The David Bowie video for Lazarus was released on January 7th, 2016, just prior to the ★ album release the next day.
The song had already been made public, albeit on a small scale, due to its inclusion in the musical of the same name. It seems likely that Bowie wrote the song with the musical in mind, but as part of the ★ universe it takes on a very different aspect.
The music videos for both Lazarus and ★ were directed by Johan Renck. There are explicit narrative connections between both videos; the Bowie with bandaged eyes appears in both, although in Lazarus he is bed-ridden, in an institutional setting. In ★, Major Tom’s final resting place is revealed; he has become an object of worship on an alien planet, his skull encrusted with precious metals and jewels. In Lazarus, the same skull is glimpsed briefly, placed on a writing desk. It is to this desk that a new/old incarnation of Bowie makes his way. Dressed in dark top and trousers with diagonal white stripes, he creeps out of a wardrobe and commences a frenzy of writing. The clothes, and book seem almost identical to those in a 1970s photo shoot of Bowie by Steve Schapiro.
In 2016, a book of Steve Schapiro’s photographs of Bowie was released. “From the moment Bowie arrived, we seemed to hit it off. Incredibly intelligent, calm, and filled with ideas,” remembered Schapiro. “He talked a lot about Aleister Crowley, whose esoteric writings he was heavily into at the time. When David heard that I had photographed Buster Keaton, one of his greatest heroes, we instantly became friends.”
Powerhouse Books, publishers of ‘Bowie’ by Steve Shapiro, noted: The first photo session started at four in the afternoon and went through the night until dawn. Bowie went through countless costume changes, each one seemingly befitting an entirely new and unknown Bowie persona. Most incredible, from a vantage point some 40 years later, was the costume and doodles of a particular session: Bowie dressed in blue slacks and cropped shirt, painted with diagonal white stripes, and scribbling what appears to be a diagram from the Kabbalah. They show up again in the video accompanying the song “Lazarus” on the Blackstar album.
COMING NEXT: What was Bowie writing?