I Can't Give Everything Away

Album: Blackstar (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • The Blackstar album ends with this epic track where the thin white semi-retiree grapples with his own mystery:

    Saying no but meaning yes, that is all I ever meant, that's the message that I sent

    "I don't know what the song is referring to," co-producer Tony Visconti told Rolling Stone. "But what he gives away is what he writes about. I think a lot of writers feel like, 'If you want to know about me, just study my lyrics.' That's why he doesn't give interviews. He's has revealed plenty in past interviews, but I think his life now is about his art. It's totally about what he's doing now."
  • After six jazzy tracks, Bowie revisits the electric guitar on Lazarus' final song and adds a bit of nostalgia for Bowie fans. Visconti revealed to The Sun: "We actually discussed that we were going to get a little bit of a Mick Ronson (Bowie's Spiders From Mars guitarist) sound on the end of that track and we did."

    "It's the only time we alluded to the past on the whole album. It sounded a little bit Ziggy or Aladdin Sane."
  • When David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, just two days after Blackstar's release, Tony Visconti posted on Facebook: "His death was no different from his life - a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us."
  • The animated video was directed by longtime Bowie collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook. The graphic designer and filmmaker first worked with the English legend when he designed the cover artwork of 2002's Heathen.

    Barnbrook sees the music clip as a celebration of Bowie's life and art. "This is really a very simple little video that I wanted to be ultimately positive," he said. "We start off in black and white world of Blackstar, but in the final chorus we move to brilliant color, I saw it as a celebration of David, to say that despite the adversity we face, the difficult things that happen such as David's passing, that human beings are naturally positive, they look forward and can take the good from the past and use it as something to help with the present. We are a naturally optimistic species and we celebrate the good that we are given."
  • After learning of Bowie's death, Trent Reznor did a remix of this song that he played live with his group Nine Inch Nails in 2017.

Comments: 1

  • Dominoforever from Canada'I Can't Give Everything Away' is the last song on David Bowie's last album released in his lifetime. A few days before his death, this 7th song off Blackstar seems to reference the artist's ill health: "I know something is very wrong", and "skull designs upon my shoes". Feeling despondent with himself, "seeing more and feeling less", the music behind him mixes together sadness and heavenly electronics, through harmonicas, guitars, and synths, a merging together of the many elements that made his music innovative and memorable. Bowie's last words on record were "I can't give everything away"...but was it a prophetic lament for his condition, or a magician's smirk, that long after he's gone we will still be jiving and grooving to music he made 40 years ago, or 20, or even last week? Because Bowie gave us his best, he gave us the glam and the plastic soul and the low and the next day. Give him your hands.
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