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2023 is a sad, strange milestone year

Bowie albums tend to get a flurry of retrospective media coverage when they reach an anniversary that ends in “0.” This year, I’ve seen such retrospectives for the 50th anniversary of Pin Ups and Aladdin Sane, the 40th for Let’s Dance, the 30th for Black Tie White Noise and the 10th for The Next Day. I expect to see something about the 30th anniversary of the Buddha of Suburbia, though it wasn’t released in the US until 1995, and the 20th for Reality. So, this will be the first year that ends in “3” during my lifetime that Bowie hasn’t been alive to release a new studio album. And that’s sad.

“3” years are the only years that could be counted on for a new Bowie album. If that isn’t a weird enough coincidence, the number of studio albums he released during years that ended in “3” is seven. That strikes me as a large number.

I’m not trying to make a faux-numerological point. There’s nothing magical here. Bowie had a long, varied career and a good core sample that illustrates that is looking at what he was doing in “3” years. You could actually look back even further, to 1963, when, at 16 he was already performing. Bowie also (supposedly) claimed that he wrote the song, “I’m Tired of My Life” that year, which he recorded later and later still adapted into “It’s No Game,” as the opening and closing tracks on Scary Monsters.

I suspect that there will be a lot of Bowie nostalgia in 2026, the 10th anniversary of his death, but the anniversary of all these albums stands as a stark reminder of what’s missing this year, for the first time.

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