The lyric: “Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside” – Blackstar (2016)
The conspiracy theory: Because David Bowie’s work was always loaded with extra meaning, narrative strands and the presence of stage personas, it has away of humoring those looking for conspiracy theories. With the album Blackstar, released two days before the announcement of the star’s death, the theorists hit the mother lode.
Elvis Presley, with whom Bowie shares a birthday and who was an influence on the younger star, had himself recorded a forgotten song called Black Star.
“When a man sees his black star,” the song declares, “he knows his time has come.” Coincidence?
The lyric: “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air / So there / I’m kinda older than I was when I reveled without a care / So there” -Team (2013)
The conspiracy theory: When New Zealand musician Lorde, came to public attention with her 2013 hit Royals, there seemed to be a disparity of age and wisdom. How could a 17-year-old write music with such polish and knowledge of the world?
In a 2014 interview with Rookie Mag she said a book resonated with her “as a teenager… I mean, I am still a teenager”. ‘Lorde age truthers’, as they came to be known online, cited the above lyrics from Team.
The lyric: “Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand” – In the Air Tonight (1981)
The conspiracy theory: For years people have been debating this line. Some thought it was about the guilt Phil Collins felt when his friend fell out of a boat and he couldn’t save him, or when he witnessed a friend drowning from a far away cliff and couldn’t help. He could see a passer-by closer to his friend, but that man refused to help. (An internet theory from 1994 said Collins supposedly found the man who refused to help, invited him to a show and humiliated him by putting the spotlight on him, leading to the man’s suicide.) Others thought it was about the guilt Collins felt when he was too incapacitated to help a
A different strand of rumors involves Collins witnessing a man rape either his wife or a girl in an alley. Then, later, he sees the man drown and doesn’t help.
This is supposedly backed up by the lyrics: “I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am / well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes”. (Another theory has Collins find the rapist and humiliate him with the spotlight at a concert, as above, leading to the man’s arrest by waiting police.)