Today marks the first anniversary of the death of musical icon David Bowie. Born David Jones, the British singer and actor rose to fame with his breakthrough hit ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969, and remained at the vanguard of popular music through the preceding decades. His final album, Blackstar, was released on his 69th birthday, Friday January 8 2016, two days before his death.
Several events occurred on January 8 to commemorate what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday, including a tribute concert at the 02 Brixton Academy in London, the release of a new documentary, and a surprise EP, featuring his final recordings for the musical Lazarus.
The Brixton concert, which took place only a few blocks from the street where Bowie spent his infant years, featured key members of his backing bands from throughout the years as well as old friends such as actor Gary Oldman. This was an opportunity for UK fans to see Bowie’s old band performing a wide ranging set of his music, presumably for the last time.
Watch excerpts from the concert here
The band members were also featured in The Last Five Years, a new documentary that was screened on the same night on the BBC. The film, a sequel to 2013’s Five Years, which focused on the middle of his career, included previously unseen footage and insights into the Reality tour, and the flurry of activity in his final years. These included the secret recording of The Next Day, Blackstar and Lazarus, the latter two of which were made whilst receiving treatment for cancer.
Although officially only available in the UK, for the moment you can also watch the entire documentary here
As per the tradition started in 2013 with the unexpected release of the video for ‘Where Are We Now’ and continued with Blackstar, Bowie’s birthday was once again marked by the release of new music. The No Plan EP was given a surprise release on Sunday when a new video for the titular song was uploaded to the singer’s official website. The video itself is filled with references to The Man Who Fell To Earth, the 1976 Bowie led film, upon which he based the musical Lazarus, for which these final recordings were made.
The name of the store, Newton Electrical, is a nod to Bowie’s character in that film, Thomas Newton, while the street name, Foxgrove Road, is an allusion to where the young Bowie lived just before the release of ‘Space Oddity’, in Beckenham, London, 1969. The video, directed by Tom Hingston, culminates in a spaceship soaring off into the universe, presumably taking the Starman home, before the TV screens dip to black.
Watch No Plan below
A recently released report from the British Phonographic Industry found that sales of vinyl records in the UK had reached their highest point in 25 years, with Blackstar being the best selling LP of 2016. The album was shortlisted for The Mercury Prize and sold more than double the amount of vinyl as 2015’s bestseller, 25 by Adele.
So let us pause on this day to remember one of the great musical artists of our time. When asked during an interview included in The Last Five Years how he would like to be remembered, Bowie quipped, “I’d love people to believe that I had great haircuts.” Amen.