David Bowie learned he had liver cancer 18 months ago. Six months later, doctors told him it was terminal. He’d already suffered a series of heart attacks. The writing was on the wall, and he agonized over the realization that he wouldn’t get to see his 15-year-old daughter Alexandria grow up.
And yet, there he was writing music, sending thank you messages to his oldest collaborators, working on musicals and videos — often to the point of collapse.
His final album, Blackstar was his farewell. The lyrics to Lazarus stare at mortality and grin like a Cheshire Cat.
“Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose I’m so high, it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain’t that just like me?”
He wasn’t driven by commercial success. He wasn’t writing for the critics or even his fans. He was writing music because it was how he dealt with his emotions.
Often, we say we’re too busy to make art. We’re too tired. We don’t feel inspired. We have sinus infections. That little sticker on our windshields says it’s time for an oil change.
Bowie’s life says this: Artists find time to make art.
They find it when they’re fighting cancer. They find it when they’re having trouble paying rent, and they find it when they’re saying goodbye to their teenage daughters.