Last week, we lost one of the most iconic artists of our time as David Bowie passed away at 69. Bowie left behind a generation of music that changed the outcome of pop culture forever. Here are ten essential Bowie tracks, in no particular order.
“Space Oddity” – “David Bowie” (1969)
The year is 1969 and “space” is in. Stanley Kubrick just released his masterpiece, “2001: A Space Odyssey” a year earlier and man had just made it to the moon (supposedly). Space Oddity illustrates the story of fictional character Major Tom as he’s lost in space and wanders into the dark abyss away from Ground Control.
“Changes” – “Hunky Dory” (1971)
The opening track to Bowie’s fourth album, “Changes” is said to be about the natural progression of an artist reinvention, something Bowie became an icon for. The catchy hook is a perfect example of how a song supposedly not meant to be released still became a huge hit for Bowie.
“Life on Mars” – “Hunky Dory” (1971)
The title track from the album “Hunky Dory,” Bowie revealed in an interview that “Life on Mars” was about “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media.” The song is filled with surreal imagery and nonsensical lyrics that make the song both confusing yet emotionally touching.
“Queen Bitch” – “Hunky Dory” (1971)
Bowie pays homage to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground with a track about a prostitute that doesn’t take shit from anybody in “Queen Bitch.” Bowie’s music was highly influenced by Reed and the two went on to become great friends throughout their careers.
“Ziggy Stardust” – “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972)
Bowie created the Ziggy Stardust character and entire storyline in his most critically acclaimed album. The concept album is about an openly sexual and very egotistical rock star that predicts the end of the world in five years but also preaches its salvation. Ziggy eventually becomes a religious figure before dying due to his own consumptions.
“Starman” – “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972)
Continuing the themes of Ziggy Stardust, “Starman” is a track based on the perspective of the adolescent listening to Ziggy. He is entrusted to bring a message of hope and salvation to the youth through an alien named Starman. Bowie was never short of creativity and this track and really the entire album demonstrate that.
“Rebel Rebel” – “Diamond Dogs” (1974)
As Bowie waved goodbye to the era of Glam Rock he released “Rebel Rebel” a final statement to the genre that he helped foster. The song itself deals openly with questions about sexual orientation and gender bending. Today “Rebel Rebel” is strangely popular at sporting events.
“Fame” – “Young Americans” (1975)
A different era in Bowie’s career was the Philadelphia soul sound that inspired the album “Young Americans.” Bowie became obsessed with American culture and became influenced by soul, funk, and R&B. The track is pretty straightforward but it does get its title and background vocals from John Lennon.
“Heroes” – “Heroes” (1977)
During the Berlin trilogy era from 1976 to 1979 Bowie unmistakably caught his producer being unfaithful with a back up singer near the Berlin Wall. The event caused Bowie to write “Heroes,” a song about two people’s undying love for each other in a doomed relationship. It might not work out but they will always have their one moment of redemption.
“Let’s Dance” – “Let’s Dance” (1983)
So you’re having a dance party and you need to get the party started? This is your song. A prime 80’s track, Bowie takes another 180-degree turn in his sonic direction. “Let’s Dance” became a pop hit and one of Bowie’s most successful recordings.