David Bowie went out with a bang in 2016, with one of his very best albums, his 25th, Blackstar. It is jazz infused, lyrically enigmatic and thrillingly odd. He had just had his first try at composing songs for a stage musical, Lazarus, based on the classic sci-fi novel The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis. Bowie successfully played the lead role of a hollow-eyed alien in the film version in 1976, directed by Nicolas Roeg. Lazarus was playing Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop when he left this Earth. Lazarus was directed by hot gay experimental maverick Ivo van Hove.
Bowie is a Style Icon and a Gay Icon. He rarely did interviews. He never did much to promote his new releases. He did not do world tours playing the hit songs. In fact, he didn’t do the things that rock stars are supposed to do, or explain himself in any way. Some deaths are just more shocking than others. Bowie had released his album Blackstar on his birthday in 2016, he was gone two days later, taken by a cancer that he hid from his fans.
When Bowie stepped onto the stage as Ziggy Stardust in 1969, one of the greatest Gay Icons was born.
Two years after marrying his first wife Angie (born Mary Angela Barnett) in 1970, Bowie said in an interview with Melody Maker magazine: “I’m gay, and I always have been“. 1972 was also the same year where Melody Maker called it “the year of the transvestite” and 700 people walked in the first London Gay Pride Parade. Homosexuality had been legalized a few years prior and things were fast changing. Four years later, Bowie told Playboy magazine that he was bisexual.:
“It’s true—I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Ziggy Stardust had flaming red locks and wore a skin-tight Lycra bodysuit. His debut was watched by 14 million people on the BBC television series Top Of The Pops (1964-2006) where he put his arm round his guitarist Mick Ronson and gazed lovingly into his eyes. A man putting his arm around another man on television was as a momentous moment for young people grappling with their sexuality.
A decade later, Bowie told Rolling Stone that he was “always a closet heterosexual”. Regardless of Bowie’s own real sexuality, he remains a revolutionary icon for the LGBTQ community. Pushing the boundaries of what was and wasn’t acceptable, Bowie’s sexual ambiguity helped millions of queers kids to express themselves.
I still miss Bowie.