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
–David Bowie, “Lazarus”
The work and legacy of David Bowie was very much on our minds this week as we learned of his passing. I remember just a few weeks ago watching the first, eponymous video from Blackstar with the rest of the MMM team, mouths agape at the stunning sound and visuals. We were, as always, in awe of Bowie’s latest evolution. And the New Yorker in me was thrilled to hear the all-star lineup of Donny McCaslin, Tim Lefebvre, Mark Guiliana and Jason Lindner, whom Bowie had discovered at 55 Bar while looking for inspiration with his longtime producer, Tony Visconti. For myself and many other musicians, Blackstar symbolized hope: for uncompromised artistry, for unexpected collaborations, for taking the time to create great music with people in a room, together.
What we didn’t realize was that as much as this record seemed to herald a new beginning for a living legend, it was also a farewell. The world’s response has been striking. We all have a favorite Bowie song. And because his catalog was so varied, so prolific, and because he was so willing to collaborate with others, everyone’s favorite song is different — the number of deep cuts I’ve seen shared on social media this week reminds me of how important it is for any artist to take risks, experiment, and express themselves, because the work will always resonate with someone, somewhere. Bowie’s final album, confronting death head-on, is deeply personal but also universal — and its fearlessness demands that we refuse to compromise our own creativity, and use art to navigate our greatest challenges and dreams now and into the future.
Here’s a playlist highlighting some of my favorite Bowie cuts, collaborations and artists who were deeply influenced by this great master.
Amy Crawford is Senior Producer at Man Made Music. Talk to her on Twitter @amyecrawford.