Exactly four years ago today, David Bowieperformed a mini-set at the annual BlackBall charity concert at theHammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Opening with his famous cover of"Wild Is The Wind" with Spiders From Mars keyboardist Mike Garson,Bowie then performed the Lodger classic "Fantastic Voyage"and closed with "Changes" by performing it as a duet with Alicia Keys.Since then, Bowie hasn't sung so much as a note in public.
When Bowie wrote "Changes" in 1971 it was a bold proclamation thathe was changing the musical landscape. "Look you you rock 'n rollers,"he warned. "Pretty soon you're gonna get older." When he sang italongside Keys four years ago, Bowie was nearly 60 years old. Just twoyears earlier he had suffered a massive heart attack that prematurelyended his 2004 tour, and last summer Bowie told The New York Times he has no plans to return to the road. "I'm not thinking of touring," he said. "I'm comfortable."
Able-bodied rock stars rarely retire. First generation legends likeBo Diddley and James Brown rocked practically until they dropped, whileChuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis continue to tourregularly. There are several theoriesas to why Bowie pulled the plug on his career while still in his 50s:the heart attack, the indifferent reaction his recent work received andhis young daughter with wife Iman are all possibilities. Or maybe he'sjust sick of being a rock star.
Of course, the truth is probably a combination of all those things.Many rock stars have announced their retirements (The Who, Cher, KISS,Tina Turner) have returned to the stage just a few years later. Bowiehimself did it at the last show of his 1973 Ziggy Stardust tour. Thefact he's said virtually nothing this time around indicates he may wellbe done forever—though in a few weeks the annual "Bowie's headliningCoachella!!" rumors should once again surface.