If only he would rise up in four days, shaking the linens from his hands, feet, and face. But this is not the fate for the Lazarus offered as a parting gift by David Bowie. The announcement of his death sent a generation into shock, grief, and reverent remembrances.
I was late to the Bowie party. Sure, I heard some of those songs on the radio growing up in Florida; but in high school, my taste ran to Skynyrd, Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Molly Hatchet. Secretly, I still liked Barry Manilow.
I spent a semester in London in the winter of 1979 between high school and college, not quite a minor, not quite a grown-up, but old enough to drink at The Rising Sun on Tottenham Court Road with a group of student friends. The Sun was our neighborhood pub full of neighborhood people, mostly men in woolen caps and tattered tweed jackets. On an otherwise unremarkable weeknight, at last call, a skinny young punk with safety pins in his face and a magenta Mohawk dropped a coin in the jukebox and grabbed the hand of his torn-fishnet kohl-eyed girl.
An ear-gripping riff began and a voice that demanded attention taunted: “You got your mother in a whirl / She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl.”
Oh, how they danced. They flung their arms with abandon. They danced like no one was watching. They were lost in the music, dancing together, dancing alone. It was impossible to look away, impossible not to feel the pounding guitar of the greatest song I’d ever heard in every blood cell. It sounded nothing like Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd. It might have been the moment I left Barry Manilow for good.
I returned to the States and began to build my Bowie album collection. I stayed a fan, peripherally in these later years until now, until this, until today when I watched his video “Lazarus” released two days before his death. The imagery is stunning, the message one of hope, for me anyway. And the process of using death to create art? He leaves us with an enormous gift, if we chose to take it. Watch LAZARUS here If you haven’t seen this, you owe yourself — and him — the experience.