Released: 17 December 2015
David Bowie: vocals, guitar
Donny McCaslin: saxophone
Ben Monder: guitar
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Jason Lindner: keyboards
Mark Guiliana: drums, percussion
No Plan EP
‘Lazarus’ was the final single released in David Bowie’s lifetime. It was also the second song to be released ahead of the ★ (Blackstar) album.
When I read the lyrics to ‘Lazarus’ and a few other songs, I knew what he was doing. I think it was clear in his mind that this could be his last album. He was putting all those messages in there. Like that first verse of ‘Lazarus’ – “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. I heard that and I smiled. “I know what you’re saying David,” and he laughed.
Mojo, March 2016
The song shared its title with Bowie’s 2015 musical; indeed, his final public appearance was at the Lazarus premiere in New York on 7 December.
Although Bowie never performed ‘Lazarus’ in public, he did sing it with the stage show’s musicians during one rehearsal.
Bowie enjoyed the process and camaraderie, sometimes hanging out with cast and crew long after formal work had ended. [Henry] Hey recalls an early run-through of the show when, after the band finished, Hey asked Bowie, “Is everything OK? Would you like anything else?” “Yes,” replied Bowie. “I think I’d like a sing.” He and the band then performed the song ‘Lazarus’ together.
The song ‘Lazarus’ started life as ‘Bluebird’. Bowie considered working on the song with Maria Schneider in 2014, following the session for ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’.
In the summer of 2014, Bowie recorded a demo of the song, now retitled ‘The Hunger’, with Tony Visconti, drummer Zachary Alford, and pianist Jack Spann.
In addition to being on Blackstar, ‘Lazarus’ was included twice on the soundtrack to the musical of the same name. A performance by Michael C Hall was recorded in the studio on 11 January 2016, and Bowie’s version was one of four bonus tracks at the album’s end.
Michael C Hall performing ‘Lazarus’ with the play’s original New York musicians, live at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, Manhattan: