Blackstar, David Bowie’s final album, was released on his 69th birthday, and two days later he was dead.

Bowie’s death reflected his life. The artifact he left behind to mark the event is shot through with serious psychic overload, the sort of information glut that had for five decades defined his finest work. Its implications are wistful, intellectual, historical, deeply romantic, obscene, doubtful, heroic, mythic, vulnerable-to-the-point-of-shivering, preening, referential, reverential, grateful, obsequious, loving, reaching, reaching, reaching, dissatisfied, open.

Blackstar is rife with allusions, but one is especially moving and munificent:

Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935; David Bowie on January 8, 1947. Bowie discussed their shared birthday in 1997, stating, “I was absolutely mesmerized by it. I couldn’t believe it. He was a major hero of mine. And I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something.” Nineteen years later, he found a way to make it mean something. To wit:

The famous image of Elvis that Andy Warhol used, with Elvis all intense and bug-eyed in cowboy gear, is taken from the 1960 film Flaming Star. That film’s notorious theme song is, in fact, a reworking of a song Elvis originally had written as “Black Star,” the lyrics of which are…

Every man has a black star
A black star over his shoulder
And when a man sees his black star
He knows his time, his time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true
Black star

When I ride I feel that black star
That black star over my shoulder
So I ride in front of that black star
Never lookin’ around, never lookin’ around

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true
Black star

One fine day I’ll see that black star
That black star over my shoulder
And when I see that old black star
I’ll know my time, my time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true
Black star

 

And so there you have it. As we go walking in the valley of the shadow of death, I bid you goodnight….

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