I was gutted to hear of the death of David Bowie. I loved him growing up. On my wall was a decent sized poster of him in his Aladdin Sane regalia, alongside equally large pictures of Queen, plus a few of Mark Spitz – even then, eclectic heroes. Like many others I’ve loved Bowie all of my life – loved him before others in my crowd knew who he was, so he was special to me, almost like he was mine. His songs form the backing track to my life, from buying records, (vinyl!) to play in the solitude of my room and escape to his strange and wonderful worlds, to a computer full of tunes from up-loaded CDs and Youtube clips.
Bowie, along with the likes of Freddie Mercury, Roxy Music and many other musicians in the 1970s changed the way we dressed, the way we behaved, the way we described and considered ourselves. Men wore make-up and satin and velvet and looked more beautiful than women. Women became wild animals, sinuous and strong – remember Jerry Hall in various Roxy Music video clips? Sexuality became fluid and free and fun. And the music was stunning – it became operatic (Bohemian Rhapsody), transformative, quirky, mesmerising (Avalon) – all things were possible. Even Punk would not have been possible without Bowie et al to rage against, appearing like a puss-filled pimple on the backside of a pierced and tattooed youth with outrageous hair.
Punk faded into history but Bowie survived, he changed and mutated. He created new characters and somewhere in there he became himself, stopped being Ziggy, Aladdin, the Thin White Duke and became finally but not absolutely human. Some comments are noting that he was never really one of us anyway and has finally gone home to the stars – he was our Starman, all those years ago when we only had Five Years, experiencing all our Changes, about the time he was The Man who Sold the World.
Consistent creative people, like Bowie, who push barriers, define moments, change them and keep on growing, are heroes. He struggled to break through, he was not an over-night success, certainly not spawned from the monstrous talent shows that infest our television channels. Remember the Laughing Gnome – how could that lead us to Space Oddity? But it did and then we inhabited all sorts of worlds and experiences through his musical journey. We went with him into film- The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, and of course, Labyrinth. My girls, especially my eldest girl is devoted to all things Bowie, because of listening to him all her life and because of that amazing, wonderful ageless film. Like the Princess Bride it is and will always be a classic – great stories, well told, great acting, suitable for children and adults alike.
Bowie was a chameleon, always changing, evolving, suiting his landscape, the ultimate survivor: the greatest performer. Yes he had dark periods, he was promiscuous and drug addled, but why not? Rock n roll is about hedonism and the 1970s with Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Stones and Bowie, et al was all about excess.
In the end his final act was a tour de force: the final album, with the prophetic title: Dark Star and the amazingly beautiful poignant picture taken on his birthday only a few days before he died. The words on Lazarus, his farewell single, ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven’… He knew he was going and he went in style, as he had lived his life for so many years. He also died with dignity. Did we know he was ill, did we know he had cancer, was it splashed across the media? No, it was not. No it was kept private, as it was with Alan Rickman.
This is what we learn from David Bowie and Alan Rickman, men who were beyond the cult of celebrity. Both were immensely talented men, both are being mourned on all the social media sites of the planet. They were not really celebrities – vacuous no talent creatures who have infected our souls and screens with their unmitigated crap (shall I mention Angie Bowie’s disgraceful carry on on Celebrity Big Brother- she is the epitome of a sad wannabe – once she was famous by association but that was many-many years ago). Bowie and Rickman were stars, men with talent. Rickman was a fine actor much loved by many of us for his brilliance as the nasty man, the evil one, the cheating husband. Bowie was the consummate artist – writer, musician, singer, actor – performer.
We will not see his like again. And so the tributes roll on – Brixton had its night of song, Beckenham High Street has its floral tribute outside Zizzi – the former Three Tuns Pub where Bowie first performed. Sydney Festival held a tribute evening. Tributes flow, events are planned but thankfully the funeral will be a private affair. Bowie was not a celebrity – he was a star, he was from the stars and he has gone back.
David Bowie was important to me, as he was to many others, he was a hero for so much more than one day – how could you not love a man who wrote
Under the moonlight
The serious moonlight … from Let’s Dance