As with Presley, Lennon or Jackson, millions of fans still remember the shock after the news of David Bowie’s death. Five years later, the fascination of the British pop genius is unbroken. And not all of the puzzles are solved.
Thoughts of death were often very present with David Bowie. His first hit, the futuristic ballad “Space Oddity” (1969), describes the tragic end of astronaut Major Tom in the cold universe. “Blackstar” (2016), Bowie’s last album during his lifetime and certainly one of the best of this pop decade, is a gloomy farewell to his own life in seven monumental songs.
That was five years ago. On January 10, 2016, the British pop superstar, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, died of liver cancer diagnosed 18 months earlier.
This came as a complete surprise to the public – only two days before, on his 69th birthday, Bowie had released a new studio album. The career that ended in shock included the legendary stage death of Bowie’s fictional character Ziggy Stardust in 1973, life-threatening borderline experiences through drug abuse – and constant grief that time was limited.
Bowie cult is omnipresent
Bowie’s death in 2016 was as drastic for millions of fans as that of Michael Jackson in 2009, John Lennon in 1980 or Elvis Presley in 1977: You can still remember exactly what it was like to hear the bad news.
The reactions: overwhelming. In his native London at the Ziggy mural, in Bowie’s adopted home of many years New York – and also in Berlin, where the artist, who is still a citizen of the Berlin Wall, spent two extremely productive years in the 1970s with the «Heroes» anthem from the Hansa Studios as the highlight. Since then, a diverse Bowie cult has been cultivated, including with countless book, comic and music publications, which, however, have by no means solved all the riddles about the pop magician.
Probably the most important biography after the death of the musician was written by Dylan Jones. For “David Bowie: Ein Leben” (in German 2018), the “GQ” journalist spoke, according to Rowohlt-Verlag, “with 182 friends, rivals, lovers and family members”. The author provided an exciting “oral history” – although the downside of the genius, such as his temporary fascination with Hitler or his greed for “groupies”, remained underexposed, as critics criticized.
Secrets and abysses
The culture journalist and book author Tobias Rüther (“Heroes. David Bowie and Berlin”) believes that there is still room for improvement when coming to terms with some of the 1970s excesses: “It would be interesting, Bowie’s special awareness and the desire for populist leadership To look at Great Britain around 1975, 1976 in the light of Brexit, ”he told the German press agency. And: “I find it horrific that the behavior of male rock stars like Bowie towards groupies is still viewed as a minor offense.”
Such abysses have not harmed the reputation of the musician overall – Bowie is pop culture par excellence even after his death. The jukebox musical “Lazarus” with famous Bowie songs could be seen on several stages. And the auction of a large part of his art collection at Sotheby’s brought in a lot of money for the family around Bowie’s widow, the ex-top model Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid.
In the German capital there is still a special veneration for the British, who can be traced, for example, on a lovingly guided “Bowie Berlin Tour”. A memorial plaque was hung in the summer of 2017 in Schöneberger Hauptstrasse 155, where Bowie lived largely anonymously from 1976 to 1978 and overcame his cocaine addiction. Bowie always fondly remembered those years: “I had the feeling that a huge load was being lifted from me in Berlin,” he said 25 years later.
Bowie’s art remains highly topical
That Bowie did not die as a pop star from yesterday or the day before yesterday, but as a very admired, highly topical artist – it is largely due to his last albums. The comeback work “The Next Day” (2013) and the “Blackstar”, which was posthumously awarded four Grammys in 2017, showed him at the height of his art.
About his courage to avoid the pop mainstream as much as possible, Bowie said in 2002: “During my career I have taken flight from this cursed place time and again. As soon as you belong to the mainstream, everything suddenly becomes empty and completely obsolete. ” The music of «Blackstar», which boldly combines avant-garde jazz and indie rock, made us expect a great late work. “The fact that there were only days between this last record and his death increased the shock and sadness again and made the view of Bowie more mild and warmer,” said Bowie expert Rüther of the dpa.
It is unclear whether the allegedly existing last songs from the New York sessions with jazz luminaries Donny McCaslin (saxophone) and Mark Guiliana (drums) will still be released. Bowie’s friend Tony Visconti dampened expectations in “Mojo” magazine: “I think most of it is known. There are still a few unfinished songs with a full band, but absolutely no vocals, not even «La La La». “
The now 76-year-old “Blackstar” producer offered a winking consolation on the fifth anniversary of his death in the interview: “Contrary to what many fans think – he wasn’t God,” said Visconti of Bowie. “But he was close.”
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