Sad to hear of the death of David Bowie. He died yesterday, just two days after his 69th birthday. He had cancer. He had also released his last album, “Black Star” on his birthday on Friday and released a video for his final single, “Lazarus.” In the video he is seen in a hospital bed and the opening line is apt: “Look up here, I’m in Heaven.” “Black Star” was his first album since “The Next Day” three years ago, which itself was his first in a decade. “Black Star” only contains seven tracks but critics and fans have been raving about it.
Bowie’s career has spanned nearly fifty years with his fame becoming worldwide with the creation of his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust in the early 1970s. Beyond Ziggy Stardust, he created masterpieces with Brian Eno, worked with legends Iggy Pop and Lou Reed – revitalising their careers, and became one of the biggest pop stars in the world in the early 1980s with the help of producer Niles Rodgers with hits such as “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance.” He was also an actor. I have always held an abiding memory of his role in the film “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence” from the early 1980s. He played Maj. Jack ‘Strafer’ Celliers, an English prisoner of war in Japan during the Second World War, opposite Ryuichi Sakamoto who played the prison camp’s Commandant. The Commandant had a sexual desire towards Bowie’s character, which partly helped to keep him alive. The soundtrack of the film was also memorable, being composed by Sakamoto. Tom Conti played the title role of Captain John Lawrence.
David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence.” (1983)
An interesting quote by him on the news coverage today of his death came from around 13 years ago when he was 56. He said that he couldn’t understand how he was 56 or come to terms with ageing. He summed up what many feel in their 50s that he still sees himself as, and feels like, a 20-year-old. More recently, he said he was really lucky to have had a full life. He said that apart from the drug-fuelled 70s, he had harnessed every opportunity in his life and hadn’t wasted it.
His death has been headline news around the world, in such diverse countries as Russia, China, Japan, the United States, Iceland, Australia, and even in the Vatican where a spokesman tweeted lines from his song “Space Oddity.” British astronaut tweeted from the International Space Station. Many radio stations, including in Australia and Iceland were playing his music non-stop in tribute to him. Musicians have also been paying tribute to him, including from Iggy Pop, the Rolling Stones and Madonna. The BBC, as they always do when a musician dies, brought in the Disc Jokey and expert Paul Gambaccini to comment. I remember him commenting on the death of John Lennon in 1980 – after hearing of his death on the plane home from New York where he had just interviewed the former Beatle. Everytime I hear Gambaccini speaking about the latest star of music to die I always think of that John Lennon connection and I also wonder who is going to comment on Pau Gambaccini when he dies?
A sad day for music.
Last photo of David Bowie, taken by his wife on his 69th birthday just two days before his death