Blackstar - David Bowie
When David Bowie passed away three days after the release of his last album, Blackstar, a shocked world looked for clues in the album’s content that may have alluded to the great man’s imminent death. The search for meaning spurred by his death uncovered a spine-chilling detail that made the visceral reality of his illness impossible to ignore. A "black star" is a medical term for a complex sclerosing lesion, a type of carcinoma described as “...long and thin with radiating radiolucent linear structures, which against a radiolucent fat background gives a black star or dark star appearance”. The cover of Blackstar was a simple, striking minimalist black star. Was the design more than abstract symbolism, or was it literally a stylized rendering of his cancer?
The song "Lazarus" opens with the heartbreaking line “Look up here, I’m in heaven”, and the video features Bowie ascending to the sky from a hospital bed. John Renck, who directed the video insists that Bowie came up with the concept for the video a week before he learned that his condition was terminal. If that’s true, then Blackstar’s morbidness reflects a man simply contemplating mortality, not directly hinting at his own impending death. Of course, Bowie’s battle with cancer was a tightly kept secret and would’ve presumably stayed that way had he recovered. If he’d recovered we’d never have known what the black star meant.
Much was made of the fact that it was rare for Bowie albums not to feature the man himself on the cover, but did Blackstar’s cover feature what was inside him instead?