Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Bowie's my hero (and not just for one day)

David Bowie
David Bowie

Wellington College headmaster Anthony Seldon says that teens' heads are filled with little but celebs like Katie Price and exam results. Instead, we should be building character for them, he argues.

True. Who can disagree with "building character"?

But not so fast. Isn't Mr Seldon's cry that of elders down the ages? Teenagers? Heads filled with rubbish!

There I was, murmuring in agreement with Mr Seldon, when I suddenly remembered my youthful heroes - to my shame nary a scientist, great writer or moral philosopher among them. No, to name a few, we have Kate Bush, Madonna, Suzanne Vega, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Jason Donovan.

So, closing one eye and seeing the worst of things, that's an oddball posho, a media junkie in a pointy bra, an overly serious folkie, a gender-bender, a bisexual party guy and Jason Donovan.

But the point is we don't see our heroes with one eye closed.

Yes, to some Katie Price might be Queen Chav but for other young girls she's also a business woman who's turned herself into a hugely successful brand by making the most of what life has given her. (In fact she's even increased what life has given her.) She's a survivor who has fought like a tigress on behalf of her disabled son.

In life, our virtues and vices are closely intertwined. And most youngsters grow out of heroes - or rather rebuild different pantheons on which to comment on their life.

I couldn't have got through exams without music. All those endless hours of revision in my bedroom would have been unbearable without Freddie and Kate and Madonna et al.

And it wasn't just about the songs. Freddie taught me about courage, dignity and style. Madonna was a game-changer for young women. Kate's lyrics made me think about everything from nuclear war to - would you believe it! - the philosopher Wilhelm Reich.

As for girls being obsessed with exams? Surely that's a good thing that will get the approval of every parent?

To reach for another song of my youth ... hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.

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