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Lana Del Rey sings “Terrence Loves You” (2015)

One of the things I get out of this project is discovering new music and musicians, sometimes with only a tenuous connection to Bowie. I don’t think I ever heard of Lana Del Rey before coming across an article about this song, which is inspired in part by Bowie’s relationship with his half-brother, Terry Burns. I have read that Bowie looked up Terry, who suffered from mental illness and ultimately died by suicide. Bowie may have obliquely referenced his brother in music, such as “The Bewlay Brothers,” and in art, such as one of the covers for The Man Who Sold the World, which features an artistic depiction of the mental hospital in which terry had once been confined, or Let’s Dance, featuring Bowie as a shadow boxer— something he learned from his brother. Or maybe not. Often with Bowie, it’s tough to tell when he’s making a direct reference and when we’re seeing animals in the clouds.

To a certain extent, I feel the same way about this song, which I have heard for the first time. Without the benefit for reading an article about it, I wouldn’t have picked up on the Bowie references until Del Rey begins singing, “ground control to Major Tom,” late in the song. After that, and especially with some knowledge that the song is inspired by Bowie’s relationship with his brother, every line in the song can be interpreted as a Bowie reference. So can the music— then whole song as a “Space Oddity” feel to it. Did she borrow music from the song? Is the lines, “but Hollywood legends will never grow old” a reference to “Cracked Actor?” Or maybe “The Stars Are Out Tonight?” Is the line, “I know the light’s on in the television trying to transmit, can you hear me?” A reference to “TVC15?” “Can You Hear Me?” (the song from Young Americans?” “Station to Station?”

It’s easy to read too much into a song like this. There’s a line, “but I lost myself when I lost you, but I still got jazz” which is clearly a reference to Bowie’s death and the album, Blackstar, except that the song was released a year before Bowie died (and before Blackstar was released). It’s probably too much to say that the song is actually about Bowie and his brother, but that it was clearly inspired by Bowie. Anyway, it’s a nice piece of music. I’m glad I came across it.

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