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The David Bowie song that changed Baz Lurhman’s life


Baz Luhrman is one director who has ascertained his cinematic vision in almost every single one of his productions. Having recently been the director and driving force behind the Elvis Presley biopic, Lurhamn’s connection to music has always been prevalent.

Born in Sydney to a ballroom dance teacher and dress shop owner, Luhrmann’scareer began when he was cast in the Australian film Winter of Our Dreams in 1987, the year of his high school graduation. He used the money to form his own theatre company and, in 1983, began an acting course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art.

After leaving the world of theatre behind, Luhrmann quickly established himself as one of the most exciting young directors of the 1990s and with films like The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, and Strictly Ballroom, he stitched himself into the fabric of popular culture in a way that very few directors have achieved. Lurhman will use music more obviously than ever in the Austin Butler-led Elvis biopic.

Like any artistic auteur, Lurhman’s range of influences and inspirations drift far and wide, reaching the shores of cinema, music, literature and many other art forms. And, like any other artist growing up in the 20th century, the power of David Bowie has always been a part of his life. When speaking to NME this month, Lurhman suggested that there was one song from the iconic David Bowie that would change his life forever, the beautiful and bolstering ‘Changes’.

One of the songs that, for many people, is one of the best that Bowie ever wrote. It’s equally a song that Bowie admits “started out as a parody of a nightclub song, a kind of throwaway”— we think it’s fair to say that we’re all glad he didn’t ball it up and send it into the rubbish bin.

What transpires instead is a song drenched in optimism and guarded enthusiasm for life and art. As well as being an indictment of the previous generation’s lack of control, Bowie stated in 1968: “We feel our parents’ generation has lost control, given up, they’re scared of the future. I feel it’s basically their fault that things are so bad.” The song is also an anthem for evolution and tolerance, two pillars of the singer’s legacy. It’s a mark of Bowie’s character and his artistic destination. It’s a manifesto for his career as a rock and roll chameleon, his life as a patron of the arts and creativity, and his legacy as one of the most iconic men in music. It’s a legend that has permeated art in its purest essence.

‘Changes’ also captured the mind’s eye of a young Lurhman, who confessed when speaking to NME: “From the moment I first heard this song, I was a huge Bowie fan. I eventually worked with him [on the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack], and then towards the end of his life, he became a very good friend. He used to come round and we’d walk the dogs. We were talking about going to Berlin at one point to do something together. I must have been so stupid; why didn’t I just say yes?”

We’re asking ourselves the very same thing.