Growing up, I wasn’t the biggest David Bowie fan; in fact, it wasn’t until I got to college that I actually spent some time hearing his songs. Bowie just never made much of a blip in my home—as it was a pretty solid ground for classic and then-current R&B. But, because of his charisma, and his changing artistic personae, he somehow did crack the radar, however briefly. Many times, I have mentioned my love for Soul Train, the television show that my sister and I never missed on Saturday afternoons growing up. There was, on one show, an appearance by David Bowie—then riding high with “Fame,” the John Lennon and Carlos Alomar assisted track from his Young Americans album during his “plastic soul” period. Don’t believe me? Look here:
Yup. Story goes, James Brown, Godfather of Soul in decline, ripped that guitar riff to make his own “Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved Loved),” which didn’t perform nearly as well as Bowie’s song. Brown justified ripping it off because he figured, everyone was copying from him all the time. As great as Brown was, he couldn’t take anything away from the original. In a year filled with funky, classic songs, that one of the funkiest would come from David Bowie was quite a surprise.
Once I got to college, I was hearing Bowie songs from all over. It didn’t hurt that right before I left for school, he had hit big with “Let’s Dance,” the title song from his 1983 album that represented his biggest mainstream success (it was also his biggest pop hit). Bowie was mainstream relevant at that time, meaning that his old songs were being revisited. It was at college that I got to hear classics like “Space Oddity,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” and so many more. It was there that I also learned that he worked with Luther Vandross before he became famous (on the same Young Americans album). I also began to realize that he took on many different styles of music throughout his lengthy career. Not everything he tried worked, at least commercially. But I would be hard pressed to think of any artist who had as much influence in so many different genres, as well as the theatrical and performance aspect of being a musical artist, actor, fashion icon and all around showman, than Bowie.
So it was with shock and sadness that I heard that Bowie had passed after a lengthy bout with cancer. I look back now, listening to this Spotify playlist I made based on his biggest pop hits, with some highlights taken from the AllMusic website, and I marvel at his range. You can see where people who came after him were influenced by his floating from one musical genre after another.
In a year where we have already lost notable musical stars, one of the greatest ever takes his leave from the earthly plane. What a wide, rich, deep legacy he leaves behind. R.I.P. Mr. David Bowie.