Although I don’t know Marc Lowe, he has his own web page with a way to contact him, so I thought, what the heck and sent him my post about his cover. He was appreciative but pointed out one of my assumptions was made in error: “Just a quick heads up that this song was actually not recorded ‘out-of-context’ of the larger Blackstar LP, as you suggested it may have been in your write-up, but was actually originally included as part of my ‘I’m a Blackstar!’ project, for which I covered all seven tracks. The version I eventually released in 2019 via streaming services included a different mix/version of ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ with beats, so a bit closer to the original, and I also replaced the spoken parts with a ‘sung’ alternative, but I in fact liked/like this version better — the original one I had recorded in 2018 — and released it on another Bowie tribute in 2022. So, that was the reference in terms of its recording date/release date. The lyric video, as you note, is new, and I in fact very quickly threw it together in Final Cut Pro between classes at university one day after teaching my final Bowie seminar for the term (and before teaching a class in Japanese Literature).” So, I thought this exchange was cool and worth including in an updated post. That said, I’m not going to re-write what I originally posted, but keep in mind what Mr. Lowe explained when you read the following:
Here’s what I posted on January 22:
Marc Lowe describes himself as “a composer, an electronic musician, a guitarist, a singer-songwriter, a drummer (since middle school), and a videographer.” You can read more about him on his website here. He taught a class on Bowie in Japan. That is way cool.
In his notes on this video, Lowe indicates that the audio was recorded in 2018 and the main part of the video was released in 2022, but what I take is new is the added lyrics, and it was newly posted last week. In part because this song rarely shows up as a cover and in part because Lowe’s interpretation of the song is considerably different than Bowie’s original, it’s my selection for cover of the week.
“I Can’t Give Everything Away” is the final song on Bowie’s final studio album, Blackstar. I’ve thought for a while that you can line up his studio albums (skipping his bad 1967 self-titled debut), listen to them in order beginning with the song “Space Oddity” and ending with this song and hear a continuity. In almost all cases, Bowie includes on each album a nod to his past and a hint at what will come next. He was also usually acutely aware of song order on his albums. It all ends with Blackstar and more specifically this song. While I have read that Bowie held out hope for making at least one more album before he died, this song works as his final statement, especially as I say taken as the culminating song of his entire catalogue. I’m not going to go too deep into a lyrical analysis here, but the title and refrain alone suggest to me Bowie saying— “I’ve given you all this, but I can’t give everything away.” More locally, on the mysterious Blackstar, he’s also telling us that while the album contains many hints, he’s not about to tell us what they all mean, which is absolutely standard for Bowie (though sadly, much of the mystery was solved within day’s of the album’s release, with Bowie’s death).
I’ll also note that, putting aside the lyrics, the song is the most conventional-sounding song on Blackstar. It’s as if Bowie takes us up for air after the brief but tumultuous journey of the rest of the album. It’s not exactly an expression of defeat, like “It’s No Game (No. 2)” at the end of Scary Monsters, but it verges on Bowie breaking the fourth wall and telling us, “that’s all, folks. I mean really — that’s all.”
So, for someone like this Marc Lowe to pull the song out of all that context and record it on its own gives it new meaning and new life. What is that new meaning? I’m not sure. His delivery is almost spoken rather than sung, and between that and the emphasis on the lyrics, I think Lowe, the teacher, wants us to concentrate on the words. Well, Professor Lowe, I will do that and revisit the song in a future Lyrics Series entry. For now I’ll enjoy this rendition.