Heroes – Ben Macintyre, Times, Oct 2nd


Bowie died 5 years ago.

The lost album Toy, songs from past present and posthumous, is now available.

In 1977, Bowie lived in West Berlin with Iggy Pop. He recorded Heroes, his most frequently downloaded song. ‘He was inspired by looking out of the studio window and seeing two lovers embrace beneath the machinegun watchtowers.’ Symbols of Germany’s ’emotional and political gulf created by the wall.’ Each verse ends with ‘nothing can keep us together.’

There is hope ‘But we could be safer, just for one day.’

10 years later, when political change was in the air, he featured in a three day concert in front of the Riechstag. Thousands of East Berliners crowded as close to the wall as they could. Bowie said it felt like a double concert, hearing them cheering and singing from the other side. The police overreacted violently.

The concert and reaction helped ‘crystallise popular resistance’ supporting political and economic unrest which had been present for decades.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.

Is there a link between this and the concert and the song? Bowie was ever questioning and undermining authority, but music tends to reflect change rather than initiate. Still a challenging character.

‘His ideas would find the most powerful and lasting impression in a song about love thwarted by totalitarianism.’ He asks the question ‘can ordinary people bring about great changes?’ I guess they would no longer be ordinary.

We can be heroes, just for one day.

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