David Bowie is known worldwide as a music legend, and occasionally weighed in on political issues.
It was announced on social media today that the artist behind Ziggy Stardust had died after an 18-month battle with cancer.
His sexual orientation, and that of his many personas, made the legend a gay icon.
Having only occasionally touched on why he chose to identify as gay, then bisexual, then later say he was neither, he has given a glimpse of what stopped him talking about it.
Bowie’s persona Ziggy Stardust, created when he released Space Oddity in 1969, was a bisexual alien rock star. The androgynous figure became a gay icon.
Of the persona, at the time, he said: “Offstage I’m a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It’s probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David.”
Then editor of GQ, Dylan Jones recalled: “I can picture the exact moment: my father was away and my mother was out in the garden… So I was alone in a terrace house in Deal watching Top of the Pops.
“Normally it would have been a forgettable Thursday but I was about to be astounded. It was the first time we were exposed to Ziggy Stardust in all his androgynous glory.”
Of Top of the Pops, which was then watched by 14 million people, Jones said: “He was a dangerous figure on British TV at a point when television didn’t do danger.
“41 years ago, it was an extraordinary experience. It didn’t immediately fill me with gay longings – though with some people it did. But nothing was quite the same afterwards.”
The legend married his first wife Angie in 1970 but declared himself as gay in an interview with the now defunct Melody Maker magazine in 1972. Four years later, he told Playboy magazine that he was bisexual. “It’s true—I am a bisexual,” he said. “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.”
Speaking to Blender magazine in 2002, Bowie was asked about why he said coming out as bisexual was “the biggest mistake I ever made”.
His response is a scathing commentary on the US’s attitude towards bisexuality.
He said: “Interesting. [Pause] I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people.
“I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”
Here PinkNews looks at ways Bowie challenged the public perception of sexual orientation over the years.
While the world mourns the death of David Bowie, here is a stunning reminder of his immense talent in the form of an isolated-vocals version of Under Pressure, which he recorded with Queen in 1981.