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Talent never gets old (part 2): Bowie and Rickman

by on January 22, 2016

I’m returning to the observation reported in Wednesday’s blogpost that ‘talent never gets old’. Though this was made in the context of older women on TV, it seemed equally pertinent to two men whose recent deaths (both at the age of 69) have generated a great deal of media coverage. I’m talking here about David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

What I think is interesting about the coverage and reflections following their untimely deaths (I was rather sideswiped by both) was that in no way was it said that they were at the end of their careers. Most of us only know these men through their work of course so that tends to be how we relate to them. But Blackstar, released on Bowie’s 69th birthday and reviewed here in The Telegraph is described there it as ‘shot through with a late-life melancholy‘, with the reviewer talking about Bowie’s previous album as a ‘clearing of the decks‘ to make room for Blackstar and wondering whether the latter represents ‘an entirely new phase in Bowie’s extraordinary career‘. Of course, now we can make sense of the album’s valedictory quality. But nevertheless it’s notable how this review and many of the comments on social media reflected the view that his death was denying us more of his work; that there was more to come.

That was equally the case with Alan Rickman. I was lucky enough to see him on stage including as the Vicomte de Valmont in the RSC production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses; more recently of course in many TV and film roles. A brilliant actor. Again reading the tributes and comments, there is a sense that many of us didn’t think that Rickman’s career was in any way over or finished. There were more roles to be played. In the context of age and work, our reaction to these deaths at the age of 69 (i.e. over the state pension age) is that we see working lives (not just actual lives) cut short. And of course that their talent didn’t get old either.

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