by Sean Smith
As I sit down to write this week’s edition of Throwback I’m struck with a strong feeling of deja vu. Just as I was last Wednesday evening, I am writing this as I once again eagerly await the news that I have finally won the huge Powerball jackpot drawing. Oh the things I would do with $1.5 billion. Scratch that, WILL DO when my six lucky numbers are drawn later on tonight! But at the same time, just like last week, the subject we are going to be discussing this week is a somber one. We have lost yet another important figure in the world of music. This week it was the incomparable David Bowie.
News broke over the weekend that David Bowie had passed away on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He had just celebrated his 69th birthday two days prior, the same day he released what would be his final album Blackstar. Much has been written about the life and career of David Bowie since his passing so I won’t write another obituary for him, as you have undoubtedly read at least a few of those already. Instead, I want to share with you two of my personal favorite David Bowie songs.
The song that I most closely associate Bowie with in my mind is “Fame.” It was a single from off his ninth studio album Young Americans, released in 1975. It was his first song to ever become a true #1 hit in America as it topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Bowie had a few notable musical stars help him out in the making of “Fame”. John Lennon helped out in the writing of the song, while a young budding Luther Vandross contributed backing vocals. Vandross would go on to tour with Bowie as a background singer, before becoming a star himself some years later.
Another personal David Bowie favorite of mine is “Under Pressure,” a song he collaborated on with the legendary band Queen. The song was recorded in 1981 and was released for the first time on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space. The song was born out of a Queen recording session. The British band was working on music for their new album and had David Bowie come in to record backing vocals for an entirely different track. While Bowie was there, they had a jam session trying to work out a song they had been trying to flush out with a working title of “Feel Like.” David Bowie and Freddie Mercury started riffing on the unmistakably classic bass line and eventually “Under Pressure” was born. Evidence of the improvisational nature of the song’s origins can be found all over the final version of the track. For instance, in the scat singing done by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie throughout. “Under Pressure” would top the charts in the collaborators native UK, but failed to get any higher than the 29th spot on the American charts. And of course, the song’s unforgettable bass line would of course be used in 1990 by rapper Vanilla Ice for his hit “Ice Ice Baby.”
So with the recent passing of musical giant David Bowie, this week we remember two of my favorites songs from his long and storied career, “Fame” and “Under Pressure.” Enjoy.
From Young Americans
Queen And David Bowie
From Hot Space