Remembering David Bowie: The Man Who Didn't Give A Fuck What You Thought
Last year, David Bowie's death sent shockwaves throughout the whole planet.
What was he? Putting it bluntly, he was an enigma. When he released 'Man Who Sold The World', the album cover showed him laying back, casually wearing a dress. For many people, this was the moment that made him. He blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity without even addressing it. He was the epitome of cool.
For years, his legions of fans copied everything he did. And he did pretty much anything he wanted. He'd rock an eye-patch, fluorescent hair, one massively dilated pupil (the result of a fight with one of his best friends) - you could just tell that he didn't give a fuck about what anyone thought of him.
Despite the fact that I myself was born in 1990 (and I imagine a lot of you reading this were born around the same time or even later), he was always a massive presence both on TV and in music. His performance as the Goblin King in Labyrinth is something many of us remember fondly from our childhoods. We would spend hours sat in front of the TV with a copy of it on VHS, replicating his moves and swagger. He was an idol to more than one generation.
The coolest thing about Bowie was the fact that he didn't really talk about the things that made him so unique. He was said to be bisexual, but he kept an air of mystery around it. He was happy to discuss sexuality, but made sure he maintained an air of ambiguity. Ziggy Stardust seemed to be both male and female. And at a time when homosexuality was only recently legalised (back in 1967), it was a risky move.
He didn't use his platform to get up on a soapbox; his mere presence did all the talking for him. For him, being able to wear and do whatever he wanted was a non-issue and didn't require discussion.
However, that's not to say that he never had political moments. In 1987, he performed a huge concert in front of the Berlin Wall. When he was performing to West Berlin, the East Germans could still hear from the other side. Before he started singing Heroes he shouted out: "We send our best wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the Wall."
In a 2003 interview, he said: "I'll never forget that. It was one of the most emotional performances I've ever done. I was in tears. They'd backed up the stage to the wall itself so that the wall was acting as our backdrop. We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn't realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart and I'd never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. But that was so touching.
"When we did 'Heroes' it felt really anthemic, almost like a prayer. I've never felt it like that again. However, well we do it these days, it's almost like walking through it compared to that night, because it meant so much more. That's the town where it was written, and that's the particular situation that it was written about. It was just extraordinary. I was so drained after the show. It was so wonderful. We did it in Berlin last year as well and there's no other city I can do that song in now that comes close to how it's received. This time, what was so fantastic about the audience - it was the Max Schmeling Hall, which holds about 10 to 15 thousand - half the audience had been in East Berlin that time way before. So now I was face-to-face with the people I had been singing it to all those years ago. And we were all singing it together. Again, it was powerful. Things like that really give you a sense of what performance can do."
R.I.P. David Bowie. You were one of a kind.
Featured image credit: PA Images