by Quincy Tejani
Legend, rocker, icon, pioneer, spaceman, chameleon. These words and many others have been used to describe the late legend David Bowie. Over the last four-and-a-half decades Bowie has transcended art and paved the way for hundreds of artists who weren’t satisfied walking down music’s beaten track. On this sad day, I give you what I consider Bowie’s 10 best songs. The man and his music will be remembered for generations to come.
10. Starman (Album: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)
From Bowie’s most well-known and well-respected album, this song is a centerpiece of the storyline surrounding the album’s main character, Ziggy Stardust. Many believed that it was Bowie’s first song released since Space Oddity and that it was actually written as a sequel to the aforementioned track. In 1999 Q Magazine listed the song as one of the best 100 singles of all time.
9. Young Americans (Album: Young Americans)
Young Americans represents the beginning of Bowie’s soul period. This song, which peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Charts, was Bowie’s breakthrough in terms of commercial success in America. And after Bowie introduced his style of glam rock fused with soul, American popular music was never quite the same.
8. Ashes to Ashes (Album: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps))
The lead single from Bowie’s 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), Ashes to Ashes reached number one on the U.K chart. The song revisited Major Tom, the protagonist of Bowie’s first hit Space Oddity.
7. The Man Who Sold the World (Album: The Man Who Sold the World)
The title track of Bowie’s third album, this is one of his most covered songs. Famously covered by Nirvana on their album, MTV Unplugged in New York, this song brought Bowie a brand-new audience from a new generation. Apparently, Bowie was incredibly flattered to learn that Cobain appreciated his work.
6. The Jean Genie (Album: Aladdin Sane)
Originally released as a single and later included on Bowie’s sixth album Aladdin Sane, this song, which was promoted by a music video by Andy Warhol, peaked at number 2 on the U.K charts. The Jean Genie puts on display the inspiration that Bowie took from one of his favorite bands, The Rolling Stones.
5. Heroes (Album: Heroes)
One of the reasons David Bowie was able to continue to create such relevant music for so long was his “chameleon” like writing style. He was able to follow (or create) trends and keep with the times even into the 21st century. This song which, co-written by the great Brian Eno, is a clear example of this.
4. Changes (Album: Hunky Dory)
Although failing to chart in the Top 40, Changes is remembered as one of Bowie’s most important track releases. Surprisingly enough, Bowie said that the song started out as a “throwaway,” and he saw it as kind of silly. But if there has ever been a more catchy Bowie chorus, I would like to hear it. “Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes!”
3. Ziggy Stardust (Album: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)
Arguably one of Bowie’s best known songs, Ziggy Stardust was ultimately written to summarize the story of the albums protagonist. Ranked number 277 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, this track represents all that Bowie could have hoped to accomplish with his music in the early 70’s: beautiful glam rock that resonated with the people.
2. Space Oddity (Album: Singles)The song that started it all, Space Oddity is probably Bowie’s most well-recognized song. It stands as a testament to his revolutionary techniques that even today, Oddity is considered an unusual song. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, this Bowie classic explores the unfortunate fate of Major Tom, who is trapped floating in space. In 2013 the song regained fame after astronaut Chris Hadfield released a video of himself performing the song, making it the first song to be in a music video created in space.
1. Life on Mars (Album: Hunky Dory)
Life on Mars combines everything that makes Bowie one of the most respected artists of all time. Catchy yet thoughtful lyrics and, of course, content that uses space as a metaphor. Life on Mars contains some of Bowie’s strangest yet most meaningful lyrics. For example, “It’s on America’s tortured brow/That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow/Now the workers have struck for fame/’Cause Lennon’s on sale again”. The combination of these lyrics and the incredibly powerful yet sensitive instrumentation makes this song worthy of being called Bowie’s greatest.