Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie – "Lazarus" (2016)

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen

David Bowie died yesterday, two days after his 69th birthday and two days after the release of his 26th studio album, Blackstar (which will likely become the first Bowie album to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart).  

Bowie had been diagnosed with liver cancer eighteen months before his death, but kept his illness a secret.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
Sooner or later, everyone who writes about David Bowie (including yours truly) describes him as a chameleon.  That includes Chris Richards, the pop music critic of the Washington Post:

Mourning David Bowie requires tremendous energy because there are so many David Bowies to mourn.  The lost astronaut.  The alien balladeer.  The pansexual glamourpuss.  The rake.  The maestro.  The fashionista.  The freak.  He was humanity’s ultimate and most giving rock star.  A chameleon bearing gifts.

I think Richards got to the heart of Bowie’s essence a little later in that piece:

[P]erpetual rejuvenation was the beating heart of Bowie’s project . . . . Bowie’s trajectory demanded that all pop stars evolve, transform, tweak their personas or invent new ones.  He made reinvention one of pop music’s most essential, appealing and enduring requirements.  

Today I asked a very talented musician I know to rank Bowie on a one to ten scale.  She would give only the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and a few others a “ten” rating, but she would give Bowie a “nine.”  I think that’s just about right.

Aladdin Sane
Bowie was born in 1947 as David Robert Jones.  He changed his stage name from Davy Jones to David Bowie to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.  

Bowie was a fan of American culture and reportedly wanted a name as “cutting” as Mick Jagger.  So he chose to name himself after Alamo hero Jim Bowie and his eponymous knife.  He later described his new name as “the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions” — whatever that means.

2 or 3 lines has previously featured five David Bowie songs, so you can tell I’m a big fan.  I played Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs to death when I was in college.  His next album, Young Americans, was awful, but thankfully his “plastic soul” phase didn’t last long.  

I didn’t go to many concerts when I was younger, but I did see Bowie when he brought his “Serious Moonlight Tour” to the old Capital Centre in suburban Washington in August 1983.  That tour kicked off in Brussels and ended in Hong Kong; altogether it visited 61 cities in 15 countries.  The setlist included “Space Oddity,” “Star,” “The Jean Genie,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Young Americans,” “Fame,” “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Modern Love,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire).”  

The Thin White Duke
Lazarus, an off-Broadway musical that features new and old songs by David Bowie, is a sort of sequel to Bowie’s 1976 movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth.  

Here's the trailer for that movie:

One reviewer said Lazarus was “unapologetically weird,” which is a pretty good description of Bowie himself.

The only track from Blackstar that is performed in Lazarus is today’s featured song – which is also titled “Lazarus.”

Bowie in 2015 (age 68)
The biblical Lazarus was restored to life by Jesus four days after his death.  Other than Jesus himself, Lazarus is the only biblical figure who was resurrected from the dead.  His resurrection is the last and most remarkable of the seven miracles performed by Jesus in the gospel according to John. 

According to Tony Visconti, the longtime Bowie collaborator who produced Blackstar, “Lazarus” and its accompanying music video were intended as a parting gift to Bowie’s fans.

The "Blackstar" cover
Visconti sent out this tweet after Bowie died:

He always did what he wanted to do.  And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way.  His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.  He made “Blackstar” for us, his parting gift.  I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I  wasn't, however, prepared for it.  He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life.  He will always be with us.  For now, it is appropriate to cry.

Here’s “Lazarus”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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