David Bowie has died aged 69 after fighting cancer for 18 months.
As well as being remembered for his musical talents, the legendary singer will also be remembered for redefining sexuality for an entire generation.
When David Bowie stepped onto the stage as Ziggy Stardust in 1969, one of the world’s greatest gay icons was born and the rulebooks were forever rewritten.
Bowie was an advocate for LGBT equality and touched many lives. Our thoughts are with the Starman's loved ones. pic.twitter.com/HQgNxJkOwl— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) January 11, 2016
Official Coming Out
Two years after marrying his first wife Angie in 1970, Bowie told the world he was gay while on the cusp of fame. In a 1972 interview with the now defunct Melody Maker, Bowie declared, “I'm gay, and I always have been”. It’s worth noting that this was the same year which Melody Maker called “the year of the transvestite” and 700 people walked from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park in the first Gay Pride march. Homosexuality had been legalised a few years prior and things were fast changing. Four years later, Bowie pushed the boundaries even further and told Playboy magazine that he was bisexual. “It’s true—I am a bisexual,” he announced. “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.”
The four minutes that forever shook the world
A bisexual androgynous alien rockstar, Ziggy Stardust’s flaming red locks and risque skin-tight Lycra bodysuit wooed the world. Watched by 14 million people, the historic Top of the Pops performance saw him put his arm round his guitarist Mick Ronson and stare intensely into his eyes. As odd as it might seem now, a man putting his arm around another man on television served as a watershed moment for young people grappling with their sexuality.
Ziggy Stardust’s reception
Dylan Jones, editor of GQ and author of When Ziggy Played Guitar, was one of many, who were liberated by the dawn of Ziggy Stardust. In his own words, “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”.
Depeche Mode were equally inspired. Dave Gahan claimed that, “Bowie gave me a hope that there was something else … I just thought he wasn’t of this earth.” Likewise, radio presenter, Mark Radcliffe, then a 14-year-old student at Bolton School, exclaimed that Stardust and Ronson had “arrived from another planet where men flirted with each other, made exhilarating music and wore Lurex knee socks”.
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie: Life in pictures
David Bowie in 1960s
Davy Jones; life before David Bowie
David Bowie in 1964
David Bowie 'In Mime' at the Middle Earth Club, London, 1968
David Bowie in 1969
David Bowie performing his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1973
David Bowie in 1973
David Bowie, with his wife Angela (Angie) and his son Zowie, after receiving an award for his latest record "Ziggy stardust" in Amsterdam, 1974
David Bowie in the 1970s
David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, confirmed his death on Twitter
David Bowie in the 1980s
David Bowie gives a press conference presenting the Japanese movie 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence' directed by Nagisa Oshima, during the 36th International Film Festival in Cannes, 1983
David Bowie performs on stage during a concert in La Courneuve, 1987
David Bowie during his concert in West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany, 1987
David Bowie shakes hands with Princess Diana, 1993
David Bowie autographs copies of his newest album 'Outside' at the grand opening of a Herald Square music store 26 September 1995 in New York
David Bowie performs at the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens during a rock festival, 1996
David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman smile as they pose for photos after Bowie received a star on the world famous Walk of Fame 12 February in Hollywood, 1997
David Bowie getting ready to perform 'Earthling' at the Phoenix Music Festival in 1997
David Bowie on stage performing during the Tibet House Benefit Concert in New York City, 2001
David Bowie Meltdown concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London, June 2002
David Bowie performing during his concert at the Stravinski hall stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, 2002
David Bowie in 'Last Call with Carson Daly' TV programme taping in New York, 2003
David Bowie walks with his with wife Iman and daughter Alexandria (2) in New York, 2003
David Bowie performs on stage on the third and final day of 'The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival 2004' at Seaclose Park, in Newport, UK
David Bowie poses with a pig, 2004
David Bowie and Kate Moss at the 2005 CFDA Awards dinner party at the New York Public Library in New York City, 2005
David Bowie and model Iman arrive to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, 2008
David Bowie anf Tilda Swinton at the MoMA's 6th Annual Film Benefit in New York, 2013
Flowers are left below a mural of David Bowie on the wall of a Morley's store in Brixton on 11 January 2016
The emergence of a ‘closet heterosexual’
Always hard to predict, Bowie changed tack, telling Rolling Stone he was “always a closet heterosexual” and coming out was the “biggest mistake I ever made”. In an attempt to move away from the alter ego of Ziggy Stardust, he said, “That was just a lie. They gave me that image”. Regardless of Bowie’s own sexuality, it is clear that the superstar became a revolutionary icon for the gay community. Pushing the boundaries of what was and wasn’t acceptable, Bowie’s sexual ambiguity helped others gain the impetus to express themselves.