David Bowie received his terminal diagnosis during the making of his Lazarus video, a director claims in a new BBC documentary about the singer’s final years.
Bowie died of liver cancer last year on 10 January (16), days after turning 69 and the release of his 25th studio album, Blackstar – having kept his illness a secret from the world. It was thought at the time that his final album was recorded as a farewell to fans, but according to The Guardian, in a new documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years, video director Johan Renck claims Bowie only received his terminal diagnosis during the filming of the Lazarus clip in November 2015.
“David said: ‘I just want to make it a simple performance video’,” said Renck who conceptualised the video, which features Bowie singing lines such as “Look up here, I’m in heaven” from a hospital bed. And he insists the common interpretation of the video – that the singer was hinting that he was on his deathbed – is incorrect, because Renck came up with the concept a week before Bowie received his final diagnosis.
“I immediately said ‘the song is called Lazarus, you should be in the bed’,” says Renck of his ideas for filming the clip. “To me it had to do with the biblical aspect of it … it had nothing to do with him being ill.
“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,” Renck explained in a clip from the documentary by filmmaker Francis Whately which will air in full on BBC 2 on Saturday (07Jan17), just under a year after Bowie’s passing, and a day before he would have turned 70.
The film focuses on the singer’s output in the final years of his life, and the pride he had in realising a lifelong dream to stage a musical in New York.
Meanwhile, a special tribute concert to Bowie is set to take place at London’s O2 Brixton Academy to mark his birthday this weekend (07-08Jan17). Actor Gary Oldman will host the event which will feature over 30 musicians that collaborated with Bowie throughout his career.