'Lazarus’ director says ‘Blackstar’ wasn’t David Bowie’s farewell
by Luke Ottenhof
January 6, 2017
Work on David Bowie’s album had been done for weeks before the singer was told his illness had won.
David Bowie’s death shook us all nearly a year ago, made all the more dramatic and gutting given the release of what would be his final record, the somber, beautiful Blackstar, two days before his passing from liver cancer. Rightly and understandably so, many people assumed the record to be the innovative icon’s ‘farewell’ letter to the world; both the timing of his death and the content of the album, notably the brooding, twisted, “Lazarus,” and it’s accompanying video, all seemed to hint that Blackstar was created by a man who knew he was dying, and that he intended this record to be his last mark on the world.
But an upcoming BBC documentary on Ziggy Stardust’s final years, titled The Last Five Years, indicates that Bowie wasn’t aware of the full gravity of his illness until three months before his death, long after Blackstar had been completed, and about a week after the video for “Lazarus” had been conceived, suggesting that these works weren’t created as a swan song.
As the Guardian reports, the director for the “Lazarus” video, Johan Renck, remarked that the video was merely referencing the biblical aspects of the titular namesake: “I immediately said ‘the song is called Lazarus, you should be in the bed,'” he explained. “I found out later that, the week we were shooting, it was when he was told it was over, they were ending treatments and that his illness had won.”
Though this disputes the assigned purpose and meaning that many ascribed to the release, it perhaps strengthens a larger, cosmic narrative; these works weren’t created as a last will and testament, and yet they serve magically and macabrely as such. That seems far more wondrous and Bowie-esque than anything.
The full documentary airs January 7 on BBC 2 at 9PM GMT. Watch the haunting video for “Lazarus” below.
[H/T to NOISEY]