David Bowie, who passed away Sunday at the age of 69, was a music video pioneer. The artist started releasing clips in the late 1960s, and continued to explore the music video as an art form throughout his career. Just a few days before his death he released a new one, “Lazarus,” a haunting and evocative piece featuring Bowie blindfolded in a hospital bed.
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"Ashes to Ashes"
The song from 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) updates fans on the fate of Major Tom and serves as a reflective journey through Bowie’s career. The video is quintessential 1980s art house weirdness featuring Bowie dressed as Pierrot, contrasting colors and cameos by London scenesters. It cost £250,000 to produce and, according to Song Facts, at the time it was the most expensive music video ever made.
While “Magic Dance” may be the most memorable of Bowie’s contributions to the Labyrinth soundtrack, the video for “Underground” is wild and weird. It seems to take equal parts inspiration from the Jim Henson movie, Bowie’s own life and A-Ha’s “Take on Me.”
The clip for “Blue Jean” isn’t strictly a music video, but rather a short film directed by the Sex Pistols’ Julien Temple. It stars Bowie in dual roles as a sort of Clark Kent/Superman, playing both a geeky guy trying to get the girl by convincing her he knows a famous rock star, as well as the rock star himself. The long version known as “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” ends with the director and the artist wondering if the ending is too “clever clever.”
"I'm Afraid of Americans"
The video for “Heroes” is nothing but a back lit Bowie, wearing an unzipped leather jacket, standing almost completely still singing the tune. Save for a few overlays, the video is highly unremarkable until you consider the massive amount of charisma necessary to keep viewers watching—that’s when Bowie’s true star power comes out to shine.
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
There may be nothing stranger in Bowie’s long career than seeing the musician and Tilda Swinton play an average suburban couple in this video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” off of Bowie’s 2013 album, The Next Day. In the clip Bowie and Swinton do away with rumors that they are the same person to play some regular joes who are being stalked by younger, hipper versions of themselves.
"Life On Mars?"
Bowie’s long career is littered with references to science fiction and outer space, so it’s no surprise that one of his final videos returned to the stars. The ten-minute long short film for “Blackstar,” the title track off his 2015 album, is squarely in Bowie’s artsy wheelhouse. The video features imagery used in Bowie’s final video, “Lazarus“, released just a few days before his death.