Visions of death and sickness permeated David Bowie’s “Blackstar,” but who would have thought the album would be the music legend’s “parting gift?”
Bowie’s death following a secret battle with an unspecified cancer came as a shock to fans Monday as the 69-year-old left behind one last album after an ever-changing, five-decade career.
His friend and longtime producer, Tony Visconti, knew the anticipated musical treasure would be the chameleon artist’s swan song.
“He made Blackstar for us — his parting gift,” Visconti said Monday. “I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.”
The months leading up to Blackstar were just as secretive thanks to Visconti and two dozen musicians who joined Bowie on his 25th studio released Friday — the prestigious musician’s birthday.
The producer dashed rumors of the singer’s ailing health dating back to 2004 when Bowie collapsed backstage at a musical festival in Germany. Those fears continued as Bowie descended into reclusion.
“He’s my friend. If he tells me not to tell anybody, I’ll respect my wishes,” said Visconti, who spoke to WNYC on Thursday about protecting Bowie’s privacy on releasing the new album.
“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” David Bowie sang from his apparent death bed in the music video for “Lazarus.”
The artist wrapped his eyes in bandages in both music videos for “Lazarus” and “Blackstar” released before his death on Sunday.
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A girl in “Blackstar” opens the helmet of an astronaut to find a jewelled skull, one of several images of death in Bowie’s final msuic videos.
He hid his knowledge’s of Bowie’s illness in November, telling Rolling Stone his friend of 50 years was doing OK.
“He’s in fine health,” Visconti told the magazine. “He’s just made a very rigorous album.”
The transcendent artisan kept to his home studio to record segments of “Blackstar,” but Bowie managed to record two music videos released before his death Sunday.
Bowie’s death may have confirmed hints of Bowie’s darkest hours that bled into Blackstar.
The track “Lazarus” is a reference to a man resurrected by Jesus. In its video, Bowie wrapped his eyes in bandages and sang of the afterlife from an apparent death bed.
For the record’s title track, images of jeweled skulls and a lost astronaut dead on the surface of a desolate planet were commonplace.
His fate seemed inevitable with his newest lyrics.
“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” sang Bowie in “Lazarus.”
Death made a cameo once again in the title track.
“Something happened on the day he died … Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside … Somebody else took his place and bravely cried.”