It’s been a year since David Bowie left us all. It was a shock, stunning everyone but his peers who knew of his long-term illness.
Bowie’s last album Blackstar released just a few days before and it’s vivid imagination left the fans clamoring for more. He touched so many lives with his music that it became more than a chronicle of his career but of the ages. And thus the year carried with it a sense of fondness and loss.
Blackstar was a warm jubilation for the universe concealed in a ‘cosmos-shattering loss’. Blackstar examined the varied meanings and narratives of Bowie’s connection with art and audience.
And on January 8, 2017, what would have been his 70th birthday, Columbia Records released a new EP by the musician. Titled ‘No Plan’ it contains ‘Lazarus’ from his last album Blackstar and three never-before-heard tracks of the musician, accompanied by a new music video. Directed by Tom Hingston, the video is heavily influenced by Bowie’s 1976 film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, while its visuals feature a row of TV sets in a store showcasing the song’s lyrics during a rainy evening.
Today we celebrate his most prolific and enduring works, and transport you back in time with him in remembrance of our ‘eternal starman’.
Life On Mars, Hunky Dory-1971
Generations from now we may start to visit Mars, to find out whether indeed there’s some fantastic existence out there beyond our own. But in the meantime, these bursts of surreal beauty, offered by geniuses like David Bowie, are what we have, there for us when we face the poor pains of life and need them most. They may not let us escape our reality, but they give us a chance to face those pains in a new way, to welcome them. While at times that might leave a melancholy question lingering in our minds, at others it’s the absolute key to survival, and “Life on Mars?” in all its questioning beauty can easily fulfill both roles. –Lior Phillips
In 1975, Captain and Tenille sang that “Love Will Keep Us Together”. Two years later, David Bowie rejected that sentiment, singing instead that “nothing” will. Written in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, watching a doomed romance (between the married Tony Visconti and a Bowie backup singer) unfold under a guard tower, “Heroes” expertly captures the hopeless reality that nothing lasts and that we all must die — and also the inherent beauty in the fact that we all live and love in our time despite that fact. –Lior Phillips
“Five Years” does more than just kick off an indelible rock record or act as a gateway for starmen, leper messiahs, and rock ‘n’ roll suicides. It unlocks something inside the listener — what exactly, I can’t begin to say. As it marches forward towards the ultimate countdown, it’s frantic and troubled yet elegant and sweeping, somehow grander than life … just like Bowie. Hyperbolic, maybe, but it’s one of those songs that shifts the cargo in our hauls, that makes the world, not just our record collections, seem infinitely wide and yet somehow all within our grasp. Wow, my brain hurts a lot. –Matt Melis
Loving the Alien, Tonight-1984
Lyrically speaking, “Loving the Alien” is a complex exploration of religion in the West – specifically Christianity’s often brutal conversion of “heathen” cultures in the Middle East. Bowie’s gaze meshes prayer, fear, and the hope for salvation into a shockingly sensual yearning. But there’s another layer to the song. Musically, the track embodies the sexual mysticism so prevalent in Bowie’s mythology. Though disconnected from the direct lyrics, “loving the alien” becomes a statement both about Bowie himself being drawn to other worlds, both in sci-fi and the occult – and, by virtue of Bowie embodying those things, our draw to Bowie as an embodiment of alien beauty. –Cap Blackard
It’s fitting that critics initially thought “Starman” was a sequel to Bowie’s first hit single, 1969’s “Space Oddity”. In some respects, it feels like one, what with all the extraterrestrial allusions and the fact that it was his second hit. Despite the name, though, there’s something rather human about the track, and much of that feeling can be attributed to the raw innocence that bleeds through every part of the song — from Bowie’s balmy acoustics to Mick Ronson’s celebratory riff to those weepy strings.–Michael Roffman
Sweet Things, Diamond Dogs-1974
The song depicts a night out, one that starts with some promise of comforts but ends in a cocaine snowstorm. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the suite is how we can see and feel the fleeting night play out through subtle instrumental changes and Bowie’s versatility both as an actor and singer. Come for the suite; stick around for “Rebel Rebel”. Don’t mind if we do. –Matt Melis
If you’ve only heard one David Bowie song, it’s probably “Space Oddity”. It’s also the first Bowie song that the masses connected with, giving the legend his initial charting single in the UK and his first #1. Everything about those distinctions is appropriate when taking into account its content: the tale of an astronaut’s space launch from a performer hell bent on blasting listeners into the cosmos. While we can argue about Bowie’s best songs, it doesn’t get more iconic than this. –Philip Cosores