Another music legend has left us. Eighties gender bending pop icon PETE BURNS isn’t quite at the level of say, David Bowie or Prince, two other music stars we’ve lost in 2016 but it’s still a loss for fans of the Dead or Alive singer who died yesterday at the age of 57 from a cardiac arrest.
“It is with the greatest sadness that we have to break the tragic news that our beloved Pete Burns (of Dead or Alive), died suddenly yesterday of a massive cardiac arrest. All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star.”
“He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul, and he will be missed by all who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories the has left is with.”
“We have no more words, we will make a further statement when we have had a chance to come to terms with our devastating loss. He will live forever in our memories. Sending you all our love. Lynne, Michael, Steve.”
The announcement was released by Burns’ manager, Steve Coy; ex-wife, Lynne Corlett with who he remained on good terms; and his civil partner, Michael Simpson. In his 2006 autobiography, Freak Unique, Burns had this to say about his sexuality:
“[People] always want to know – am I gay, bi, trans or what? I say, forget all that. There’s got to be a completely different terminology and I’m not aware if it’s been invented yet. I’m just Pete”.
Pete Burns and Dead or Alive came to our attention circa 1985 with the release of their second album Youthquake which went to #9 on the UK pop charts and #31 in the US and spawned their biggest hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” which went to #1 in the UK and #11 in the US. Their next album Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know was also a hit and spawned successful tracks like “Brand New Lover” and the gothy “Something in My House”. The era of the British New Romantics and the then shocking appearance of gay/bi performers like Burns and Boy George were hugely popular in dance clubs around the world but obviously struck a chord with lgbtq audiences and the group’s music has been a staple of the gay disco scene for the last 30 years.
Even after the original success of the group, Pete Burns continued to be a staple of the British press for the rest of his life, frequently making appearances on British television and always available for good quote for the tabloid press. But, while his music was popular with many, it was Burns’ addiction to plastic surgery and his appearance that got him the most attention. Over the years, the musician had dozens of surgical enhancements which resulted in a face that eventually appeared mask like and waxen. Burns eventually sued one of his plastic surgeons for a botched lip enhancement surgery.
(Burns’ addiction to surgery was sad. He was a good looking man before he began messing with his face. And, frankly, all those procedures are hard on your body. It’s likely they could have played a role in causing his early death. Let this be a warning to anyone obsessed with plastic surgery! JUST SAY NO!)
While Pete Burns favored a feminine visage and wore feminized clothing and heavy make-up, he rather artfully avoided identifying as transgender; he used male pronouns throughout his life and the singer wasn’t shy about physically displaying his body; there are multiple images of Burns performing in full feminine attire but exposing his masculine (and rather pendulous…) genitals. Pete Burns wasn’t shy about pushing the envelope on boundaries or on definitions of his sexuality or his gender. He was uniquely…Pete Burns, a fascinating musician, artist and social provocateur who transcended sexuality and gender.
And, the songs were really fun!
A toast to Pete Burns.