I awoke this morning to the news that David Bowie had died from cancer. I was stunned and couldn't believe it, so searched online for confirmation and, yes, it was true. I burst into tears - just the first of 3 times today (so far). Later I realised I was truly experiencing grief because I kept changing between sadness, disbelief, anger, shock and back again.
Judging from how this is being covered by the media - and even my local cinema posted a tribute! - his death has affected many. And judging from the tributes people are paying, Bowie means something different to everyone - quite apt for a man who was famously a chameleon. So let me tell you what David Bowie meant to me...
As I remember it, I was introduced to Bowie's music by Nicky Campbell when he was a late night DJ on BBC Radio 1 (before going onto Watchdog and whatever else he's done). It was clear from how often he played Bowie's music, Nicky Campbell was a great fan of Bowie's music. This was the late 1980s and I was a teenager at the time, and, of course, as I heard his music I realised I knew and liked a lot of his music before but just hadn't really taken notice who'd made it.
So the next stage was to move from the radio to actually spending my money on it. For some reason, I chose the occasion to do this whilst I was on holiday in Ibiza! I suspect my parents still remember me dragging them to all the record shops I could find on the island! The LP (when records were still on vinyl) I chose to buy was Space Oddity because I loved the title song so much. It's not his best album by any means but I particularly liked Cygnet Committee and Letter To Hermione and it was enough to make me want more.
My next purchase was Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. It blew me away! I loved it so much I chose to play Five Years at my grandparent's golden wedding celebrations (where I was DJ) much to my family's disgust! Considering the seismic change in sound and style, it's worth noting that this LP was released just 3 years after Space Oddity - the same amount of time that today's pop stars take between albums that sound identical never mind releasing vastly different ones 1 a year as Bowie did then!
After that it was Diamond Dogs and from there to Hunky Dory (my personal favourite - I was thrilled when he played Andy Warhol when I saw him live at Wembley Arena on the Outside tour!) and Aladdin Sane - an album with many classic songs (Time, Rock n Roll Suicide, Drive In Saturday...) and my second favourite Bowie album.
Of course, delving into the world of David Bowie, I became fascinated by his style. This unashamedly androgynous man gave me hope long before I understood what Trans was - maybe I too could get away with wearing make-up if I can just become a hugely successful pop star like him! Pop stardom eluded me but the need to wear make-up didn't. So I unashamedly copied his look, getting my hair spiked and dyed Ziggy Stardust orange (which earned me the nickname of Pineapple Head at work!)... and wearing female clothing, make-up and nail polish. (Incidentally, it was this version of me that first met John).
So, as I look back now on this saddest of days, I give thanks to David Bowie for opening that door to feminity and making it known that I could join him. Once through that door, I obviously took my own path away from the route Bowie took but I was always keen to catch-up and see where he was at on subsequent albums like Heathen, Hours..., and his latest (and greatest in decades!) album, Blackstar.
I also thank him for opening that door to the New Romantics and every androgynous pop star that's followed since - heck, even some of the female ones like Madonna and Lady Gaga owe a great debt to Bowie! - who also influenced me and helped me to feel less strange and lonely in this world.
Not only that, I thank David Bowie for opening people's eyes and widening their sensibilities. I think it is without question that I would live in a much more transphobic world if Bowie had not existed!
So I guess that is why I find myself truly mourning today a man I never actually met, because it is difficult to imagine a single man who has had more influence and impact on my 43 years of life.
Thank you, David Bowie, and may you have a fantastic retirement beyond the stars.