David Bowie

It is now the second day after the announced death of David Bowie at the age of 69 from liver cancer and the media and social media frenzy continues unabated, not surprising given his iconic status. Equally unsurprising there has been little if any reference to his flirtation with fascism in the mid 70s, none in the broadcast media a far as I can tell and only a passing reference in a couple of articles in the broadsheet press. But for my generation David Bowie had significant political impact in the 70s when he expressed the view that Hitler was the first rock star and Britain needed “an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up” in an interview with Playboy magazine (see article on this in the The Music Unions social history web site – David Bowie’s “Nazi” salute). It was this and the more virulent racist tirade of Eric Clapton that led to the Rock Against Racism movement and led to many of us getting involved in the Anti-Nazi League. Unlike Clapton, Bowie did distance himself from his remarks as early as 1977 claiming his flirtation with fascism was a result of his being “out of my mind, totally, completely crazed” at the time. Much more recently he has been praised for his anti-racism stance, for instance when he berated MTV for discrimination against black artists http://usuncut.com/…/bowie-remembered-legendary-music-effo…/ For over 40 years I have been a fan of his music but always a little ambivalent about the man. The dark days in the 70s of the National Front can’t be ignored. Hopefully Bowie’s legacy on the political front will not just be as an instigator of the the anti-Nazi moment but as an influential anti-racist.

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