It is often hard to achieve with words the outstanding more than forty-year career and musical impact of the late David Bowie. The singer, songwriter, and actor would have turned 71 years old today. The singer taught generations how to express oneself through art that took many forms from music to fashion to drama. The music of David Bowie wasn’t just for the everyday normal kind of person. His songs were for the outsiders, the misfits, the adventurers, and the extraterrestrials who were looking for their place. Bowie remains the influence behind many other pop icons such as Madonna and Lady Gaga.
In honor of David Bowie’s birthday today, we take a look back at five of the most iconic music videos during his career. Mind you, we could easily make a list of 20+ videos, but we’ll keep it at five in order to share a stripped down version of “Let’s Dance” afterwards. Be sure to scroll all the way to hear that!
“Space Oddity” (1969) Version
An honor to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, this version of “Space Oddity” remains the most listened to version. Bowie released another music video for “Space Oddity” in 1973 that was just good ol’ Bowie and his guitar featuring the signature red hair and no eyebrows look. It was also one of his first introductions to American audiences. In this 1969 version, however, you can see a very young David Bowie lost in space. “Ground Control to Major Tom.”
“Life on Mars” (1973)
Shot in one location after a concert in Earls Court, “Life on Mars” is Bowie’s fourth music video. The video features a Bowie in full makeup wearing his key turquoise blue suit against a simple white backdrop. The song was originally recorded for the album Hunky Dory in 1971, and was re-released as a single a couple of years later.
“Ashes to Ashes” (1980)
A revisit to Bowie’s Major Tom character, “Ashes to Ashes,” seems to be a sort of sequel to “Space Oddity.” Directed by Bowie himself, it seems the astronaut in “Space Oddity” has turned into a junkie of sorts. This was also one of the most expensive videos made at the time of its release. The video features Bowie wearing a clown costume walking around what appears to be a wasteland. It was an end to the ’70s but the start of New Wave in the ’80s.
“Modern Love” (1983)
Any playlist that contains Bowie’s music almost always will have “Modern Love” on it. What was essentially recorded as an arena-level concert video, features Bowie in full suit with a backing band. Produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, “Modern Love” was an introduction to Bowie for many of the younger fans at the time.
“Let’s Dance” (1983)
With music videos beginning to change the way people consumed music at this time, “Let’s Dance” was seen as an all-encompassing music video that brought theater and fashion into the mix. It was an a real entrance into the music video era that MTV dominated at the time and took hold of many audiences around the world. And who couldn’t resist those lyrics, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”?
BONUS: In honor of David Bowie’s birthday today, a stripped down demo of “Let’s Dance” has been released. The demo was recorded in Switzerland with Nile Rodgers. Rodgers recalls the collaboration between him and Bowie in a statement, “I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Nile, darling, I think this is a HIT!’” And a hit it became.