Saturday 1 October 2016

He was a chameleon and his hits were the soundtrack of our lives

Ian Dempsey

Published 12/01/2016 | 07:00

'The music industry is full of people trying to say and sell something but Bowie was different'
'The music industry is full of people trying to say and sell something but Bowie was different'

When I was 14 years old, I bought my first David Bowie album - much to my parents' concern, as they were a little worried about this weird 'Ziggy' character.

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I remember spending hours in my bedroom writing down the words, examining the lyrics and trying to understand what he was saying - but I couldn't understand it. In fact, I still don't fully understand what he was singing about but I appreciate his music completely.

The music industry is full of people trying to say and sell something but Bowie was different.

He had bravery - he didn't care what people thought of him, he was an innovator.

He was almost like a fashion designer bringing new fabrics, patterns and designs to the music industry. He made everyone sit up and look at music afresh.

They say you should never meet your idols but in Bowie's case that dictum didn't apply. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times - once at a round-table and once backstage at the Point Depot. He was doing a meet-and-greet and I remember he had a firm, friendly handshake. What struck me both times I met him was how disturbingly normal he was off-stage.

He was a chameleon; on-stage he was an eccentric, at times even avant-garde, performer but off-stage he was a down-to-earth Brixton boy who was thoughtful, gracious and generous with his time.

Like Elvis and The Beatles, David Bowie smashed the mould. He created something new and entirely unique that others followed and tried to emulate. He was always on the cusp of currency - he was the person setting the agenda, pushing sounds and style forward.

Although he was an absolute superstar from the start, Bowie's popularity hasn't always transferred into record sales. Like many, when I heard the news that he had lost an 18-month battle to cancer, I was extremely upset. So much of his music has acted as the soundtrack and sounding board of our lives.

It's hard to surmise the impact he had on popular culture when he first bolted on to the scene as Ziggy Stardust. He continually reinvented himself; he was a poet, a mime, extremely well read and well travelled.

He managed to confound us all throughout his career - that was his genius and his legacy.

Irish Independent

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