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David Bowie’s dignified death is a reminder of the sanctity of private life

11 January 2016

8:34 PM

11 January 2016

8:34 PM

Everyone is paying tribute to David Bowie’s musical feats, as well they should. Seldom, if ever, has one man made such a massive, beautiful dent on pop music and pop consciousness. A gender-bending, genre-hopping genius, deserving of all the accolades coming his way today.

But I want to pay tribute to another of Bowie’s feats, which strikes me as quite extraordinary: the fact that he kept his cancer private, or ‘secret’, as the press insists, for 18 months. This, more than anything, has blown me away today. In this era of too much information, when over-sharing is virtually mandatory, Bowie’s decision to suffer away from the limelight, among those closest to him, appears almost as a Herculean achievement.

The reason the world is so shocked by Bowie’s death is not simply because we have lost one of pop’s great innovators — inventors, in fact — meaning his death feels as significant as Elvis Presley’s in 1977. It is also because no one saw this coming.

Yes, with the hindsight provided by his demise, we can now see that his last album, Blackstar, released just last week, was a kind of gracious and moving bowing-out from life. With a song called ‘Lazarus’, and mournful lyrics such as ‘I know something is very wrong’, this is clearly a man who knows his end his near. Listening to the album today is a jolting experience.


But few picked up on this tone to the album over the past week, because Bowie revealed nothing about his illness. He never spoke of it; his loved ones never spoke of it. He became ill and died utterly in private, among those he knew. No media, no fans, no strangers were invited to share his pain or engage in mawkish pre-emptive mourning.

Fifty years ago, this would have been perfectly unexceptional, unworthy of comment. Back then, people must have been taken aback by the deaths of famous or influential people all the time, since sickness was rarely press-released or discussed in-depth in magazine interviews.

But today, to be sick in private, to die in private, seems almost revolutionary. They say Bowie bucked trends (and in the process invented new ones) — well, he’s just bucked one of the most powerful and nauseating trends of our era: the victim-therapeutic complex which demands that we keep nothing private, that we advertise our failures and fragile mortality to a watching, sadness-hungry world.

The pressure to share is immense. The ‘Sad Lives’ sections of bookshops heave under the weight of cancer memoirs and abuse histories. You can’t open a magazine without being confronted by a celeb who wants you to know in graphic detail about their mental ups-and-downs, their private griefs, their diseased bodies. From Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy op-ed in the New York Times to the trend for tweeting one’s own drawn-out death, more and more of us feel compelled to erase the line between our private lives and public lives and to make a spectacle of our every trouble.

Some people justify all this in Oprahite lingo, claiming it helps individuals ease their mental burden or raise awareness about some disease. We have forgotten what is lost when everything becomes public: the intense world of real, un-performed emotions that is the private sphere. If everything we do is watched, then nothing we do is real — really real, un-acted, unscripted, and instead just felt, among those who know us and love us.

In resisting this omnipresent pressure to confess to physical or mental weakness, Bowie did something heroic. He reminded us of the sanctity of private life. On the last track on Blackstar, he sings: ‘I can’t give everything away.’ There. That’s it. We must all keep something for ourselves, far from the eyes of supposed experts and therapists and audiences who want to know everything about us. If Bowie’s life was well-lived, all music and adventure, then his death was well-died.

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Show comments
  • Idowu Omoyele

    The above clip shows David Bowie, in an interview with Mark Goodman, taking MTV to task for not featuring videos by black artistes. The interview took place in 1983, the same year, incidentally, the music network aired the video of Billy Jean by Michael Jackson after refusing, at first, because Jackson was black.

  • Idowu Omoyele

    The above is a YouTube clip of Nina Simone performing at Montreux, Switzerland in 1976, asking after “my dear friend” David Bowie who didn’t seem to be around, before settling down to accompany herself on the piano while singing a sad song in moving tribute to Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin.

  • Idowu Omoyele

    David Bowie was the shape-shifting, avant-garde recording and performing artiste who orchestrated and dominated guitar-laden rock of the 1970s, much as Bob Dylan and the Beatles had done the previous decade. He will be remembered for a lot of things – sexual androgyny, fashion, acting, writing and singing often brilliant songs, producing frequently groundbreaking albums – but it is his penchant for musical experimentation and innovation, for sonic and instrumental improvisations – that constant reaching after artistic perfection – that may come to be seen as his legacy, his lasting contribution to music within and beyond Britain.

    Two other British voices of the 1970s, Nick Drake and Kate Bush, share/shared with Bowie a palpable sense of the atmospheric, the ethereal, the otherworldly, but in ways both tonally and temperamentally dissimilar to one another. Yet they are/were all distinctive in their individual ways.

    From 1966 and 1969, when he released The London Boys and Space Oddity, respectively, to his death from cancer a mere couple of days after marking his 69th birthday, on 8 January 2016, with the release of his 25th (studio) and, poignantly, final album Blackstar, Bowie constantly invented and re-invented himself and his music. However, it is for the extraordinary work he produced throughout the 1970s, during which he made album after brilliant album, each a distinctive achievement in its own right, that he would ultimately come to be remembered. Nevertheless, for all his cheerful indulgence in colour and choreography, mime and the theatrical, Bowie wasn’t altogether addicted to art-for-art’s-sake. In fact, he wrote some of the most profoundly heartbreaking lyrics of the modern age, dealing with such subjects like death, mortality, mystery, anxiety, alienation, transformation….


    Could it not be claimed that David Bowie was as much an icon/iconoclast of the counterculture, especially during the 1970s, as Bob Dylan had been from the 1960s onward, even if they travelled radically different paths in their quest for lyrical and musical adventure? Do any other musicians compare with Dylan and Bowie in terms of real sui generis singularity?

  • Dana

    Don’t use Bowie’s choices about his own life to abuse others who make different choices. I could be mistaken but I believe I’ve seen him described as an introvert, ironically enough. They don’t often look outward for succor or support when they hit a life obstacle. Someone more extroverted might feel and act differently. Frankly, that’s none of your business. A person making their life public is not inviting you to condemn them any more than a nude woman walking down the street is inviting a rape.

    It’s called self-control. You seem to think everyone except yourself ought to practice it.

  • Maureen Fisher

    Bowie has been cremated without any ceremony as he said he didn’t want a huge “fuss.” Good for him.

  • James Morgan

    Very nice. Yes. Keeping stuff to yourself is something not valued like it once was.

  • Donna Cruz

    The author of this article said it beautifully ♡

  • ThomasEarlham

    What a magnificently condescending and sanctimonious bit of writing.

    To be sure, Bowie’s decision to keep his illness private is commendable, as would be any end-of-life performance undertaken precisely as the dying one wishes and intends, but his choices cast no light, positive, negative, or otherwise, on anyone else’s choices, nor trends within the culture. Nor can I imagine that Bowie would appreciate some journalist re-purposing his choices as an object lesson that he did not sanction.

    Those who utilize social media to share their experiences with others, whether to educate, enlighten, or simply to participate in a cultural community, have nothing to be ashamed of, nor is there anything for them to take away from this self-serving diatribe.

  • Nation
  • Lithe Lassie

    This struck me as well. Bowie was most private in his relationship with his wife and daughter. Gracious but private. That he kept this struggle also out of public eye doesn’t surprise me. He wanted no pity, no dissection of his life. He was masterful at creating and re-creating his persona, and during a cancer fight he could not win, he at least controlled this element. How he would depart from the world, and what he would say about it.
    He was always enigmatic, a poet. I believe he wanted people to experience his battle with cancer, and losing the fight, as poetry and allegory………..not a melodrama in real time.

  • Tom Burroughes

    I could not agree more. Bowie died with dignity and it was a great shock. Now let’s play some more of his music. He seemed – from what I have read – to have been affable and friendly towards people, including total strangers and did not suffer from some of the coldness and rudeness that you get with some (not all) very famous, rich people. He was in a sense a solid South London lad at heart.


    • Fritz123

      Uncle Arthur!! He did care.

  • Cristina Barbero

    Great article. Hope that Bowie can be an extreme pioneer for what we need more during this confusing period: going back to human values, highlighting the importance of silence.

  • jeremy Morfey

    Perhaps the greatest legacy will be discussed by psychologists.

    The greatest hazard of any actor is losing your own personality while immersing yourself in that of other characters. It destroyed Mike Yarwood with his dread words “and this is me” and we saw suddenly nothing worth watching, and he knew it. Jenny Agutter once said that so many people associate her with Bobby from the Railway Children still sending her fan letters, that they cannot imagine that there is an actress who is nothing like Bobby and now in her sixties. The real-life persona behind old Albert Steptoe was every bit as sleazy and unpleasant as the character he portrayed, and no less colourful. Always though is the old truism for actors “always remember who you are”.

    David Bowie turned this on its head. Early on, he recognised that there was nothing at all in David Jones worth sharing with the public. Not even a smidgen of personality, just a blank canvass. But hey, a blank canvass is a wonderful thing for an artist to start with, and like Etch-a-Sketch, can be erased at will and something else created. Right to the end when the corpse shut itself forever in the wardrobe. Life was a blank canvass and what we will remember most is what he put on it.

    • Johnnymcevoy

      Perhaps you’re a politician. Please look up the difference between ‘canvass’ and ‘canvas’ if you think language matters at all.

      • Gilbert White

        Touché, me thinks?

      • jeremy Morfey

        Blooming heck, well sspotted! I’ve always sspelt it with one s, so I’ve no idea how this typo crept in. I’ve done it three times, so either I’ve got a dodgy keyboard, a dodgy ring finger, or a dodgy brain. I think psychologistss call it ssphilia, or it could be a ssimple sstammer.

    • sir_graphus

      To men of my age, Jenny Agutter wasn’t Bobby from the Railway Children, but permanently etched on our memories from other films.

      • jeremy Morfey

        You’re not thinking of that amazing nude swimming scene in ‘Walkabout’ (made just before The Railway Children) that would put the producer, director, distributor and audience in prison today?

        Along with the French film from 1986 ‘Manon des Sources’ with the same scene, it explored the tragic consequences of unrequited love for young beauty – both smitten young men committed suicide because of it. In both films, both female characters were completely oblivious of their effect on others, and yet as natural and as beautiful as Eve herself.

        • sir_graphus

          I am thinking of THAT scene, plus American Werewolf, and to a much lesser extent Logan’s Run. Your second paragraph would have been somewhat beyond me as a teenager.

  • ADW

    Thanks Mr Bowie for your gifts of sound and vision. And, indeed, for not assuming your fine ability to craft outstanding 3 minute pop songs also gave you insight into geopolitical issues that you felt compelled to share with us. Finally, as Brendon has said, well done for keeping private things private and for conducting yourself with great moderation and decorum through what must have been a terrible final 18 months. Bowie saved his flamboyance for the stage, and his genius for his pop songs; a great example to the millions of inferior pop singers out there.

  • Hippograd

    Why has Brendan written nothing on Cologne and the way it confirms the necessity of open borders?

    • Shorne

      “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.”

      • Hippograd

        “In standard English, a halfwit is a person of limited intellectual capacity who fails to grasp the significance of most of what he encounters in everyday life.”

        • serialluncher

          He’s on the money. You are trolling.

          • Hippograd

            No, I’m pointing out that Brendan O’Neill has a rather more important topic to write about than the death of a pop-star. Alas, that topic is a little difficult for him to discuss.

            • serialluncher

              The topic is not about which topics O’Neill should write about. You are knowingly trolling. Otherwise Bowie wasn’t just a singer, he was a cultural phenomenon whether or not you like him so deserves all the attention.

              • Hippograd

                It is perfectly legitimate to comment on O’Neill’s failure to address something of much greater importance than the death of a pop-singer. And you know as well as I do why he didn’t address it: because Cologne shows his ideology up for the half-witted farrago of libertarian sloganizing that it is.

        • Shorne

          I understand fully what you and your fellow bigots are trying to do.

          • Hippograd

            Yes, of course you do, dear. Your understanding of the world is so profound that you and your fellow Guardian-reading intellectuals import millions of progressive men from deeply, deeply female-friendly cultures and cheer them on as they unite with western feminists to challenge the deeply, deeply misogynist attitudes and behaviour of evil white males. Cologne is merely the beginning of the glorious female-friendly future, nicht wahr?

            And your honesty is as profound as your understanding of the world. Witness the way the Guardian had to fight for years to expose what evil whites males were doing in Rotherham to vulnerable girls of Islamicity. Typically, the UKIP council in Rotherham didn’t merely ignore what was going on, it actively prevented whistleblowers from exposing it. And of course, when UKIP officials were forced out by the public outcry, they merely moved onto lucrative jobs elsewhere, still convinced that they’d done no wrong.

            Oh, and we mustn’t forget how good your deeply, deeply caring and compassionate immigration policies are for the gay community. Contrary to what bigots like me might say, homophobic attacks are actually LOWER in Muslim-enriched areas of London. This is obviously because gays are flocking to those areas to have group hugs with Muslims, whilst weeping tears of joy that the centuries of persecution they’ve endured at the hands of evil white males are finally over.

            No wonder the bigots toppled Lutfur Rahman and his progressive feminist homophilic regime in Tower Hamlets. We’re scum. But you’ve rumbled us and Lutfur will be back to continue his fight for gay rights and female empowerment.

            • Shorne

              Well you obviously
              racked your brain to come up with this . For a start, I seldom read the
              Guardian, I find it’s like trying to read a Sunday paper during the week.

              I was a Probation Officer for 30 years, the last 13 of which I spent working in
              a prison with an office on the Wing where the Schedule 1 offenders were held (I’m
              using this term as more common ones seem to alert the moderators). I know a lot
              more about such offenders and domestic violence than you ever will and, via
              Court and Parole Reports, I have done more to ensure that such offenders stay
              locked up than you ever will. The vast majority of Schedule1 offenders in this
              country are, to borrow your phrase, ‘evil white males’ – 98%, it’s the same for
              domestic violence 86.6% (Source: CPS). The majority of Hate Crime (including
              homophobic attacks) perpetrators are white, male and under 25 (Source: Welsh
              Government research). The events in Rotherham
              and elsewhere were appalling the Police and, especially the Social Workers
              involved deserve to be sacked. At least the perpetrators are in prison thanks
              to a Prosecution led by a Muslim Treasury Counsel. One of the victims is on
              record as wishing that people wouldn’t keep mentioning the events as she
              thought it disrespectful. She was prompted to speak out because of Farage’s
              tactics for the local PCC election, which Labour won on the first count.
              However that won’t stop people like you who for years have been waiting for an
              opportunity to express your racist (and note I don’t spell it with a ‘w’) views
              and now it has come in the guise of being anti-Muslim. I had to listen to such
              cr*p when interviewing men convicted of hate crimes. Finally as someone who has
              subscribed to ‘Private Eye’ for about 20 years and dealt with others convicted
              of electoral fraud in London
              I was delighted to see Lutfur Rahman finally chucked out

              • Hippograd

                Oh, you were a probation officer. That’s a job requiring a powerful intellect and fierce independence of mind, isn’t it?

                The vast majority of Schedule1 offenders in this country are, to borrow your phrase, ‘evil white males’ – 98%, it’s the same for domestic violence 86.6% (Source: CPS). The majority of Hate Crime

                Yes, we must capitalize Sacred Terms, mustn’t we? After all, Hate Cwimes stwike at the very heart of what we are as a nation.

                (including homophobic attacks) perpetrators are white, male and under 25 (Source: Welsh Government research).

                Yes, dear. Statistics supplied by the CPS and the Welsh government are of course unimpeachable. We can also be sure that all crimes taking place in our vibrant ethnic communities are immediately reported to the police. FGM, for example. Evil white males are behind that. And so-called honour killings. Evil white males again.

                But hold on: look at this:

                Until the mid-nineties, the government’s British Crime Survey only asked ethnic minority groups whether they had been the victim of a crime which was racially motivated. Since then, all victims are asked and the picture has changed dramatically.

                The most recent analysis shows that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities (BME) said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. In the same period, 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim. Focusing on violent racial attacks, 49,000 BME were victims. Among whites, the number was 77,000.


                How odd. More whites suffered violent attacks than BME, even though BME are far fewer in number than whites. Of course, that’s from 2006, so the problem has obviously gone away and Wacism and Hate Cwime are once again directed solely at ethnics by evil white males.

                The events in Rotherham and elsewhere were appalling the Police and, especially the Social Workers involved deserve to be sacked. At least the perpetrators are in prison thanks to a Prosecution led by a Muslim Treasury Counsel.

                No, dear. A tiny fraction of the perpetrators are in prison. If you did some research on what happened there — and in Oxford — you’d know that hundreds of “men” were availing themselves of the child prostitutes in question. The same goes for Oldham and Rochdale. They prosecuted a token selection of the criminals. And the probation service is of course part of the same politically correct, ethnics-can-do-no-evil culture that led to the problem being ignored for decades. So thank heaven we had a Muslim there to tackle a problem caused by Muslims.

                Finally as someone who has subscribed to ‘Private Eye’ for about 20 years and dealt with others convicted of electoral fraud in London
                I was delighted to see Lutfur Rahman finally chucked out, especially as Livingstone and Galloway supported him.

                Oh, you wacist! Lutfur had the firm support of the Bangladeshi community. You obviously think they’d vote for a crook despite knowing he’s a crook.

                • Shorne

                  Well here we have a person who exhibits the traits of Right Man Syndrome in full cry,
                  ‘The need always to “be right” assumes supreme importance in the Right Man’s life . “To challenge any aspect of a Right Man ’s worldview,is, to him, an insufferable attack on his self-esteem, to be met with whatever vitriol might be required to still the threat . ”
                  You know nothing about the Probation Service but as a former member of it has disagreed with you don’t attempt reasoned argument but go straight to insults. ‘Sacred Terms’ is more or less meaningless, curious by the way that your speech impediment is reflected in your spelling. All you have to counter figures from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Welsh Office is your own ill-informed prejudice. You are also one of those paranoid types who hides his comment history, I suspect this would reveal that you citing evidence from the BBC is hypocritical. These are some quotes from the CSEW for 2011/12 and 2012/13 (not nearly 10 years old as the BBC figures are)
                  “Adults in non-White ethnic groups were much more likely to be victims of a racially motivated hate than White adults”
                  “Analysis of racially motivated hate crime by religion shows that Muslim adults were more likely to be a victim of racially motivated hate crime than other adults”
                  “The 2011/12 and 2012/13 CSEW showed that Muslim adults were the most likely to be a victim of religiously motivated hate crime ”
                  You allege “If you did some research on what happened there — and in Oxford — you’d know that hundreds of “men” were availing themselves of the child prostitutes in question. The same goes for Oldham and Rochdale. They prosecuted a token selection of the criminals. And the probation service is of course part of the same politically correct, ethnics-can-do-no-evil culture that led to the problem being ignored for decades.”
                  OK provide at least one link that proves these allegations and I don’t mean starting comments with ‘Everybody knows.’
                  Again you demonstrate that you know nothing about the Probation Service. I only became involved with offenders after they had been convicted by a Court for me considerations of their ethnicity were irrelevant I was required by law to deal with them in whichever way was appropriate.
                  “Lutfur had the firm support of the Bangladeshi community.” Like Azmal Hussein you mean?

                  Right normally your response will now be more insulting than previously…off you go.

                • Hippograd

                  Disqus is blocking my replies for some reason. Here are links proving how few of the criminals are actually being prosecuted and jailed:


                  “Scores of men”. Nine were actually convicted.


                  “60 Asian men.” Care to guess how many of them were prosecuted and convicted?


                  Hundreds. Again, care to guess how many were prosecuted and convicted?


                  125 men. And they didn’t even bother investigating.

                • Shorne

                  I see you’ve switched from commenting on hate crime as it might just be possible you are incorrect. Convictions are sometimes hard to get as some of the links you have cited prove. I do not deny the existence of paedophile (because that’s essentially what they are) grooming
                  gangs and their make up will reflect the demographics of the areas where they operate, as shown by the recently convicted white gangs in Bristol and Norwich as well as Asians in Rotherham etc. The fact remains that according to the latest figures I could find 81.9% of the male Schedule 1 offenders in English and Welsh prisons are White;9.9% are Black/Black British; 5.6% are Asian/Asian British. This roughly accords with the percentages in the population as a whole.
                  Sadly the cuts to Police budgets by the Coalition/Tory governments mean cases where the prospect of a conviction is weak will not get investigated. Cuts to Council budgets and hence Social Service Departments (many of the Rotherham victims were in Care) is another factor, as well as a degree of cowardice, and I have no hesitation using the word, regarding tackling reality

                • Hippograd

                  Disqus keep blocking my replies.

                  Convictions are sometimes hard to get as some of the links you have cited prove.

                  And they’re even harder to get when crimes are ignored for thirty years and more. If you’ve followed the links, you’ve seen that only a tiny fraction of the criminals have been jailed, let alone taken to court. Therefore the official statistics — dishonest anyway — do not reflect the reality, which is that one small part of the population is probably committing most of these crimes.

                  grooming gangs and their make up will reflect the demographics of the areas where they operate, as shown by the recently convicted white gangs in Bristol and Norwich as well as Asians in Rotherham etc.

                  There’s a problem with that sophisticated statistical argument. Rotherham is majority white. So is Oxford. So is Rochdale. Therefore most “groomers” from those places should be white. They aren’t. Why do you find it so difficult to accept that some groups commit these crimes at much higher rates than others?

                  There’s a big problem with gangs in white-majority Dublin and Glasgow, but “grooming” isn’t a big problem. Or hasn’t been. Ireland has experienced mass immigration from the third world, so it shouldn’t be long before they have Rotherhams of their own.

                • Shorne

                  I know I’m ultimately wasting my time because your ‘Most groomers are non-White’ agenda suits your overall political agenda. Anyway street grooming gangs are relatively rare and usually other factors are involved. Asians working in the minicab and fast food ‘night time’ economy is an example. As I know from 30 years experience (and you don’t) the vast majority of grooming takes place on-line and is carried out by White Males but you won’t find UKIP and similar talking about this. By the way here’s a couple of headlines for you;
                  “Special Report: Scotland’s online grooming epidemic.” Sunday Post
                  “A leading Irish Interpol officer has warned of a “huge increase” in online grooming” Irish Examiner

                • Hippograd

                  I know I’m ultimately wasting my time because your ‘Most groomers are non-White’ agenda suits your overall political agenda.

                  My political agenda is dictated by the facts. You think what happened in Rotherham was “appalling”. But you persist in calling the criminals “groomers”. That is not honest, but it is typical of the politically correct probation service.

                  Anyway street grooming gangs are relatively rare

                  Yes, which is why at least 1500 victims were identified in Rotherham and at least 300 in Oxford. The problem has been ignored for 30 years and more because of politically correct people like you, who are more scared of being called “wacist” than they are of admitting the truth.

                  and usually other factors are involved. Asians working in the minicab and fast food ‘night time’ economy is an example.

                  Again, when whites work in the “night time” economy they do not commit these crimes at the same rate. I’ve already pointed out that Glasgow has a big problem with gangs, but it has suffered nothing like what when on in Rotherham. And Rotherham is a much smaller place!

                  As I know from 30 years experience (and you don’t) the vast majority of grooming takes place on-line and is carried out by White Males but you won’t find UKIP and similar talking about this.

                  White “groomers” are typically individuals working in secret, because they know they don’t have the support of their “community”. Whereas Muslims work in gangs because it’s not disapproved of by their “community”. The MP Simon Danczuk:

                  Mr Danczuk said the elements of Pakistani political culture itself were partly to blame for the cover-up. “There are cultural issues around the way politics are done in the Asian community which have to change,” he said. He said he had personally come under pressure from Asian councillors and members of the community for speaking out as well as being warned by prominent figures in his party.

                  He pointed to the way in which two Muslim councillors in Rochdale had provided character references for one of the perpetrators of the Rochdale abuse. “Politics are done differently in Pakistan, it is a cultural difference we have imported some of that into some of these northern towns and cities and I think we have to face up to the fact that we can’t carry on doing politics like that.

                  “It is not healthy and the direct consequence is that we end up having to tackle issues like has been faced in Rotherham.”


                  By the way here’s a couple of headlines for you;
                  “Special Report: Scotland’s online grooming epidemic.” Sunday Post
                  “A leading Irish Interpol officer has warned of a “huge increase” in online grooming” Irish Examiner

                  Ah, the evil white male at it again. As I said: white “groomers” work in secret. Non-white “groomers” are brazen, as we saw in Cologne and as countless women experience for themselves every day all over Europe. When Muslims and blacks have the numbers, they behave as they do back home.

                • Shorne

                  Muslims work in gangs because it’s not disapproved of by their “community” Well as somebody once said ‘You are entitles to your own opinions but not your own facts.’
                  I call the offenders ‘groomers’ or ‘Schedule 1 offenders’ because other terms seem to upset the Moderators.
                  ‘Politically correct’ you try being PC when you are writing a report whose contents you may have to justify in person to a Judge, Prosecution or Parole Board Lawyer.
                  Your figures about proven and alleged victims relate to just two areas thus confirming that ‘street’ grooming gangs, as opposed to paedophile gangs, are rare.
                  ‘White “groomers” are typically individuals. No they are just called rings rather than gangs. This is from Professor Jay’s report into Rotherham; ‘paedophile rings rather than grooming gangs – “were reported as exclusively of white ethnicity”.
                  ‘Wacist’ odd how people like you seem to have this speech impediment that is reflected in your spelling.
                  ‘Muslims work in gangs because it’s not disapproved of by their “community”‘ The prosecution was led by a Muslim Treasury Counsel
                  Talking of White grooming this is a comment from a victim;
                  “If I was a year younger then I would have been the same age as some of the Rochdale grooming victims.” that was the young woman Simon Danczuk sent messages to which led to his suspension by the Labour Party.
                  The proportion of Asians in prison for offences like these matches the proportion of Asians in the community.
                  I have never denied denied the existence of isolated Asian grooming gangs and unlike you I have read numerous ‘Victim Impact Statements’. What I will always try and challenge is the way such crimes are used to eclipse the vast majority of similar offences carried out by White people. Your dismissive comment about ‘Evil white males’ is a prime example.

                • Hippograd

                  Again Disqus have blocked my attempted reply. I will try and post again. This censorship is ludicrous, because it means certain important topics can’t be addressed.

                  And I apologize for assuming your use of “grooming” was your own choice, rather than you trying to avoid Disqus’ censorship.

                • Hippograd

                  It is not true that all groups commit all crimes at the same rate. That is a PC lie. Some groups commit crimes like those in Cologne at much higher rates. Of course, white men commit them, but they are under-represented by their share of the population. For further proof (and if you can be bothered), please copy the encrypted text below and go to


                  Then select n=13 and it should turn back into English. (It has HTML tags in it, but should be easy to follow.)

                  Zhfyvzf jbex va tnatf orpnhfr vg’f abg qvfnccebirq bs ol gurve “pbzzhavgl”

                  Jryy nf fbzrobql bapr fnvq ‘Lbh ner ragvgyrq gb lbhe bja bcvavbaf ohg abg lbhe bja snpgf.’

                  Fvzba Qnapmhx ntnva:

                  V’ir nyfb unq snzvyl zrzoref pbzr gb zl fhetrel nfxvat zr gb znxr ercerfragngvbaf ba orunys bs oebguref jub unir orra sbhaq thvygl bs puvyq frk nohfr. Jura V ershfr, V serdhragyl erprvir n gvenqr bs nohfr. “Gurfr tveyf ner cebfgvghgrf,” bar zna fubhgrq ng zr, naq jnearq gung V jbhyq cnl n urnil cevpr sbe abg fhccbegvat uvz. Ur’q trg gubhfnaqf bs crbcyr abg gb ibgr sbe zr.


                  Naq vs lbh qb fbzr erfrnepu ba jung unccraf gb oblf va Nstunavfgna, Cnxvfgna naq bgure Zhfyvz pbhagevrf — tveyf ner ybpxrq njnl — lbh frr gung fbpvny qvfnccebiny sbe puvyq nohfr vf abg irel fgebat gurer.

                  V pnyy gur bssraqref ‘tebbzref’ be ‘Fpurqhyr 1 bssraqref’ orpnhfr bgure grezf frrz gb hcfrg gur Zbqrengbef.

                  Bx, V ncbybtvmr sbe nffhzvat bgurejvfr.

                  ‘Cbyvgvpnyyl pbeerpg’

                  Lbh gel orvat CP jura lbh ner jevgvat n ercbeg jubfr pbagragf lbh znl unir gb whfgvsl va crefba gb n Whqtr, Cebfrphgvba be Cnebyr Obneq Ynjlre.

                  Jung qb lbh zrna “gel”? Lbh UNIR gb or CP va gur cebongvba freivpr. Vs lbh cbvagrq bhg gung oynpxf ner uhtryl bire-ercerfragrq va pregnva glcrf bs pevzr, lbh’q or va i. frevbhf gebhoyr.

                  Lbhe svtherf nobhg cebira naq nyyrtrq ivpgvzf eryngr gb whfg gjb nernf guhf pbasvezvat gung ‘fgerrg’ tebbzvat tnatf, nf bccbfrq gb cnrqbcuvyr tnatf, ner ener.

                  Ntnva lbh qvfcynl lbhe vtabenapr. Gurl unir vtaberq gur ceboyrz sbe 30 lrnef naq vg vf zhpu zber jvqrfcernq guna crbcyr yvxr lbh erpbtavmr. Jura Avpx Tevssva gevrq gb fnl jung jnf unccravat va gur Ebgureunz nern (abg whfg Ebgureunz vgfrys), ur jnf chg ba gevny gjvpr. Gurer ner znal zber guna 500 ivpgvzf urer:

                  Puvyq frkhny rkcybvgngvba obzofuryy nf bssvpvny ercbeg erirnyf nyzbfg 500 ivpgvzf naq cbgragvny ivpgvzf va Ovezvatunz naq Jrfg Zvqynaqf


                  Naq naljnl, frrvat nf Ebgureunz naq Pbybtar ner znwbevgl-juvgr, gur ovttrfg ceboyrz gurer vf boivbhfyl bayvar tebbzvat ol juvgrf. Gung’f jurer lbhe ybtvp yrnqf.

                  Ab gurl ner whfg pnyyrq evatf engure guna tnatf. Guvf vf sebz Cebsrffbe Wnl’f ercbeg vagb Ebgureunz; ‘cnrqbcuvyr evatf engure guna tebbzvat tnatf – “jrer ercbegrq nf rkpyhfviryl bs juvgr rguavpvgl”.

                  Rkpyhfviryl? Jung ehoovfu. Ntnva lbh erirny lbhe vtabenapr:

                  Zheqref naq encrf tbvat haercbegrq va ab-tb mbarf sbe cbyvpr nf zvabevgl pbzzhavgvrf ynhapu bja whfgvpr flfgrzf

                  Ernq zber: uggc://jjj.qnvylznvy.pb.hx/arjf/negvpyr-2541635/Zheqref-encrf-tbvat-haercbegrq-ab-mbarf-cbyvpr-zvabevgl-pbzzhavgvrf-ynhapu-whfgvpr-flfgrzf.ugzy

                  V ercrng gur juvgr bssraqref ner glcvpnyyl vaqvivqhnyf. Naq jura juvgrf bcrengr va evatf, gurl qb hfhnyyl abg cbhe crgeby ba tveyf naq guerngra gb frg sver gb urz.

                  ‘Zhfyvzf jbex va tnatf orpnhfr vg’f abg qvfnccebirq bs ol gurve “pbzzhavgl”‘

                  Gur cebfrphgvba jnf yrq ol n Zhfyvz Gernfhel Pbhafry

                  Lbhe tenfc bs ybtvp vf irel jrnx. V qvq abg fnl nyy Zhfyvzf jvgubhg rkprcgvba fhccbeg be gnpvgyl pbaqbar gur tebbzvat. Naq ntnva lbh ner vtabenag bs gur snpgf:

                  V jnf vagvzvqngrq naq oenaqrq n enpvfg sbe oevatvat Ebpuqnyr nohfr tnat gb whfgvpr, fnlf cebfrphgbe. Anmve Nsmny jnf npphfrq bs ‘tvivat enpvfgf n fgvpx’ gb orng zvabevgvrf jvgu


                  Gung’f ubj zhpu uvf “pbzzhavgl” nccebirq bs uvf npgvba ntnvafg tebbzvat.

                  Gnyxvat bs Juvgr tebbzvat guvf vf n pbzzrag sebz n ivpgvz;

                  “Vs V jnf n lrne lbhatre gura V jbhyq unir orra gur fnzr ntr nf fbzr bs gur Ebpuqnyr tebbzvat ivpgvzf.” gung jnf gur lbhat jbzna Fvzba Qnapmhx frag zrffntrf gb juvpu yrq gb uvf fhfcrafvba ol gur Ynobhe Cnegl.

                  Fur jnfa’g n ivpgvz orpnhfr gurer jnf ab tebbzvat naq ab-bar unf fnvq bgurejvfr. Qnapmhx orunirq onqyl, ohg ur vf abg n frk-bssraqre.

                  Gur cebcbegvba bs Nfvnaf va cevfba sbe bssraprf yvxr gurfr zngpurf gur cebcbegvba bs Nfvnaf va gur pbzzhavgl.

                  V pnaabg frrz gb trg guebhtu gb lbh gung ZBFG bs gur pevzvanyf ner abg orvat cebfrphgrq.

                  V unir arire qravrq qravrq gur rkvfgrapr bs vfbyngrq Nfvna tebbzvat tnatf naq hayvxr lbh V unir ernq ahzrebhf ‘Ivpgvz Vzcnpg Fgngrzragf’. Gur ynfg FRE V jebgr orsber tbvat gb jbex va n cevfba jnf nobhg fhpu na bssraqre, V erpnyy fnlvat gung V gubhtug uvf bayl erterg jnf gung ur unq orra pnhtug. Uvf ynjlre unq n gnagehz naq vafvfgrq V nggraq Pbheg ohg gur Whqtr vtaberq uvz naq frag gur qrsraqnag qbja sbe 15 lrnef.

                  Jung V jvyy nyjnlf gel naq punyyratr vf gur jnl fhpu pevzrf ner hfrq gb rpyvcfr gur infg znwbevgl bs fvzvyne bssraprf pneevrq bhg ol Juvgr crbcyr. Lbhe qvfzvffvir, qvfcnentvat pbzzrag nobhg ‘Rivy juvgr znyrf’ vf n cevzr rknzcyr.

                  Gur infg znwbevgl bs gurfr pevzrf ner abg orvat pneevrq bhg ol juvgrf. Juvgrf ner haqre-ercerfragrq va gurfr pevzrf, aba-juvgrf ner znffviryl bire-ercerfragrq:

                  Gur cebgrfg va prageny Ybaqba unf orra pnyyrq ol gur Angvbany Nffrzoyl Ntnvafg Enpvfz, juvpu vf npphfvat gur cebtenzzr bs qrzbavfvat lbhat oynpx zra naq srrqvat fgrerbglcrf gung nffbpvngr gurz jvgu frkhny ivbyrapr. Ohg gur qbphzragnel, gb or oebnqpnfg gbzbeebj avtug nf cneg bs Punaary 4’f Qvfcngpurf frevrf, jnf nccynhqrq ol fbzr oynpx pbzzragngbef sbe uvtuyvtugvat n qvfgheovat curabzraba. Gurl fnvq vg jnf gvzr sbe n engvbany qrongr nobhg na hacnyngnoyr fhowrpg.

                  Gur cebtenzzr-znxref, Ynhery Cebqhpgvbaf, vqragvsvrq 14 pnfrf bs whiravyr tnat encr gevrq ol gur pbhegf fvapr 1996. Bs gurfr, avar jrer pneevrq bhg ol nyy-oynpx tnatf, vg fnlf, naq nyy ohg bar bs gur erfg ol zvkrq tebhcf gung vapyhqrq Nseb-Pnevoorna lbhguf.

                  Rvtugl-fvk cre prag bs gur 79 lbhguf punetrq jvgu encr be vaqrprag nffnhyg va gur 14 pnfrf jrer oynpx, erfrnepuref sbhaq. Va bar pnfr va Ovezvatunz, gur evatyrnqref jrer ntrq whfg 12 naq 13.

                  Gur znwbevgl bs ivpgvzf jrer oynpx tveyf.


                  Va snpg, juvgr tveyf ner bire-ercerfragrq nf ivpgvzf. Va rvgure pnfr, vtabevat gur snpg gung aba-juvgrf ner znffviryl bire-ercerfragrq va pevzrf yvxr guvf urycf gurz gb pbagvahr. Gung’f jul gur nohfr va Ebgureunz jrag ba sbe fb ybat: orpnhfr bs gur CP whfgvpr flfgrz, vapyhqvat gur cebongvba freivpr.

  • SunnyD

    Played the Space Oddity album to sleep last night with the missus (one who grew up with Bowie’s influence) and she remarked “just goes to show that money can’t buy you everything” to which I added “but at least it allowed him a way to make his own mark upon his life” – moved to tears for a reason I can’t quite fathom. I was reminded of a scene in “Walking the Himalayas” the previous night, in which I commented on the pilgrims en route to the Ganges: “when religion produces people of peace, living simple but good lives, then I’m all for it” – I honestly wonder sometimes if, living the western/secular lifestyle was the best template, and whether living as such would produce such a spectacle of (seemingly) good, well-intentioned individuals/groups, David Bowie struck me as one who kind of bridged the gap

  • Alison Houston

    When they announced his death on radio 3 yesterday morning I thought, “well they can’t mean that sleazy, old rocker they must be referring to some Wagnerian bass baritone I haven’t heard of.” If only they had been his dignified death might have meant the rest of the day on both R3 and R4 wasn’t ruined by the moronic, endless coverage. Your sort were appalled by the outpourings of public grief when Princess Diana died, but at least we just had dignified music all day. It’s different when it’s some ancient, decadent old sleaze ball though, and yet the first thing everyone I met in real life said yesterday was “why are they dedicating all this airtime and news coverage to this David Bowie?”

    • SunnyD

      what a lovely insight into your world that was – thank you for sharing. (reminds me of a saying a former employer once had stencilled onto an interior wall: ‘Listen to what they say about others, and you will know what they say about you’)

      • Alison Houston

        Some sleazy rocker’s dead,
        Wake up and show your grief,
        Take selfies of your tears.
        Describe his talent which you loved,
        Post pictures, show your reverence.
        And instead of reporting worthwhile news
        Air you worthless views
        On all he did.
        Some sleazy rocker’s dead,
        So patronise the public
        Assume that they are thick
        And use an unconvincing fig leaf
        To cover up his years
        Of intentional, self abusive decadence,
        Label it original, creative and artistic.
        Some sleazy rocker’s dead,
        So drive us round the bend
        See how far you can push it,
        All bloody day?
        Say there was great dignity in death,
        Describe his last actions, his last breath
        And pretend that successful men are never cynical.
        But as they are
        Then there’s no harm
        In using their grey and dreary end
        As a vehicle
        To enhance your own careers.

        • SunnyD

          thank you for sharing again – poignant words

        • Edward

          Oh dear .

        • Gilbert White

          Actually Mccartney could use this at the Memorial Gig?

      • Sue Smith

        Apposite. Another word for all that is “projection”!!

        • SunnyD

          Thanks, you inspired me to look up the word when you used it with such effect recently. Although you used the word on its own to better effect. 🙂

    • David R

      Yes it’s a mystery. Why on earth would a radio station devote an entire day to celebrating an artist who changed the face of music, was massively influential, remained hugely respected and whose work was loved by several generations of fans? I just can’t get my head around it.

      • Sue Smith

        Those who can, do. Those who can’t become bitter and twisted and write pseudo-poetic vitriol which tells us more about them than the subject.

        Ah, the unalloyed joys of being a literature MA!! (PS: I’m a Ma and a MA!)

  • KolbesD

    Good article. He showed dignity in dying and appeared to be a genuine searcher for the Truth. Like all of us who’ve lived lives of transgression and sin, I just hope he found Christ by the end and so could receive His abundant mercy.

  • Shorne

    ‘ nothing in his life Became him like the leaving it’

    Macbeth Act 1 Sc.4

  • Charl Adams

    Anonymity is overrated. Bowie understood the boundaries between public and private. And he chose to do it his way, not someone else’s. He was never a pack animal. During an interview on BBC in 2000 he was asked how he felt about the ‘music industry’. He replied that he never was part of the so-called music industry. I get it. He did it his way. He was authentic yet very giving of his trade and craft. Deep down he was a shy person that hid his discomfort with celebritihood by taking on a different persona ie Ziggy Stardust, when he had something to say or sing about. The opposite is also OK. Don’t judge, just love….

  • Karen

    What a nice tribute and great acknowledgment. I wish we could return to “those days” that Bowie mantained.

  • trobrianders

    His dignified death offers yet more proof, if more were needed, that he was a gentleman and a scholar above all else. The kind western civilisation doesn’t value much anymore.

  • Bahma Sivasubramaniam

    You left out Freddy Mercury.

  • Callipygian

    Here’s to David Bowie. I was listening to ‘Disco Inferno’ and Peter Tosh’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’, but let’s bring out one of Bowie’s best. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. It spoke to me once. I had love and yet I didn’t. It’s always been that way, really.

  • Gilbert White

    Blarnystone psychological babble?

  • Nite Lite

    Davids eclectic style of music often crossed over to many genres so to put him mainly in a “POP” category just doesn’t fit. If you never had the chance to see him live…your massive loss. Treat yourself to one on his concerts online. He will rock you, get you swaying and bouncing. What a total class act…my deepest condolences to his beautiful family.

  • Callipygian

    meaning his death feels as significant as Elvis Presley’s in 1977
    No, it doesn’t.

    • Hamburger

      I was so much younger then.

    • Edward

      Yes it does .

      • Callipygian

        No, because beyond the mere curiosity of Big Celebrity Bites It, you have to be a fan to feel that an era has passed. Whereas I was interested in Elvis despite not being a fan of his music.

        • Sue Smith

          If people themselves feel that this is bigger than the death of Elvis (who often sang out of tune, btw) then that’s for THEM to decide.

          Stop trying to judge other peoples’ experiences.

          • Callipygian

            Just expressing my thoughts, like everyone else. But who knows, maybe you’ll get some upvotes.

  • Miss Floribunda Rose

    “Neither death nor the sun can be looked at steadily”. (La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665)

    • Callipygian

      I looked at it steadily. I was looking my father-in-law in the face as I sat beside him and he took his last breaths.

      Sigh. Why are people so full of it?

      • Miss Floribunda Rose

        You are very literal-minded.

        • Callipygian

          No, I’m very everything, darlin’. But don’t give me airy-fairies about death when I have looked it in the face. And not just that: I sleep every night in the exact place where he died.

          • Antharis

            Looking at someone else’s death doesn’t even remotely compare to your own.
            BTW disputing the significance of someone’s death and establishing comparisons between their legacy and someone else’s is in extremely poor taste.

            • Callipygian

              Taste schmaste. Philosophers will discuss anything. Death is what it is, and I have more direct experience of it than most do. Thus to me it is slightly less mysterious.

          • Sue Smith

            And that doesn’t make you unique.

            • Callipygian

              No, it’s other things that make me unique : )

    • Hamburger

      He did not mean that everyone should look at it.

    • Sue Smith

      An entirely predictable aphorism when the life expectancy was about 40 years of age!!

  • Sue Smith

    Great article. Thanks.

  • RecruitingANIMAL

    I’m assuming that the author was alive when Elvis died so I’m surprised that he said this feels just as significant. To fans, maybe. But Elvis was a historic phenomenon. He was first rock and roll star. Wasn’t he?

    Also, whose death is covered in detail? Sometimes you hear that a public personality is ill but usually we’re surprised when their deaths are announced. I think Steve Jobs’ illness was well-known but I don’t think it was in a bad way. He was still working and succession was an issue.

    I suspect that Brendan is just assuming that celebrity reporting dwells on ill celebrities a lot but I don’t think it does.

    • Callipygian

      Completely agree about Elvis. Bowie will be forgotten next week. He was a strange man and a stranger songwriter, and young people don’t care about anything more than their current flatterers, anyway.

      • Catherine Edmends

        wrong on so many levels

  • Janet Stephenson-macfarlane

    Less is more!

  • Theodore Trout

    All the majesty of a city landscape

    All the soaring days of our lives

    All the concrete dreams in my minds eye

    All the joy I see through these architects eyes

  • Kyle P. Edmonds, MD

    I find it ironic that, in honoring Mr. Bowie’s decision to stay private, such scorn is cast on those who make the choice to share their experience. Acceptance must go both ways.

    • polidorisghost

      Well I’m not going to cast scorn on the dying, but we seem to have forgotten that, ultimately, we die alone and we must accept that fact. It’s why we invented religion.

      • Kyle P. Edmonds, MD

        I think you mistake our modern, western, closeted version of death for how it’s always been. Just look at the public aspects of death in Victorian times or in the Hospices de Beaune or the Anga people in Papua New Guinea today. Some people and cultures “die alone” and others do not. Both are acceptable.

        • Sue Smith

          There’s a stark scene in “Sons and Lovers” where Paul’s father lies in his coffin in the front room of their little miner’s cottage.

      • Miss Floribunda Rose

        Montaigne said that it is better to die alone. I agree.

    • ZX10

      Really so everyone can have their piece of him even if they never earned it and he never gave it ? hmm

      • Kyle P. Edmonds, MD

        I think that you’ve misread my comment. I respect anyone’s right to a private death just as I respect anyone’s right to a public death. Respect for one does not preclude respect for the other.

  • Dunhillbabe

    It is astounding in this day and age that no one who had no right to know, knew . He was a class act. Today I feel like part of my teenage years, schoolday memories have been stolen … Very sad .. I’d only say in regard to Angeline Jolie for example, I think her decision to go public was admirable, inasmuch as bringing not just awareness of the condition, but that a woman can still be beautiful, and retain ‘all’ her femininity notwithstanding the aggressive, radical surgery she underwent . In a beauty/ body image obsessed world, that is a powerful message, and possibly a lifesaver.

  • Tamerlane

    I’m sorry for him and his family on a personal level and I don’t doubt he was a decent chap. But really…a genius? C’mon. He’s a Frank Zappa – adored by genuine fans, mock adored by others because they think they should adore him and forgotten in a decade by everyone else. How many of those ‘mourning’ really played his music regularly?

    • Dunhillbabe

      Yes, really .

    • Theodore Trout

      All the time, since about 1975.

    • Mow_the_Grass

      Twatter/F**kbook and blogs like these – give any imbecile the opportunity to play pretend.
      Lived in the UK in the early seventies during his Ziggy Stardust days – but Dylan/Santana/James Taylor/Joni Mitchell etc etc concerts were the musicians we wanted to see.
      Having said that – RIP Bowie.

      • Tom Burroughes

        I was too young to hear Dylan in his prime. Wished I could have heard Santana back when.

        Joni Mitchell isn’t getting any younger. Court and Spark is her best album, in my ‘umble view.

        • Mow_the_Grass

          Saw Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall.
          Saw Santana at the Odeon Hammersmith – with the original drummer.
          Saw Taylor at that venue across the river.
          Not a brit so relying on memory from way back.
          btw- Dylan was pissed with his previous reception in UK – jammed with The Band – Robertson/Helm and the rest.

    • anka

      I did.

    • ADW

      Frank Zappa? Come on. Bowie composed and played masterful three minute pop songs. How many millions of others try and do the same and fall short? Some novelty stuff disappears as quickly as it arrives; not all Bowie’s personas were memorable or lasted long, but its astonishing how many people still know of Ziggy Stardust and how well the Bowie songs have stood the test of time.

      • Tom Burroughes

        Well said

      • Miss Misanthropist

        The amount of young young girls who discovered and still love Bowie are amazing. I mean 16-20 year olds all screaming and crying via internet because they loved him. He’s never going to die 30 years from now it’ll still be huge, and people will still be listening to him.

    • Tom Burroughes

      About at least once or twice a month, ranging from the 70s stuff to the later material. I am in my late 40s so I play a lot of material that I grew up listening to, as well as some newer material. Although I draw the line at rap, Justin Bieber and anything mentored by Simon Cowell.

      I learned that a guy who played with Bowie was no less than the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Bowie worked with the greatest.

      The word “genius” is certainly over-used, but in the area he worked in, Bowie deserves the label. His music will endure as long as pop does, in the same way as the best of Lennon, Dylan, etc, endures.

      Funnily enough, I thought of Zappa yesterday. I loved a lot of his stuff and of course, he annoyed a lot of the people out there who need to be annoyed.

      • Lithe Lassie

        Bowie’s music will only endure if those of us who knew it, in his prime, continue sharing the sounds and poetry. I have kids who barely know him, my fault, because I stopped listening to his music, not because I stopped liking it, but didn’t have time to spend listening to music.
        Great contemporary musicians will only stay in our consciousness if we carry their music legacy forward.

  • Ronovitch

    Some people choose to go public with their illnesses, some prefer privacy: there’s dignity and courage in any approach to dealing with suffering……The offensive part is sanctimonious journalists with columns to fill using the tragic death of a wonderful man to point score, and to try to show off how clever they are.

  • pretty peggy

    All this and a GSOH

  • WFC

    Excellent article Brendan.

    He also refused to be drawn into the whole “cleb” scene during his lifetime. No rent’a’quote he! What were his views on Cameron/Milliband/the election result/Trident/whatever? Nobody knows. He didn’t say.

    What he did do, however, is leave some wonderful and innovative music for people to enjoy for years to come.

    Not a bad legacy.

  • Alee Sun

    This article was so well-written and it made me cry. Unfortunately though, some folks have illnesses that aren’t as recognized as cancer. I have been suffering profusely for 3 years from a syndrome caused by benzodiazepines use (taken as prescribed). I don’t have the luxury of keeping my illness private because there’s no recognition of it in the medical world which is really dangerous and life-threatening for sufferers. So while I completely respect this sentiment for well-known illness with full backing from the medical industry– others should not stay silent.

    RIP David Bowie. Broke my heart today.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    The sanctity of private life? Someone should tell the government. Bowie is to be commended.

  • TR

    As someone with cancer who decided to go public, I can’t agree with what’s said here. Am I undignified because I chose to tell the world? Bowie knew the world would mourn his death whether he pre-warned it or not. That’s not the case for the thousands of mortals who die each and every day from disease. Was Stephen Sutton undignifed? He shared his story, and looked what it achieved. The strange thing is that before my diagnosis I would have agreed with everything said in this article. I was cynical, I didn’t care what impact my opinion had on others. I didn’t care if I judged people I’d never met. It’s amazing how illness can give you a new-found sense of perspective. Dignity isn’t about whether you choose to share your illness or not – it’s about how you carry yourself, and how you treat others. I know mine is very much in tact.

    • WFC

      Why do you think that this article is about you?

      You made a decision. This article is about somebody else who made a different decision.

      That doesn’t mean that what you decided, in your particular circumstances, is wrong.

      • Ronovitch

        You clearly haven’t read the article – it specifically admonishes those who choose to ‘go public’ with their illnesses. Yes, like it’s all some kind of macabre game…..TR has offered an opposing opinion based on his experiences. Show him/her some respect.

        • WFC

          It admonishes modern “celeb” culture.

          It neither addresses, nor (almost certainly) knows TR.

          This is just whataboutery.

          • Ronovitch

            What a deeply unpleasant, vicious person you are. The article admonishes “one of the most powerful and nauseating trends of our era: the victim-therapeutic complex which demands that we keep nothing private”…..

            You might consider the “we” to solely refer to your favourite pop star. Perhaps you’re obsessed with “famous” people, but that’s not what the article says at all: the ‘we’ could just as easily refer to the person who writes a book or a blog about their cancer, the dying person who is used as a case study in a newspaper or on TV, the person who tells all his colleagues at work that he’s very ill rather than just slipping off to “die privately”……..

            TR is just as entitled to “go public” with his medical condition as your detested celebrities, but that doesn’t make him any more worthy of your crass prejudice….

            Brendan O’Neill clearly thinks he’s very clever coming up with terms like “victim-therapeutic complex” for the way people cope with intense pain and the imminent possibility of death, but personally I think everybody in such a position deserves a bit of compassion and support, “celeb” or not.

          • Ronovitch

            And if you’d bothered to read the article properly, you’d have seen O’Neill’s link to those who really irritate him: “Not content with Facebooking OUR every foible, Instagramming the births of our children and live-tweeting our daily lives, more and more of US are now making a public spectacle of dying. We’re inviting strangers not merely to ‘like’ expertly filtered photos of our breakfasts, but to admire the way we peg out. Nothing better captures the death of privacy than this publicisation of death.”

            • Mr B J Mann

              The relevant words are spectacle and strangers.

              It’s not about whether to keep cancer secret from your nearest and dearest to spare them the pa pa sharing your suffering, or telling them the truth to spare the the shock of you dying.

              It’s not about allowing the details to be used as a case study, or to raise funds for charity.

              It’s about averything being turned into a public SPECTACLE for STRANGERS, and not for selfless, altruistic reasons, not even to share the burden and lighten the load, but because EVERYTHING has to be “shared”, especially “feelings”, with total strangers.

              And that is saying nothing about people who share, even those who share with strangers, for other reasons.

      • TR

        It’s not about me – but that doesn’t mean I can’t use my own experiences to comment and give my opinion on the article. The reply you’ve already received from Ronovitch sums it up.

        • WFC

          How does your experience change his decision?

    • Sue Smith

      Your penultimate sentence is on the mark. I’m sorry that you have cancer – it’s dreadful – and I hope you enjoy a quick recovery and get back to good health.

      But, honestly, I think what Brendan is driving at is the culture of victimhood – which seems to extend to public celebrities and their “bravery” for dealing with things we all know about and silently endure. Because of your lack of celebrity you have also endured ‘silently’, despite telling friends and relatives. It just isn’t on the same dimension.

    • Johnnymcevoy

      Intact………..please. I hope you don’t recover and can move into your next creative phase without too much suffering.

      • TR

        Cheers, Johnny. Thanks for your kind words… Let’s hope I hang around long enough to one day meet you in person!

  • Bogan

    To be fair, illness is not a performance and people have their own problems. When I am on my last legs, the last thing I’ll need is a random celebrity coming alongside the hospital bed to take an ‘I do work for charidy’ selfie for Instagram… Or, even worse, an appearance as ‘hapless member of the public who sadly copped for it later that night, etc’ in a reality television show.

  • Jes79a

    I think you’ve made a fair point made in a well written article Brendan, but in this era of social media with Twitter and Facebook isn’t it pretty difficult to maintain privacy, particularly if you’re in the public eye? Thankfully Bowie was good at handling the media and knew how to maintain his own privacy right to the end.

  • IvanKaramasov

    Bowie died with as he lived: gracefully.

    • polidorisghost

      And with dignity.

      • Sue Smith

        It certainly appears to be that way. He was never coarse or vulgar either. Didn’t need to be. (Unlike the embarrassing Ricky Gervais.)

        • Miss Misanthropist

          Depends what you define as vulgar lol what i mean is the man did have his cussing down to a good science but as for being on purpose vulgar like Gervais no he wasn’t like that, he did however have some pretty biting comments when interviewers got rude with him, but I believe that was justified and part of his charm

        • Richard McWolff

          Bowie did a skit with Gervais. He doesn’t mind being the brunt of a joke and David did his part quite well!

        • Dana

          Except for the part where he did a couple underage girls.

          I may buy his music at this point now that it’ll support his daughter and not him. I’m over rewarding people for doing horrible things (even if the girls in question are now grown women and don’t regret it–anyone who actually has a daughter should feel disturbed), even if I think they were geniuses. So many geniuses never have an outlet to prove their worth, and I’m supposed to give a medal, or at least my money, to a guy who took advantage of his position to do wrong? I don’t think so.

  • Maureen Fisher

    Thanks Brendan. What a contrast to the bitter and twisted old bint JB’s “contribution” elsewhere.

    • ZX10

      bitter and twisted old bint?
      Yes well burying your son and then having to put up with abuse like yours can have that effect on some !

      • Maureen Fisher

        If only she’d expressed similar sympathy back in 1999 in her article in the Guardian. Look it up for yourself. I won’t bother quoting it here.

      • David S

        She wouldn’t have to put up with the abuse if she didn’t earn a living ranting and being obnoxious to people.

  • The Masked Marvel

    If other artists learn anything from Bowie’s legacy, let it be his silence on politics and virtue signaling and not using his celebrity status to push some pet ideology.

    • Atlas

      All the more poignant after the BBC let some pathetic musical act engage in their childish protest against a policy they don’t even understand.

      • Shorne

        Oh look it’s the Ayn Randlette again.

    • Peter Simple

      Although I was only ever briefly and in my youth a “fan” of Bowie, one thing always struck me about him and gave me cause to admire him. I have no idea what his opinions on “global warming”, capitalism, socialism, the Amazonian rain-forest, Margaret Thatcher, the nationalisation (or otherwise) of the railways and a myriad of other subjects were. He kept them to himself and, in doing so, gave an example which many less talented people would do well to follow.

      • Theodore Trout

        Then again he didn’t wast any effort spelling things out for nitwits.

      • brookish

        He actually signed an appeal in favor of the Paris climate agreement urging leaders to aggressively adopt policies to halt global warming just last month

        • Peter Simple

          Did he, indeed? I didn’t know that. Thank you for the information. My point was that, unlike “Bono”, “Sting”, et al, he didn’t seem to make a song and dance about advertising his opinions to the world.

          • Fritz123

            Yes, he was no poseur. He was allways on the beat.

    • iMutti

      Marvel, stay with us.

    • Sue Smith


    • DellerboyNZ

      Benedict Cumberbatch please note.

      • Jingleballix

        Russell Brand


        Ben Affleck

        Emma Thompson

        Paul O’Grady (who still has’n’t emigrated yet!)

        Sanctimonious, nauseating, egotistical f-wits all……..

        • DellerboyNZ

          Bob Geldorf (has he taken in his refugees yet?)

          • Sue Smith

            He can’t seem to see beyond the haze of his own addictions, let’s say.

          • Jingleballix

            ………another one……..the names of these c**** seems to begin with ‘B’!!

    • Alison Houston

      Or perhaps they could follow his example and praise Adolf Hitler, and claim as Bowie did that he (Hitler) was the first rock star, that would make a refreshing change.

    • Dana

      I actually prefer to know what celebrities believe so I can decide where to spend my entertainment dollars. They can believe what they like, but if I have reason to believe they completely disrespect what I hold dear, I don’t see why I should help pay their salary. It’s no different than an American boss firing an employee for having differing views–and in our “employment at will” environment he will get away with it.

      But if you really don’t like celebs speaking up then you can do the same, you know?

      • The Masked Marvel

        Non sequitur. I’m not the one with a ready bully pulpit or undue influence.

  • jeremy Morfey

    He spent his career creating preposterous fantasy personae, an actor stretching the boundaries of what it is to be human. He reminds me most of Sir John Hurt, who is unexcelled at portraying depravity – his Caligula could have been modelled on one of Bowie’s creations that went wrong.

    So at the end, David Bowie double-bluffed us all by creating the persona of a dying man. Not just dying, but trembling with rigor mortis – a terrifying undead performance worthy of a horror film, and it was all perfectly in character that we could not make the distinction between fantasy and reality. Not even the Death List saw it coming, and their list of fifty celebrities likely to die in 2016 was compiled and published less than a fortnight ago.

    Precisely what the man was about.

    • Sue Smith

      I wonder if I’m on the “death list”? I mean, I might have to change my Will.

  • Iain Hall

    A truly great and dignified article Brendan

  • jim

    Agreed. It was a classy death.He went out as he lived: with some style .Of course he made an event of it too.He staged it very nicely.

    • CalUKGR

      Yes, and I think the essential takeaway is that Bowie, if he ‘died in public’ at all, at least had the good manners and personal dignity to do it on his own terms – essentially enigmatic until the end. His last video, ‘Lazarus’, says it all: ‘I am dying, it will be soon’ and ends with him walking backwards into the wardrobe of our imagination, from whence he first sprang all those years ago. Job done. Well played, David Bowie.

      • Tom Burroughes

        Good point

  • flying dragon

    Hear, hear.

    Oddly, I realised that my own reaction today was almost identical to that of my mother to the news of Elvis’s death some 40 years ago. My feelings – of genuine, inexplicable loss – were those that she articulated then. A new experience for me, given that I knew him not.