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David Bowie: man, music, memories and myths

BY NOW we all know the space oddity himself, David Bowie, has left planet earth.

As tributes roll in for the wispy genius who imprinted Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke on the world's psyche, so do memories and myths about his exceptional life.

His was an existence shrouded in legend - mostly of his own creation - as he shattered social boundaries and forged a life-as-art career like no one else.

Sexuality was always at the centre of Bowie's mystique. Was he or wasn't he?

His reputation as having a sexual appetite unbound by gender may have been a clever facade to shock a conservative world.

Rumours of drug-fuelled orgies and amorous encounters with the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger still persist.

David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. He was wonderfully shameless in his work. We had so many good times together. He was my friend, I will never forget him.

Posted by Mick Jagger on Monday, January 11, 2016

But he would later claim he was "always a closet heterosexual" and any dalliances were part of his commitment to his sexually ambiguous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.

That was what set Bowie apart.

He was more than a music star: he was a carefully curated, living and breathing work of art, from the first stuttering chorus of Changes to the iconic lightning bolt bisecting Ziggy's otherworldly face.

Australian author and pop culture commentator Karen Brooks says Bowie and the late flamboyant Queen frontman Freddy Mercury were her first crushes.

"So my gay-dar was obviously way out," she admitted.

"He always challenged boundaries, whether sexual, gender, cultural or social.

"He gave a voice to marginalised groups at a time when they were struggling to find a voice.

"Suddenly, they had a rock god on their side, being admired and lauded for his work and the deeper meaning in his lyrics."

When a hero dies, everyone wants a quote. I woke up this morning with a tender head from tears and that big red cup of...

Posted by Lorde on Monday, January 11, 2016

Bowie was the first major artist to portray indigenous Australians in a positive light on a music video in the clip for 1983 hit, Let's Dance.

"As much as I love this country, it is probably one of the most racially intolerant in the world, well in line with South Africa," Bowie said at the time.

In the same year, he called out MTV during an interview for not playing enough black artists.

MOVING: Terry Roberts and Joelene King worked together on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance video shot in New South Wales.
MOVING: Terry Roberts and Joelene King worked together on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance video shot in New South Wales. Contributed

And if his political sway was in any doubt, the German Foreign Office on Monday tweeted its thanks to Bowie for helping bring down the Berlin Wall.

In 1987, he performed so loudly on the western side of the wall that his music could be heard on the other side, causing a riot.

Bowie's contribution to pop music was undeniable, and tributes have flooded from across the globe.

Proto-punk legend Iggy Pop stated: "David's friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is."

MESSAGE FROM IGGY:"David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best...

Posted by Iggy Pop on Monday, January 11, 2016

Even rap superstar Kanye West has paid homage, calling Bowie "one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime".

Dr Brooks believes the inspiration may run deeper than just music and fashion for Kanye, who famously named his daughter North West

"He named his first child Zowie Bowie - that was really the beginning of these outrageous celebrity baby names, wasn't it?" Dr Brooks laughed.

"His son has now understandably changed his name to Duncan, but I just remember thinking that was so cool."

Drugs were part of Bowie's life for decades, and he would often binge on cocaine and speed for days on end, eating next to nothing.

He would just create in a borderline cocaine psychosis: be it music, art or something else entirely.

"I've had short flirtations with smack (heroin) and things," he told an interviewer in 1975.

"But it was only for the mystery and the enigma. I like fast drugs.

"I hate anything that slows me down."

In his later and decidedly more sober years, Bowie said he regretted ever doing drugs.

Whether or not his years of excess contributed to the 2004 on-stage heart attack that marked the end of his live performing career may never be known.

But there are now claims he suffered half a dozen heart attacks in the year before his death.

"These major illnesses can change a person and what they do," Dr Brooks said.

"He became a sort of recluse. He put out these albums without any fanfare, and they still topped the charts.

"Ziggy Stardust shows us the price of fame and hedonism

"I think he was always aware of the damage it could do and drew away from that."

January 10 2016 - David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with...

Posted by David Bowie on Sunday, January 10, 2016

In typical fashion, he kept us guessing until the end.

The world was shocked to hear David Bowie had died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 69, after an 18-month battle with the disease.

He left fans with a carefully orchestrated farewell gift, one final salvo before he departed into the galaxy.

The fittingly named single Lazarus was released on his birthday, just two days before his death.

It opens with the lyrics: "Look up here, I'm in Heaven!"

"Many more people will come forward and say they were inspired by that man, but he was one of a kind," Dr Brooks said.

"But we will never lose him. That's the beauty of the times we live in.

"They live on." 

BANG Showbiz


Born David Jones, but changed his name to avoid confusion with Monkees lead singer Davy Jones

Released 27 studio albums and 111 singles

Left pupil was permanently dilated after being punched in the eye as a kid

Turned down a knighthood in 2003

Voiced a character in the 2007 SpongeBob SquarePants movie

Starred in the 1980 Broadway production of The Elephant Man



We asked our Facebook friends to share their favourite songs and memories of David Bowie.

Here is what they had to say:

  •  I will remember seeing him in concert Sydney show ground 1978 tour, standing on our esky so i could see better. -Michelle Brice
  • The Jean Genie. Reprised to great effect as the theme song of Detective Gene Hunt in the great series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. -Andrew Gale
  • Space Oddity. The International Space Station has done an amazing tribute to David Bowie with Space Oddity which is on Youtube. -Michele Thomas
  • Dancing in the Street, with Mick Jagger. - Karen Bargenquast
  • Heroes. Always gives me goosebumps and a tear or two. -Vanessa Ross
  • Don't know about ultimate. But my favourite is Rock N Roll Suicide. - Marley Byrnes