Blackstar wasn’t meant to be David Bowie’s final studio set, it just turned out that way.
In a new interview with Tony Visconti, the famed producer recalls how, in the weeks prior to his death, Bowie got in touch to discuss hitting the studio to make another album.
The legendary British artist had already written and demoed five new songs, Visconti told Rolling Stone, though he didn’t realize he had so little time left. Bowie died Jan. 10 after an 18-month battle with cancer.
“At that late stage, he was planning the follow-up to Blackstar,” said the famed record producer, who has worked on a string of legendary Bowie albums since the late ‘60s, including Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World, Low, Scary Monsters and the surprise 2013 comeback The Next Day.
“And I was thrilled,” Visconti continued, “and I thought, and he thought, that he’d have a few months, at least. Obviously, if he’s excited about doing his next album, he must’ve thought he had a few more months. So the end must’ve been very rapid. I’m not privy to it. I don’t know exactly, but he must’ve taken ill very quickly after that phone call.”
Visconti was first made aware of Bowie’s illness a year ago when the performer showed up for a Blackstar session in New York with tell-tale signs of chemo treatment — he had no eyebrows or hair on his head.
Visconti also confirmed what many critics and Bowie fans have already identified in the lyrics for Blackstar. “You canny bastard,” he recalled telling Bowie. “You’re writing a farewell album.” Bowie apparently laughed at the comment. “He was so brave and courageous,” added Visconti. “And his energy was still incredible for a man who had cancer. He never showed any fear. He was just all business about making the album.”
Bowie’s 26th album Blackstar was released on Jan. 8, his 69th birthday. It’s set to give the late singer his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and it’s expected to bow on top of the U.K. albums chart.