To me and so many others, David Bowie, was an icon. But to the LGBT community he was even more than that – he was a hero. He will be remembered by so many, and yet he has had his own effect on each of us. The love we all felt for him has never been generic – everyone loved him in their own way. That love will never leave.
David Bowie, musician, artist, actor, died on the 10th January 2016, aged 69. I found out about his death just before I went to school, and was then promptly late because of it. He was always an icon to me – a hero, if you like. My own connection with David Bowie has spanned many years – I’ve loved him and his music from a very young age. I’ve bonded with people over his music, and now I feel a little like I’ve lost a piece of me. In the same way David Bowie collected ideas and fashion, he seems to have collected pieces of our hearts.
The first David Bowie song I ever heard was Let’s Dance. I don’t remember precisely when I heard it, but I have strong memories of dancing to it in a kitchen somewhere. Ever since, I’ve grown up with his music. His work, irreplaceable and unique, will never be forgotten.
Born on the 8th January 1947 as David Robert Jones, he would grow into an icon for the LGBT community. His legacy as a supporter of the community, if not an active member, will be eternal. In 1972, Bowie declared himself gay in an interview with Michael Watts for Melody Maker, and became one of the first gay icons. In a time where it was rare for people to be out and open about their sexuality, he became an icon. He was experimental, he was important and he was by far ahead of his time.
He was a pioneer of the arts in his creativity, fashion and his liberated social attitudes. Young LGBT people will always connect to his liberal attitude towards sexuality, the way he defined himself and then the way he would proceed to change those own definitions.
When remembering David Bowie – who I will sadly never have the pleasure of seeing live – it is important that we remember his creativity. Never has there been a popstar, before or since, who has changed characters and identities with such fluidity and ease as David Bowie. His ability to create characters such as Ziggy Stardust, who seemed so alien and unidentifiable, was incredible. There was a constant androgyny with all of David Bowie’s work – was the person a man or a woman? Somehow, that didn’t matter. The androgyny became something normal, and that was so beautiful. His effortlessness in living like he did was admirable. He always seemed to be so brave, so incredible and so beautiful in what he did. Very rarely has the world seen artists where everything they do oozes as much talent as everything David Bowie created.
Growing up, I found very few role models who I could connect with. I found them in books or art, but pop stars didn’t seem to connect with me much as a child. When I found Bowie’s work, the image and art that went into it enchanted me. The bright orange of his hair, the ghostly eyes staring back at me – they made me feel like I belonged. There was something comforting about him, in his brightness and something so illuminating about David Bowie and his ideas, and it’s something that will never be forgotten.
I love life very much indeed.”
– David Bowie
In remembering David Bowie, we must not focus on his death, but his life. His life was so incredibly important, so vital to so many. Look at the tribute made by the people of Brixton, celebrating his life like that. That was what David Bowie would have wanted; so many people coming together over him, over his life and his music and artistry. That sense of community must’ve been what David Bowie was aiming for in his work. The depth of emotion that we feel must be used to make our own art now and explore our own creative identities to the depths he wanted us to. It is impossible to understand David Bowie’s identities to their full value, but we can all interpret them as best we can. His genius was unique, his contradiction of gender roles was outstanding, and his music was unlike anything we will ever witness again.