Last night I received a particularly unwelcome text: "Did u hear Poly Styrene died from cancer? Now that is some BULLSHIT!" After the initial shock, I gathered my wits and texted back, "where did u hear this?" The reply came instantly: "Twitter of course." And therein lies the problem. The reply came instantly. No fact checking, no verifiable, reputable source, nothing to base this horrible news on other than the chorus of whispers from the twittersphere.
In the old days they would announce the death of a notable person with the tolling of a heavy church bell. Today, our bell is sounded by the trending topic on Twitter. How ironic for the passing of someone who wrote and sang about the depersonalization and isolation that she saw happening in society as a result of technological and commercial progress.
Poly Styrene was a huge inspiration to me as a musician and performer back in the early days of punk. She had her own style, something totally unique. In a scene full of wildly colorful performers she stood out, not only because of her curly hair, her braces or her uniforms. Poly had a voice, a mixture of sweetness and determination that was perfect to deliver the line "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard...but I think OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!"
Poly herself was an inspiration to me because like me, she was a woman of color and a feminist. She was also anti-consumerist and pro-environmental before those causes became fashionable (I'm still waiting for anti-consumerism to come into fashion.) Not only did she have a voice, she had something to say.
Goodbye, Poly, I am terribly sad to see you go so soon, but I have a feeling that your influence, like the nearly indestructible product you named yourself after, will be with us for a long, long time.