Dear David Bowie:
Like the rest of the world, I was stunned and devastated to hear of your passing this week.
But like every true fan, I just had to have your last album, and so I bought it on Monday: Black Star. When I opened the package and squinted to read the black-type-on-black-paper liner notes, I felt like a voyeur to the last words of a dying man. I put the album aside and listened to my old cassette of your then-greatest hits instead.
Earlier that night, I stared at the moon—that eerie, smoky black circle with the bright crescent smile at the bottom, and thought of you. And like many of my friends, I recalled the perfect rainbow, with the full spectrum of colors clearly visible, that formed Sunday afternoon—after a brief, crazy rainstorm (before I read the news).
Tell me that wasn’t you, saying goodbye from across the Universe.
Over the course of the week, I read lots of stories and watched a few videos recounting moments in your career, like the video of you performing “Space Oddity”—before the glam and the fashion—just you, long-haired and fresh-faced on a stage, playing a simple 12-string guitar. Such a surprise! Then there was the 1983 MTV interview you gave, scourging the network for its lack of diversity in programming, and I knew you spoke Truth then.
But I still couldn’t bear to listen to Black Star. Until last night, when I put the liner notes aside and just… listened….
Disturbing. Hypnotic. Spiritual. Avant garde yet Retro.
Your voice was so strong, melodic, poignant, and pure against the pulsar, black, hot jazz and rock beats. The moods traveled within and between songs.
Take the title song: mystical and prayerful at first. And then, there was that moment where you turned “Black!” (“I’m a Blackstar/I’m a Blackstar/How many times does an angel fall….”), the music sounding like a classic Motown song, before it turned back into the mystical prayer.
You carried me along on your final journey. It was the total package—the music and the pulsar beat, as much as the words; the Concept: the art work and photos and execution of this final work, as much as the work itself that “got” me.
By the time your voice echoed on the last “I can’t give everything away….”, I was at peace.
Thank you, David Bowie. For everything….