Its four days since David Bowie died and I’m still feeling a dull ache in my heart. I’m not crying every minute but I’ve felt low. A low that’s quite difficult to describe. I missed Bowie’s golden period growing up. I was from a different generation that got in to music in the eighties, hence my love for my all-time hero Freddie Mercury but I do remember loving his music and enthralled by his look and his attitude.
I remember feeling a deep sadness the first time I heard ‘Space Oddity’ and from memory I think this was the first time I felt emotionally moved by hearing a song. That and the theme from TV’s ‘Black Beauty.’ ‘Modern Love’ became my own soundtrack to planned school disco snogs that would ultimately end in failure. ‘Changes’ will go round and round my head whenever I see a change in my life on the horizon and I’m fighting for things to stay the same.
So even though I’d missed the early Bowie boat as it were, I still felt that I’d grown up with him and that he was always around. And despite being in the music and entertainment industry and constantly being surrounded by new music and live gigs, if we were travelling for any long distance in the family car, a David Bowie album would always be amongst the first to be packed. Along with Queen of course.
But I think what I admired most about him was his attitude, his innovation and his bravery. I mean the guy just did his own thing, time and time again. And I don’t care if you’re a musician, or a comic or a painter, or an actor; that for me, is the most exciting thing about art. Being true to yourself. And of course it wasn’t just about his music. It was his look. And his looks. He never stood still. He was always ahead of the pack.
Bowie made it OK to be different. He put himself out there and said to the world, ‘this is me.’ And I admired that hugely about him. Along with Freddie of course. They were huge influences on me finding myself. And that was the person that loved blending in and going about my business, unnoticed, in my mainstream jeans and shirt. But it was also the person that loved cross-dressing and dressing in drag and sucking attention from everybody. They were all parts of me that I wanted to explore and will keep exploring. And that’s what Bowie did so brilliantly and comfortably. He effortlessly reinvented himself on his own terms. Not his record company, not his management. On his own terms.
Growing up in a small-minded town in the East Midlands, I was never shocked by Bowie’s look but I would never have tried it in public. I would have been beaten up. But when I got in a band and I had my own stage, I suddenly felt more comfortable. And for the first time I knew that I had people’s approval and eventually, some admiration. And then I was comfortable wearing women’s clothes, etc. because I found this just got me more admiration. I was saying to people, ‘this is me’ and I think the majority of people respected that. If you’re struggling to feel totally comfortable with yourself then it can be kind of liberating and inspiring to see someone else do it. They could be on Top of the Pops or they could just be in your local pub. Bowie made that possible for me and for millions of others.
So although I feel great sadness at his passing, I say thank you David Bowie for inspiring people to be themselves. That’s all we ever wanted.