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David Bowie Lazarus Reference Revealed On 6Music
John Doran , November 4th, 2020 11:16

A chance find in a bookshop gave Mary Anne Hobbs insight into Bowie's last single, Lazarus

Speaking on her 6Music show today, Mary Anne Hobbs revealed an influence on David Bowie's last single 'Lazarus' - that of the British born surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington.

The track, the final single to be released while he was still alive, and its video were seeded with clues about the singer's illness and his philosophical attitude towards it.

Speaking just now the DJ said: "I think I might have found one of the references to 'Lazarus' which was the last single to be released during his lifetime.

"On Saturday I was at Tate Britain, the art gallery, they have a lovely little bookshop there, and I picked up a book by Leonora Carrington. To tell you the truth I just liked the design of the sleeve. I didn't really know anything about her.

"But I found out she was born quite close to me in Chorley, Lancs in 1916 but spent most of her life in Mexico. She was highly rebellious... and defied her father to become a surrealist painter.

"She was an author of some very strange short stories... The first story in the book is called 'White Rabbits' and in that story is a character who lives in a Baroque attic among lots and lots of white rabbits, he's made out of stars, he wears a bandage over his eyes and his name is Lazarus.'"

The story 'White Rabbits' can be read in full here and is available in the anthology, The Skeleton's Holiday.

The single 'Lazarus' was followed closely by Blackstar, Bowie's 25th and final studio album released on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2016, two days before he died.

He recorded the album in secret while suffering from liver cancer, seeing it as a parting gift to his fans. It began to look as if the album was something of a puzzle box that needed to be solved. In fact producer Tony Visconti called the release "a parting gift" adding, "His death was no different from his life – a work of art."

For example, the sleeve - a die cast cut out of a five point star - was credited, in part to NASA. It didn't become clear for sometime after the release that when the sleeve was held up to a light source a constellation of stars could be seen. It was noted, quite morbidly, that a "black star lesion", when found inside the breast, can be evidence of certain types of cancer.

Bowie shared his birthday with Elvis Presley, who also recorded a song called 'Black Star'. The lyrics to which ran, "Every man has a black star/ A black star over his shoulder/ And when a man sees his black star/ He knows his time, his time has come".

As we said in 2016, Blackstar is an album we'll be thinking about for some time to come.