Who: The glue that held reality together
Why: For more than 40 years, David Bowie has helped us to make sense of life. In 2016, he taught us how to face death – on his own terms, without fear, compromise or sentimentality, in a last, remarkable rush of creativity. Knowing that the end was near, most of us would likely have spent our final months at home in the company of our families; instead, he was busy labouring away on a new album, choosing to confront his own mortality rather than meekly capitulating to it. Cancer may have killed Bowie, but it never defeated him. If anything, it seemed to embolden him.
When icons die, they generally leave a void, a sense of something left unfinished. Had Bowie passed before embarking on the late-career renaissance that began with 2013’s ‘The Next Day’, that’s almost certainly what would have happened. In the end, however, his death felt like a completion: ‘Blackstar’ hit shelves on Friday, and by Monday its author was gone, his work accomplished, just as the video for ‘Lazarus’ had not-so-subtly hinted. The shock and grief quickly reverberated all over the world, yet at the same time you couldn’t help but admire how he’d handled it: for Bowie, death was simply another muse, another performance, and certainly nothing to be afraid of.
What he said: “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” – ‘Lazarus’
What people say about him: “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art” – Tony Visconti, producer
How he made the world a better place: In too many ways to count. But everything certainly went to s**t pretty quickly after he was gone.
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