On 7 January 2016, the day before the release of the Blackstar album, the video for David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ premiered.
It was just three days before Bowie’s death, and ensured that the song, along with the album’s title track, received much attention when the news broke.
The video was directed by Johan Renck, who had done the same for the ‘Blackstar’ video. Renck used an edited version of the song, which reduced the running time from 6:22 to 4:05.
I just thought of it as the Biblical tale of Lazarus rising from the bed. In hindsight, he obviously saw it as the tale of a person in his last nights…
So British, the wit, like a guilt thing, making sure it’s not coming across as too serious or pretentious – and yet that enhances the humanity of it.
Somebody on set said, ‘You should end the video by disappearing into the closet.’ And I saw David sort of think about that for a second. Then a big smile came up on his face. And he said something like, ‘Yeah, that will keep them all guessing, won’t it?’
The video for ‘Lazarus’ was shot in widescreen, yet Renck opted to release it with a square 1:1 aspect ratio. This gave an effect of intimacy and, with thick black bars on either side, a nod to a sense of the darkness bookending each person’s life.
Shortly after Bowie’s passing, Renck published the widescreen cut on his website, although it was removed shortly afterwards.
The ‘Lazarus’ video was nominated for three MTV Video Music awards in 2016: Best Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
I understand some of the lyrics better now, and that makes me love it even more and take even more pride in taking part on Bowie’s last album – not in a cocky way. It’s a heavy thing. It seems like he knew it would be his last now, and it’s just wild. The references to his own mortality, the symbolism in the ‘Lazarus’ video – it’s all spelled out. And he went out in a ball of flames. It’s been pretty emotional for me, but the way this all unfolded is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. None of it’s set in yet.
Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016
Also on this day...
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.