It’s one of those things that’s obvious in retrospect. Consider the video for “Blackstar”, the title track to Bowie’s final album. It begins beneath a blackened sky, where a spacesuit lies among a jumble of rocks. The visor of the spacesuit is pulled back to reveal the skull of a long-dead astronaut, a skull lined with jewels. This skull is placed into a glass case and taken through an intricate ritual. The astronaut is Major Tom, a reference Bowie returned to again and again throughout his career. That Major Tom is dead is one of those bits of foreshadowing that would make for creepy conspiracy theories if it wasn’t so blatantly intentional. Consider also the man’s final video, “Lazarus”, where Bowie is literally writhing on his deathbed and singing from the perspective of being in heaven. It should come as no surprise that Bowie knew he was dying; he was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, and Blackstar is heavy with portents that were written in by a man with his final words on his mind. It’s funny that people latched on so heavily to the tale that Bowie told his bandleader, Donny McCaslin, that “Blackstar” was about ISIS when it’s now so very obvious that it’s about the man himself. Bowie was always one to play with his audience as much as he was one to play for his audience, and the misdirection here makes for a great final joke upon his audience, hidden within a wall-to-wall brilliant final statement. That he was able to complete this final statement, release it, and watch the accolades roll in for a couple of days before dying only cements his legend. Bowie was larger than life, and even his death was a brilliant piece of theatre.
The ending of life is complicated. In a physical sense, David Bowie is dead. His body has ceased to function, his brain has shut down, the process of rot and decay have begun. However, in a more esoteric sense, we live not only in our physical space but also in the memories of those who we’ve touched. We don’t truly die until our name is spoken for the last time, or until the last person who remembers us passes on. In this sense, it can be said that David Bowie will live forever.