Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

———————————
Originally written for an eponymous off-Broadway production revisiting the character Thomas Gerome Newton 30 years after The Man Who Fell To Earth, the film adaptation of which Bowie starred in, Bowie’s “Lazarus” addresses themes of mortality. The video and its accompanying album were released on Bowie’s birthday (8th January), just days before his untimely death from liver cancer. It is a supremely artistic, supremely Bowie statement: a condensation of the human narrative, birth, death, into a single song and, like the Biblical parable of Lazarus (see bottom of this annotation) death pervades in life, as life pervades in death.

The video contains several tellingly morbid images – a hospital bed, a suspiciously coffin-like wardrobe, Bowie appearing frail, his eyes obscured in Oedipal anguish, as the camera shakes, careers in one long take. Critics have read it as a goodbye, noting its new-found poignance.

Musically, like its parent album, it utilises a mixture of Rock and Jazz instrumentation, with the synths that have been a tenet of Bowie’s oeuvre since his Berlin period. It is sombre, yet still experimental and flighty. Bowie’s voice often cracks, weak and raspy, as the distorted guitars and the saxophone of Danny McCaslin create a decidedly melancholy sonic landscape, elegiac in atmosphere.

The cast of Lazarus played the piece on 15/12/15, for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Lazarus of Bethany was resurrected by Jesus Christ, after 4 days of being dead, though years of cultural appropriation, allusion and moulding of the Lazarus narrative have turned Lazarus into more than a person, but an image, a cultural meme, reflecting life, death and resurrection; eternal return. Above is Bloch’s interpretation of the story, The Raising of Lazarus.

Tahsin Ünlü

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