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We can thank many of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s royalty for showing us how to age with style. Mick Jagger is still a professional rocker, as disciplined and outrageous as ever. Now David Bowie has introduced a new album—his first in a decade—on the day he celebrated his 66th birthday.
Bowie’s new album The Next Day comes out in March, but a single, “Where Are We Now?,” is available to download on iTunes. The song is lovely and melancholy, as is the accompanying video, shot by artist Tony Oursler.
Bowie, officially in his late 60s, is in a nostalgic mood. The video is set in a cluttered artist’s studio dominated by projected images of Berlin in the late 1970s. The video is alternately inscrutable (who is the woman whose face shares the two-headed puppet with Bowie while he sings?) and reflective. The old Berlin footage, it turns out, is from Bowie’s old neighborhood where he once shared an apartment with Iggy Pop. Bowie moved to West Berlin in 1976 and recorded his Berlin trilogy—Low, Heroes and Lodger—with producer Tony Visconti.
The Next Page was also produced by Visconti, and that’s no coincidence. Bowie seems to be taking stock of his musical life, and that’s a lot to inventory. The continuity between the new album and one of the richest periods of his career bodes well for this latest work.
Bowie has also re-launched his website as part of the birthday celebration. He offers a new collection of videos—some never before broadcast—from his stellar stage career. As his audience we get a chance to appreciate his breadth as an artist and the amazing arc of his career. Dig the red boots in 1972’s Queen Bitch. This song endures after more than forty years. One of the best videos is an alternate take of Oh You Pretty Things from 1972. Bowie is young and brash at the piano in full Ziggy Stardust regalia. Look Back in Anger from 1979 shows the man at his rocking, operatic best. Even the less-than-stellar Let’s Dance from 1983 looks better now than it did at the time.
Watching him perform over the decades highlights just how authentic Bowie’s artistry has been and continues to be. When he flips his blond mop and croons into the microphone, he’s no poseur. He’s the real thing: a man trying on all the masks he can as a way to show all of himself to the world.
This is one birthday that won’t go forgotten. Thanks, David, for the terrific party.
Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Read more of her work at katerixwriter.com.