Annie Lennox: “On the 10th of January this year, the world was stunned and shaken by the news that David Bowie had suddenly passed away. I suspect that everyone is still trying to process this sadly unexpected event. Even if they didn’t know him personally, many people must feel as if things will never be quite the same again. He had that special kind of significance.
“For me, it’s almost impossible to mention Bowie’s name in the past tense. Everything he represented as an artist was, and always will be, vital and incredibly present. As a cutting-edge artistic genius, he continues to live on through his music. David Bowie is deeply embedded in the heart of British culture, as a fixture within our collective inner psyche, influencing every decade from the moment he first appeared on the airwaves with ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969 right up to the present day.
“Like the miraculous moon landing that inspired the song, he drew us away from our suburban lives, expanding our horizons, turning everything on its head into gloriously subversive technicolour. As an innovative writer, performer and rock star, there was no one and nothing else like him. He was truly unique: a quintessential visionary, pushing the limits of his shape-shifting persona. The ultimate iconoclast – gracious, dangerous and legendary. The legacy of his extraordinary sound and vision will be loved and revered for as long as the earth still spins.
“The Brits Icon Award is only presented to unparalleled artists whose writing, recording and performance set them apart as having made a lasting impact on the nation’s culture, recognising the very highest level of British music achievement. To accept the award, I’d now like to invite David’s dear friend Gary Oldman to the stage.”
Gary Oldman: “We are all coming to terms with the magnitude of David’s passing. The Jones family lost a husband and a father. Those closest to David lost a dear friend and the world lost a man, an artist of transcendent talent. As Annie so gracefully said, David’s contribution, his influence on popular music – on culture itself – has no equal. He was the very definition, the living embodiment of that singular word, ‘icon’. I am so deeply touched and honoured to be here tonight to accept this award for David and his family.
“In recent years David spoke sparingly about music and his process, but in one of these rare instances he graciously and eloquently expounded, ‘Music has given me over 40 years of extraordinary experiences. I can’t say that life’s pains or more tragic episodes have been diminished because of it, but it has allowed me so many moments of companionship when I have been lonely, and a sublime means of communication when I have wanted to touch people. It has been both my doorway of perception and the house that I live in.’
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“Over his career David challenged and changed our understanding of the medium. Whether in music or in life he emphasised originality, experimentation, exploration, and in his very unique way he also reminded us to never take ourselves too seriously.
“David was funny. He was funny, hilariously so, and the laughs were many and massive and I shall miss them. A related story: a few years ago we were standing on a street corner and he was approached by this big fella – rocker type, long hair, leather-clad – and he offered up this piece of paper for David’s autograph. David signed the piece of paper and as the fella walked away he said, ‘Well he’s going to be disappointed’ – I said, ‘Why?’ – he said, ‘Cause I just signed it Gary Oldman.’
“His outlook was always positive and I never once heard him complain. I can share with you that David faced his illness with enormous courage and dignity and grace, and customary humour, even in dire circumstances. When he wrote to tell me the bad news that he had cancer, he added, ‘The good news is, I’ve got my cheekbones back’.
“He was the sweetest soul ever, with the best cheekbones, until it was done. David, you were mortal, but your potential was superhuman and your remarkable music is living on. We love you and we thank you.”