I woke up on Sunday, checked my Facebook as usual and heard the news that Stephen Gately had died after a night out in Majorca. Just like Heath Ledger what seems like an age ago, he was young, too young, and his death a complete shock. It's always the ones you least suspect, right? This year has been a bad one for celebrity deaths although I can't honestly say that I've been personally affected or deeply shacked by one until now. I can't say that I was particularly shocked by the death of Micheal Jackson, suprised yes, but not shocked. Although I had no previous knowledge of the extent of his drug use when the facts came to light they didn't seem anything outlandish about them. He was a troubled soul, constantly chasing the dream with the aid of powerful anesthetics and copious amounts of pescription drugs. Was it really any suprise that his heart gave out? Nor can I say that I had ever been anymore than a casual listener of Jackson's songs. But Stephen Gately's death makes no sense, has no place in popstar infamy, his life a million miles away from the car crash that Jackson's was. I suppose the biggest difference in my reaction is the fact that I was a fan. Not just someone who didn't turn the radio off if a Boyzone song came on but someone who actively persued and participated in the franchise. Music is a huge part of my life, probably the biggest, the thing that I hold the most dear and that stirs a passion in me quite unlike anything else and Boyzone were the start of that. My first real love. My first band. Although I enjoyed their music, I was a little too young to fully appreciate Take That, although even now I can remember vividly crying my eyes out in a caravan in Skegness when Robbie Williams left. But Boyzone were the sound of my childhood. Their albums some of the first cassettes that I brought. Their singles some of the first I remember watching on Top of the Pops. Their posters the first to adorn my bedroom walls. Walls that would later be covered over with picture representatives of the various stages of an adolecense journey through to musical maturity, all traces of my musical past clumsily hidden from view. I can remember visiting my elder sister at university and singing 'Father and Son' with her room mates. I can remember how much I adored her and how all the songs on 'Said and Done' seemed to be about her. I can remember the dance to 'Love Me For A Reason' and, of course, being completely convinced that Ronan Keating would, somehow, some day, end up marrying me. But prehaps most intensely, I remember Stephen Gately coming out to the press.
I remember even then being confused as to why it was such a big deal. I'm not sure if I ever knew anyone before then that was gay but even as a young child I didn't seem to have the same reaction to the news as my friends. Of course, I was too young then to even be thinking of my own sexuality, let alone be curious about it, but even then I was unfazed by the idea of people loving people of the same sex. It would be several years until I heard of a band called Placebo, a gender blurring creature in a dress called Brian Molko and the immediate thought that I didn't care what he happened to be, boy or girl, I just fancied him. But I think a part of my acceptence of my own bisexuality stems from that day I heard about Stephen Gately 'fancying men' and really, not giving much of a damn about it. I have to be thankful of the fact that he was brave enough to be so honest in a largely hostile and intolerent world.
RIP Stephen, you had a beautiful voice, a brave spirit and will always be one fifth of a band that made some of the greatest pop songs of all time.