David Bowie's Dance Music Legacy

As the world mourns the loss of David Bowie, we look at his explorations in dance music.

The world stops for the day as the death of David Bowie is announced

The creator of twenty eight albums spanning the course of over fifty years, Bowie was one of the last remaining artists whose career journeyed through every genre that has built contemporary music.

A leader in music, fashion and experimental culture, Bowie was able to provide hope in his pioneering creative vision, inspiring anyone even inadvertently affected by his work. He dies two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar.

Here, we remember just a few of Bowie’s explorations in dance music, touching on tracks, collaborations and productions that proved the beauty of what happens when curiosity is given space to manifest itself in art.

"Let’s Dance", Produced by Nile Rogers

David Bowie contacted Nile Rogers at a time when his audience started to shift. Seeking to provide for a new fanbase after finding his old cohort difficult to connect with, he approached Rodgers, who was still basking in the throes of success with his work as a part of Chic. The Daily Mail reports that Bowie came into Rodgers’ bedroom saying “Nile darling, I think I have a song which feels like a hit”. The track went on to be "Let’s Dance", taken from an album of the same name - one of Bowie’s biggest selling tracks.

David Bowie - "Telling Lies"

Bowie’s enthusiasm for new styles of music and utilising them in his own work continued throughout his career. His most recent album, Blackstar, is said to have been influenced by Kendrick Lamar, and his collaborations with producers from various musical disciplines played a defining role in the transient nature of his output. The sound of drum and bass is certainly prevalent in his 1997 record, Earthling, an album born out of the need to produce something “really dynamic, aggressive sounding”. Many singles were distributed to clubs in an effort to encourage them being remixed by DJs. "Telling Lies" was one of these, with three versions made available on his website - making it the first downloadable track from a major artists to ever surface.

"Truth" - Goldie ft David Bowie

Bowie’s experimentations with drum n bass show him as not only a pioneer of music, but also a dedicated follower. After praising the ambitious quality of Earthling, Goldie recruited Bowie to provide the lyrics for his 1997 track "Truth", taken from Saturn Returnz, an album which in turn was lauded an ambitious piece of music for Goldie (it took him a decade to release a follow up). Bowie’s aching lyrics feature over a spaced out ambient soundscape, and he remembers the time the pair spent in the studio: “I was telling him what I could see in my head. He was great, totally tuned in… I tell you what, I was laughing my bollocks off, man. I mean, David Bowie being told what to do by me!” (via)

David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder

A collaboration between Bowie and Giorgio Moroder sounds like the perfect amalgamation of disco pomp. However, their track together is something of a curve ball, showcasing if nothing else, the ability for two artists to create far out of their ‘boxes’ when given the leeway to do so. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" was recorded for a 1982 film of the same name, and is a dark, verging on sinister effort. Interestingly, a re-recorded version with Nile Rodgers was released on Let’s Dance, but the original remains an enigmatic track that allows both Bowie and Moroder to dance in unexpected playing fields.

David Bowie - "D.J."

“I am a DJ, I am what I play”. Bowie’s side eyed comment on the mentality of the “you don’t get my job” selectors out there rings just as true now as it did on release in 1979.  From beyond the grave, Bowie will critique.

More About Our Musical Heroes:

14 Things We Learnt About Nile Rodgers At LEAF

A-Trak By Numbers

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11 Jan 2016