Pop star. Songwriter. Record producer. Multi-instrumentalist. Actor. Artist …
Legendary British art-rock icon David Bowie — who has died aged 69 — was all these and so much more.
In a prolific career spanning more than four decades, Bowie amassed a huge catalog of music, his unrelenting evolution keeping him relevant to new generations of fans.
In honor of a fallen star, here are some of his most memorable songs, in no particular order.
‘Space Oddity’ (1969)
The first song to feature fictional astronaut Major Tom, released just weeks before the first Moon landing. Later songs included “Ashes to Ashes” and “Hallo Spaceboy.”
This is the song that made Bowie huge in the U.S. — reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1975. His new friend, John Lennon, sings backing vocals.
‘Ashes to Ashes’ (1980)
The big reveal in this song is what happened to Bowie’s legendary character Major Tom — now a junkie, strung out and drifting to the stars.
Bowie said the song was inspired by a pair of lovers by the Berlin Wall. Years later, he admitted that the lovers in question were his producer Tony Visconti and his German girlfriend. He performed the song at the wall in 1987, two years before it fell.
The last song Bowie released, now a haunting final word from a man who knew he was dying. The line “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” is among the poignant lyrics. Long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti said he turned his death into a work of art, describing his new album “Blackstar,” released a few days ago, as “his parting gift.”
‘Rebel Rebel’ (1974)
This was Bowie’s last single in the glam rock style that had been his trademark with songs like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Jean Genie” — and extravagant brightly colored skintight jumpsuits and neon orange mullet.
‘Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy’ (1977) with Bing Crosby
Bowie was noted for his collaborations, including with Queen and Mick Jagger. This bizarre duet with Bing Crosby was originally recorded for the crooner’s TV special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Old Christmas.” At the time Bowie said, “I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?” according to one of the song’s writers Ian Fraser. But it’s since become a pop culture classic.
China Girl (1983)
One of his biggest hits, and a video that was in high rotation in the early days of MTV.
Dancing in the Streets (1985)
Put together for the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia, the remake of the classic Martha and The Vandellas hit was recorded in four hours and the video was shot immediately after.