David Bowie: myth-maker turns 65 away from limelight
It's a cliche when a rock star reaches 65 to mention the time when it didn't look like they'd make pensionable age, but with David Bowie who marks the milestone on Sunday, it's almost unavoidable. Look at a picture of him in the mid-70s, when he was ravaged by cocaine, living off a diet of red peppers and milk and so paranoid that he apparently kept his own urine in a fridge lest persons unknown steal it: this is not a man destined to make old bones.
It wasn't just the drugs: there was something about the intensity with which he worked during that decade - the scarcely-believable ten-year creative streak that begins with the 1970s The Man Who Sold The World and ends with the 1980's Scary Monsters And Super-Creeps – that suggests an early demise. Someone that burns that brightly probably isn't going to burn for long.
Under the circumstances, it's hard to begrudge him his ongoing semi-retirement: he last made an album in 2003, and for the best part of a decade has made only sporadic public appearances, the odd special guest spot here and there. It was precipitated by emergency surgery on a blocked artery, and lurid rumours about the state of his health have abounded ever since.
Ill or not, having achieved more in one phase of his career alone than anyone can hope to in a lifetime – so much that it's literally impossible to imagine what pop music would be like if he hadn't existed – he's entitled to take early redundancy from pop stardom.
You can mourn the loss of more music if you want, but in a sense, his absence feels strangely right. Before his retirement, he'd begun down the path taken by most august rock legends: having bullishly announced in 1990 that he'd never return to his most famous songs, he began playing the hits again – he performed Low in its entirety in 2002 – tacitly acknowledging that his best work was probably behind him. It's a pragmatism that has served everyone from Paul McCartney to Iggy Pop well, but the all-our-yesterdays approach somehow didn't suit Bowie.