David Bowie was his Art, inspiration and canvas. He mined all corners of his personality and extracted new and inventive characters, sounds, lyrics and ways of looking at the world. He invented reinvention.
Bowie was who he was and he didn’t hide any bit of it. On the contrary, he seized it, capitalised on it, showed it off and rode the crest of changing attitudes, tastes and sensibilities. He inspired and was an icon because he was just a guy (a very talented guy) being himself, expressing all those bits and pieces of weird, wonder and mundane that we all have and sometimes show. And in his final work, what he has done – that no one else has ever done – is to reinvent himself in death and maybe even reinvent how we look at death itself.
Life dealt him its final hand 18 months ago. Instead of only merely and eventually succumbing to it, he saw it as a whole “new field” (words he spoke in a BBC interview about growing older… 57, at the time). It was just another aspect of himself, naturally, as were all the other bits of his kaleidoscopic personality. It was another opportunity for creativity, in the same way that had been his youth, Britishness, ambition, anonymity, fame, obsessions and observations. Just as he could be queer, slick, sexy, weird or glamorous, he now also embodies courage, vulnerability and strength at the end of life with Blackstar’s lyrics and accompanying video for the song Lazarus. Blackstar was his “parting gift” according to Tony Visconti, and I believe that the gift, in its absolute essence, is simply that we all have it in us to express who we are, or want to be, all the way to our end.
To create something universal is Art. Bowie’s final reinvention into the mere mortal that he was, and that we all are, is as universal as can be. It is Art itself. He took his end and made it his own. He gave it a face, music and lyrics. To reinvent oneself in a final act of such Artistry is something that is truly extraordinary, truly Immortal. It is Lazarus.