Five Years After His Death, David Bowie Continues To Inspire
Today, January 10, marks half a decade since the passing of David Bowie. Five years, that’s all we’ve got.
To say it’s been a strange few years since Bowie’s death is somewhat of an understatement. Not long after Bowie, Prince left us too. We’ve seen Trump take office, get impeached, incite a riot and potentially get impeached again. Britain has finally fallen off the Brexit cliff, while coronavirus has killed more than a million people and ground the world to a standstill.
In Bowie’s Five Years, the opening track of 1972’s untouchable The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, among a host of characters on the brink of apocalypse is the ‘news guy,’ who ‘wept and told us, Earth was really dying’. Has a lyric ever felt more apt?
Two days before he died – from cancer, which he kept private – Bowie turned 69 and released his 25th album, the magnificent Blackstar. The whole record was a confrontation and reckoning with mortality, something that would only take on more significance after his passing, something that Bowie was all too aware of. He’d spent his whole life making art, he knew he must do the same in death.
Perhaps that was his greatest talent; making art out of everything. For Bowie, each album was an exploration, everything he released – from music to film to fashion – felt like he was expanding his own sphere of influence in order to constantly push himself and his output forward. Over his near 50-year career, Bowie never stood still; he orchestrated his exit from the world and turned it into something everlasting. He found the light in the dark.
Ahead of his time, seemingly able to predict the future, self-aware and always mindful of his position in the world, it’s no wonder Bowie’s legacy has endured and continues to inspire. While he may have sung in despair of an overload of information in Five Years, ‘My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,’ or reached out to us from the afterlife in Lazarus, ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen,’ he also knew his music was there to spread joy, and still does. Five Years might paint a bleak scene, but it’s a hell of an uplifting tune.
After being asked what’s the best advice you’ve ever received, in a Jackie interview in 1970, Bowie said: ‘To try to make each moment of one’s life one of the happiest, and if it’s not, try to find out why.’ The advice, he said, came from a friend of his, a Buddhist monk.
The advice might not be the easiest thing to follow these days, in the middle of a pandemic, but if anyone can tell us to make something great out of dark times, it’s Bowie. He knew, even after death, the positives would prevail. As such a multi-faceted and chameleonic performer, his music and art continues to offer solace to any and everyone who needs it.
Who knows what the next five years will hold.
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