowie turned his own death into a piece of art after keeping terminal cancer a secret especially when he died just two days after release of his album Blackstar, which he had planned as his own requiem.
I now reproduce excerpts of the write up below so that you, dear reader, can help me appreciate the life of David Bowie…. David Bowie spent his entire career redefining the art of popular music, and on Sunday he pulled off perhaps his greatest ever coup when he turned his own death into one last spellbinding performance.
With showmanship bordering on the supernatural, Bowie released his final album, Blackstar, on Friday, laden with pointers to his demise, then fulfilled the prophesy of his lyrics by passing away just two days later.
David Bowie has died at the age of 69 “His death was no different from his life – a work of art,” said his longtime producer Tony Visconti.
Diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, a fact he had chosen to hide from the world, Bowie had plenty of time secretly to prepare for his own end, yet he had little control over the moment of its coming. Mr Visconti said Bowie “made Blackstar for us, his parting gift”, but even he was surprised by the uncanny timing of his friend’s passing.
Mr Visconti said: “I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.” The date of the album’s release, Bowie’s 69th birthday, had been set months in advance. It had not been moved forward because Bowie was close to death; rather he appeared to have clung to life long enough for the album to be released.
Only a handful of people even knew that Bowie was seriously ill.
Brian May, the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, with whom Bowie wrote and recorded the No.1 hit Under Pressure, said he had “no idea he was close to death” and “would like to have said something” to him.
Yet Bowie, intensely private when not performing, the ultimate showman when he was, had used his music to provide every possible clue that he was about the leave the stage.
The lyrics of Lazarus, one of the first tracks to be released, appear to be Bowie’s own requiem. It begins: “Look up here, I’m in Heaven! I’ve got scars that can’t be seen…” and ends with the words: “This way or no way/You know I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird/Now ain’t that just like me?/Oh I’ll be free.”
The video begins with Bowie lying in a hospital bed, and ends with him disappearing into a wardrobe. Other songs speak of graves and x-rays; videos for them have a recurring skull motif and the title track, Blackstar, has the lyric: “Something happened on the day he died; spirit rose a metre and stepped aside.”
The cover of the album, a black star on a white background, is the only one of Bowie’s 27 studio albums not to feature a picture of him.
Meanwhile, Bowie’s wife of 24 years, the model Iman, 60, had posted messages on her social media pages which clearly referred to Bowie’s impending death, though his fans did not know it at the time.
On his birthday on Friday she posted a picture of her husband, quoting the comment he made at Madison Square Gardens on his 50th birthday: “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.”
The day before he died she tweeted: “Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
The previous day she wrote: “Life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. It’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it,” and on December 19 she posted: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always.”
Bowie’s health had been the subject of rumours for a decade or more, but none of them appeared to have been founded in any inside knowledge of what was really going on.
His refusal to perform at the London 2012 Olympics – where his song Heroes was played after almost every final – led to frenzied speculation about his health, though it appears to have been premature.
His biographer Wendy Leigh said that Bowie, who had once pursued sex, drugs and rock n’ roll with equal energy, had suffered six heart attacks over the years, which he had also kept secret.
Bowie is understood to have died in New York, his adopted home city, with his wife, his 44-year-old son Duncan Jones and his 15-year-old daughter Alexandria by his side.
His death was announced by the family on Bowie’s official social media feeds, saying he “died peacefully surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer”.
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