The Fall and Rise of Ziggy Stardust

By Dennis Hartley

Pushing the envelope, to the last…

Wow. Simply wow.

I had put off watching David Bowie’s “Lazarus” video for several days because I had a feeling it would disturb me on many levels.

It did.

But it also moved me, in ways few music videos have. Many people have observed over the last few days that his new album Blackstar was a final “gift” to his fans. Perusing the comments for the YouTube posting confirms it was (I only made it through a few before I lost it).

In the song, Bowie laments: Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. But for a parting refrain, he lays a reassuring hand on our shoulder: Oh, I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird/Oh, I’ll be free/Ain’t that just like me? Yes, David, you sly devil…it’s just like you.

The emotional impact of the video reminded me of this swan song:

I am also reminded of Warron Zevon, who released The Wind, just 2 weeks before his death from mesothelioma in 2003 (he had received the diagnosis several weeks before work began on the album.). Not surprisingly, mortality is a running theme through most of the cuts; in “Keep Me in Your Heart” (the album’s closer) Zevon also seems to be offering his fans an epitaph and  preemptive grief counseling.

Like Bowie, Zevon  begins with impending doom: Shadows are falling, and I’m running out of breath…but finishes: These wheels are turning, but they’re running out of steam/Keep me in your heart for a while.

On the up side, we’ll always have their music. As Jim Morrison sang:

Well the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end

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