Sunday 18 February 2018

Bowie proves to be a supernatural showman - even in death

An image taken from the Twitter feed of Duncan Jones of a tribute he paid yesterday to his father David Bowie, who died after suffering
cancer for 18 months. Photo: Duncan Jones
An image taken from the Twitter feed of Duncan Jones of a tribute he paid yesterday to his father David Bowie, who died after suffering cancer for 18 months. Photo: Duncan Jones

Gordon Rayner and Hannah Furness

David Bowie spent his entire career redefining the art of popular music, and on Sunday he pulled off perhaps his greatest 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.

"His death was no different from his life - a work of art," said his long-time 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 death.

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, although he told the director of his new stage musical that he had liver cancer to explain why he would not be present at rehearsals.

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, had used his music to provide every possible clue that he was about to 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."

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.

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."

On December 19, she tweeted: "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always."

Bowie is understood to have died in New York with his wife, his son Duncan Jones, and his 15-year-old daughter with Iman, 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".

Mr Visconti said: "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. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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