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Late Bowie's 'Blackstar' sweeps five Grammys

AFP , Tuesday 14 Feb 2017

"Blackstar," the last album of late rock icon David Bowie -- who enjoyed little recognition at the Grammys over his long career -- on Sunday won five awards -- a clean sweep for its five nominations.

Bowie, who was always more recognized in his native Britain than in his adopted home the United States, was controversially passed over for Album of the Year honors at this year's Grammys.

But "Blackstar" won in its five categories -- including Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, Best Alternative Music Album and best engineering on a non-classical album.

"Blackstar" also won Best Recording Package, for artist Jonathan Barnbrook.

Bowie released "Blackstar" on his 69th birthday in January 2016, just two days before he died from a previously undisclosed battle with cancer.

The album showed Bowie, famous for his chameleon-like skill in adapting to new genres, to be musically innovative until the end.

He collaborated on "Blackstar" with the avant-garde jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin, whose instrument duels in the songs with Bowie's voice.

"I'm a better artist and a better person for having known him," an emotional McCaslin, wearing a "Blackstar" T-shirt under his suit, said as he accepted one of the awards.

McCaslin described Bowie as a warm person as well as a talented artist, saying the rocker at one point during their sessions emailed to say, "I haven't had this much fun since my heart attack."

Speaking later to reporters, McCaslin said that while it was impossible to know how Bowie would have reacted to the Grammys, the rocker had noticed the praise for "Blackstar."

"When the press was hearing the album before it came out, I could see it meant a lot to him," McCaslin said.

Kevin Killen, who shared the engineering Grammy for "Blackstar," said that artists "don't necessarily think about getting awards" when they record music.

"I'm surprised it's taken this long for him to be recognized but that's just the nature of how these events unfold," Killen told reporters.

Bowie fans closely scanned "Blackstar" for lyrical clues that foreshadowed his death, with Bowie singing of unseen scars and of making peace with never again seeing the "English evergreens."

Before Sunday, Bowie had won only a single Grammy, in a music video category, other than a career achievement award.

"Blackstar" was passed over for Album of the Year, whose nominees include pop celebrity Justin Bieber's "Purpose."

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