He held on way beyond what was necessary to both open a musical (Lazarus) and put out an album (Blackstar) in the last month of his life, dramatically dying two days after the latter was symbolically released on his sixth-ninth birthday. Fuck knows what his last days and hours were like, or when the promo videos for the Blackstar singles were actually shot. I hope we never know: in the public eye Bowie never got old or weak or frail, never became a ‘cancer victim’ – he was in his pomp, riding high, then strode offstage imperiously.
Nonetheless, I do feel sad (in fact, much as I'm second guessing what happened, then dying in such a way is an incredibly brave, artistically committed thing to so probably accounts for part of why I am sad).
A lot of people are talking about his blah blah ‘70s and my natural instinct would be to mount some pugnacious defense of his ‘90s work, but I’ve already done that at least a billion times and it would probably be beside the point here a little. There is no point in blathering on in great detail about Bowie’s brilliance, because there is almost nothing left to say. But I suppose it is the loss of his brilliance that is making me feel sad. Yes, most of his greatest work was done in a ten-year-period between 1971 and 1980, but he carried on and he rarely stopped feeling vital, both in terms of his own questing spirit as an artist and the fact that almost none of his good music has dated.
I think I feel sad because he was brilliant and he shaped us and he overawed us and he defined us and now he has left us all alone.
NB here is a playlist I made a few years ago of some of Bowie’s ‘post megastardom’ music