Rebel rebel

News of David Bowie’s death late Sunday night brought me to tears.

Real, sorrowful tears. My husband, too. He’d just purchased Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar, the night before—it was released Friday on the singer’s 69th birthday and I waited in the car as he hurried into a local record shop to buy its last copy.

Now, I was stunned and bereft. David Bowie had always seemed otherworldly, alien and immortal—above death, really.

And yet: an 18-month battle with cancer.

I initially hesitated to use this space to write about his death. There are more “important” things—social injustices, politics, etc.

But art is important, of course. And Bowie’s encompassed so much of the human spirit and condition. Throughout his decades-long career, the singer pushed at boundaries and challenged conventions. Gender and sexuality. Imagination and commerce. Creativity and aging.

Even in his 60s, Bowie stayed curious. In recent years he collaborated with the likes of Arcade Fire and found influence in talents such as Kendrick Lamar. Likewise, his new album was a collaboration with the Donny McCaslin Quartet, a jazz-rock combo.

Blackstar documents Bowie’s fight with cancer. The songs are reflective, hauntingly prescient. “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings on “Lazarus.” Its accompanying video—gorgeous and moody—depicts a man who was visibly fragile, yet also very much alive with the spark of inspiration.

David Bowie was an artistic rebel who remained creative and vibrant until the end. Whatever one’s passions, may we all live such a life.