What I love about David Bowie is that he didn’t live in the past.
He wasn’t one of those musicians who said new music is not as good as the old. He embraced new music and its sounds. He understood music and art should challenge and evolve — not go back in time.
This was definitely illustrated with the various David Bowie collaborations. From Brian Eno to Goldie to Trent Reznor, Bowie pushed the limits of his creativity.
Here are my favorite David Bowie collaborations:
“Under Pressure” stills sounds as fresh and timeless as it did when it was recorded back in 1981. Freddie Mercury and Bowie were a musical match in made heaven. Then add that catchy bass line and piano stabs, the song became an instant classic. I would dare call it one of the best collaborations ever!
Simply put, hearing this version of this holiday classic “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” is when I became a fan! Bowie’s willingness to collaborate with legends before him — and future legends — is what made him so great! It is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Check out the story behind this unlikely collaboration.
Niles Rodgers is best known as one of the founding members of the band Chic. Before Chic helped turn Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” into one of the biggest songs of 2013, Rodgers helped turned Bowie’s track “Let’s Dance” into one of the biggest songs 30 years prior. According to The Guardian, the song extended Bowie’s fan base to a younger crowd (like myself at the time). It remains one of his best selling singles.
“When we did the record neither he nor I had record deals – he financed ‘Let’s Dance’ himself. That was probably the greatest thing that could have happened because we didn’t have to answer to anyone. It was he and I against the world.
“‘Let’s Dance’ did exactly what David wanted it to do. The fact that it’s the biggest record of his career is not an accident; it’s what he wanted.” -Niles Rodgers
Mick Ronson played a huge role in Bowie’s musical career. Mick Ronson is a legend in his own right. He became Bowie’s right hand man for many projects, most notably the 1972 classic, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
“If it wasn’t for Mick, who knows? There might have been no Ziggy Stardust,” said record producer Tony Visconti. “I hate to say things like that because nobody really knows, but he was so important.”
– Tom Visconti
Bowie also worked with Ronson to produced Lou Reed’s 1972 album Transformer. One of their groundbreaking performances was on Top of the Pops in 1972, when they performed “Starman.” Not only the world was first introduced to Ziggy Stardust, but the performance made a huge impact on pop culture with the fashion and sexuality.
Bowie was not only an amazing performer, but a very talented producer. It’s been said that Bowie, along with Ronson, salvaged the solo career of Lou Reed when they produced Reed’s 1972 album Transformer. The album include tracks like “Perfect Day,” and “Walk on the Wild Side.” Bowie also sang backing vocals on some of the tracks including “Satellites of Love.”
Bowie also worked with his friend Iggy Pop on his first two releases: 1977’s The Idiot and Lust for Life. Bowie, Pop and engineer Collin Thurston produced “Lust for Life” under the name “Belway Bros.” Bowie co-wrote the classic “Lust for Life,” which gained new popularity when it was used in the film “Trainspotting.”
“David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.” – Iggy Pop
Bowie was one of the first major artists to experiment with electronic music when he released his 1997 album Earthling. Bowie said “Earthling” was inspired by the drum and bass pioneer Goldie. While Bowie was rehearsing for the Earthling tour, Goldie recruited Bowie for the track “Truth” on the 1998 album Saturnz Return.
“I was telling him what I could see in my head. He was great, totally tuned in. He’s the other side of the glass and I’m telling him what to do. I tell you what, I was laughing my bollocks off, man. I mean, David Bowie being told what to do by me!” – Goldie
The Beatle helped Bowie with one of his biggest hits, “Fame,” from the 1975 album “Young Americans.” The song became Bowie’s first number one hit in America.
The two collaborated on the song “Dancing in the Street” for the Live Aid benefit. The track was originally a hit for Martha and the Vandellas. Bowie and Jagger recorded the song in just four hours. Shortly after, the two went out and made the now famous (or infamous) video.
”David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. He was wonderfully shameless in his work. We had so many good times together. He was my friend, I will never forget him.” – Mick Jagger
Nine Inch Nails frontman called Bowie a mentor in a 2013 interview with MOJO magazine.
“I met Bowie at not a great time in my life,” Reznor said. “He was sober and I wasn’t. He took me under his wing as a kind of mentor and offered me some words of wisdom that haunted me and ended up helping me.”
Not only did Reznor tour with Bowie, he also remixed “I’m Afraid of Americans” from the album Earthling, and also appeared in the music video with Bowie.