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I was taken aback at just how upset I was on hearing that David Bowie had died. I felt a physical sense of loss and my emotions have been all over the place. Yes he was a major influential music figure but why was I so upset? This was after all a man I had never met and had no family connection with.
David Bowie meant more to me deep down than I’d ever realised. Over the day the tributes poured in and 24 hour rolling news did its blunt best to try and capture the magnitude of the loss. Somehow though it failed dismally to relate the full impact of the loss.
Yes, David Bowie started out as a wannabe pop star desperate to make his mark on the world. But with his approach he changed the way many who came after saw themselves and their relationship with the world. It was his huge cultural influence and the influence on myself that hit me when I heard of his death. I suddenly saw the legions of Punks who kicked out at the grey mundanity that they despised and saw Bowie in them all. I saw New Romantics daring to apply make-up before going out in a hard bitten early eighties northern town. I saw myself struggling to find an identity in suburban Manchester and turning to art, bands and music as an answer. The David Bowie legacy lives in us all.
All these things were separate things floating around in my mind until yesterday when they all converged and I understood what David Bowie meant to our modern liberal culture as we try to move forward in this most confusing of centuries.
David Bowie showed us how to transform. You no longer had to accept the role forced on you by society, family church or school. You did have a say in what you were and what you could become. He transformed himself and so we saw that we could transform too. And through hundreds and thousands of personal transformations, the country and much of the world has changed too.
This new way of seeing the world and being in the world is under threat right now. On one hand you have the rabid paranoia of reactionary forces such as Donald Trump, Putin and their kind. On the other we have rabid paranoia of the black clad warriors of ISIS. They are desperately trying to put the lid back on Pandora’s Box.
David Bowie’s death reminds us what is at stake. These forces want to frighten us back into our place. The lid was blown off by people like David Bowie and the impact is still resonating in us and across the world and we won’t be frightened back into line. Fear is a powerful weapon. It has been used over the centuries to make people submit but it will always be defeated by hope. We cannot un-think what we have learnt – so our world continues its transformation.
You can watch David Bowie’s last video and single here