I downloaded Bowie’s Blackstar last Friday – listened to twice. Entertainment Weekly said ‘he reinvents’ himself. To me he was mining some of the territory of works like Low only with more saxophone. Elegant, somber with a few lighthearted moments, I was drawn into the layered sonics.
His voice becomes more an instrument than a conveyer of lyrics. Often floating around the sax that grounds everything. The lyrics are enigmatic, mystical and carefully placed in the mix. I loved the unexpected use of retro electronics in Sue.
Then on Monday morning comes the announcement of his death. He knew it was coming & this was to be final testament. Odd how something like that changes everything. As a step in his career Blackstar was was definitely a creative advance – as the cap to his career is it stunning.
I’ve blogged here & here about the Bowie in my collection earlier. His persona often eclipsed his music but he did create & sustain a space for ‘otherness’ – his ability to play on ambiguity, androgyny was sustained and productive. He established a creativity in which identity didn’t have to be concrete to be real.
Hearing about his death I looked back t his last album in which he revisits the styles of his past & now see that as a foreshadowing – he knew he was dying even then. It also made me think of another pop star, Warren Zevon.
Zevon recorded his last lp ‘The Wind’ (2003)knowing he was dying. But that was known before the lp was released. He is a very different performer from Bowie – more earthbound. The lyrics are heartrending – Please Stay takes my break away & the sax work i amazing. The Wind is no less over wrought than Blackstar.
Zevon sings about knocking on heaven’s door; Bowie sings about the stars with no door stop him. The emotional sense of loss that I get from both Blackstar & The Wind is powerful.
the sunset has taken me as his lover
I promise to be true
but once dark enfolds me
I give myself to the stars
I cannot be satisfied by the Pleiades
with the Big Dipper soon to appear
a tingle twinkle romance
that comes the Milky Way way
I am sky slut unrepentant
until sunrise glares
in an attempt to shame me
I sustain a daylight atonement
eager when the unsuspecting sunset
takes me as his lover again
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