Just a month before he died in January 2016, David Bowie released the lead single from his final album, ‘Lazarus’. The single was released at a time when the Starman was aware of his cancer being terminal, and the lyrics appeared to wave a haunting goodbye to the planet.
As an accompaniment to the single, a music video showed Bowie lying on his deathbed with bandages obscuring his eyes as he sings the opening lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen / I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen / Everybody knows me now”.
‘Lazarus’ was a common feature of news stories and online tribute posts following Bowie’s death, and it became his first top 40 single on the Billboard Hot 100 in over 28 years.
Around a year after Bowie’s death, the BBC released a documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years, which included a haunting clip from the ‘Lazarus’ music video but with isolated vocals. The haunting clip can be streamed below.
Elsewhere in the documentary, Bowie’s longtime collaborator and producer Tony Visconti discussed working with “a man on top of his game” during the recording of his final album, Black Star.
The documentary also revealed that Bowie had only become aware that his cancer was terminal in November 2015 during the filming of the music video. “David said: ‘I just want to make it a simple performance video’,” director Johan Renck recalls in the documentary. “I immediately said ‘the song is called Lazarus, you should be in the bed’. To me it had to do with the biblical aspect of it… it had nothing to do with him being ill.”
Renck continues: “I found out later that, the week we were shooting, it was when he was told it was over, they were ending treatments and that his illness had won”.
Watch David Bowie’s isolated vocals in a clip from ‘Lazarus’ below.