Why Did David Bowie Have to Die?
1. Patti Smith – “Gloria”
Patti Smith might as well be the Thin White Duchess on the iconic cover of her debut album Horses. Often lumped into the burgeoning NYC punk movement, Smith also matched Bowie’s flair for using the fundamentals of rock to build a grand theatrical stage. With “Gloria,” the curtains part and Smith strides into the spotlight.
2. The Innocence Mission – “I Haven’t Seen This Day Before”
Karen Peris has the purest, most heartbreakingly childlike voice in all of pop music. It doesn’t even seem real. Even when you see and hear the voice coming out of her head, it just doesn’t seem the product of an actual human being.
3. Damien Jurado – “I Can’t Get Over You”
If music were color, Damien Jurado’s lovelorn ballad would be sepia-toned. Winter is often depressing enough. Why not make it more so with a bunch of sad bastard songs?
4. Elliott Smith – “Pretty (Ugly Before)”
Melancholy atop melancholy. This was hard enough to hear in October of 2003. But everyone’s got to go sometime; some just get to choose how and/or when.
5. Stevie Nicks – “Sometimes It’s a Bitch”
During this triumphant Jon Bon Jovi co-written ballad, Stevie Nicks reminds us of a critical life lesson: “You gotta take it as it comes/ Sometimes it don’t come easy.” It was so difficult to accept the death of Bowie because his genius only continued to evolve with Blackstar—yet it’s selfish to ask our idols to create in perpetuity. Like a wise parent leaving their young child a recording for posterity, Bowie’s “Lazarus” was a soul-piercing gift to make life just slightly less of a bitch.
6. Raury (feat. Tom Morello) – “Friends”
Upon the passing of Bowie, a flood of images took over social media remembering his legacy through the stills amassed with an eclectic assortment of fellow artists and celebrities. But Bowie managed to affect the spirit of nearly everyone who listened throughout his five-decade career. “And we, and we, belong/ Together/ At peace, at peace, we are/ Forever,” so simply yet powerfully exclaims Raury on his Tom Morello-featuring single “Friends.”
7. Bonobo – “All in Forms”
The power of this 2010 Bonobo production shifts as effortlessly as the Thin White Duke himself. Best experienced just as dusk settles in the wilds of a Costa Rican rainforest, and dense with otherworldly tones, “All in Forms” aims to exist outside of one “reality.” Bowie was never one to kowtow to the status-quo; we can only anticipate the same as the journey continues.
8. Flying Lotus & Declaime – “Keep It Moving”
You could have had the entire world praying for your recovery! Instead, you maintained that infectious grin and exited amid the cheers of an inspired final chapter, most of the world totally unaware of your battle. As you did throughout the decades, the goal was to “Keep It Moving” unimpeded into the next phase, an ideology soulfully represented by this 2009 instrumental.
1. Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Bowie’s voice pops up, with little fanfare, in the middle of “Reflektor.” But his legacy informs Arcade Fire’s stylistic shift on their fourth album. Let’s dance, indeed.
2. U2 – “The Fly”
“The Fly” is one of the few tracks on Achtung Baby not co-produced by Brian Eno. But it best represents U2’s Berlin transformation, which was accomplished in the same studio Low and “Heroes” were recorded. It’s a reminder of the time when, within Bowie’s shadow, the band was briefly cool.
3. Lady Gaga – “Venus”
The lazy take on Lady Gaga is that she’s a warmed-over Madonna. As she moved further into the fringes on her underrated LP Artpop, Gaga’s weirder tendencies bubbled to the surface. “Venus” is the hit single a younger and gayer Bowie would have released in 2013.
4. Sunday’s Best – “Don’t Let It Fade”
Don’t let the memories fade. Don’t let any of it fade, really. That’s why we record things: they live well beyond ourselves.
5. Nirvana – “Heart-Shaped Box”
Courtney Love may claim that “Heart-Shaped Box” is a song about her vagina, but Kurt Cobain may have had something more fatal in mind. Supposedly inspired by images of children with cancer, Cobain said it’s the saddest thing he could think about. Maybe it is a love song to his wife, we’ll never know since Cobain isn’t around to ask.
6. Sufjan Stevens – “Fourth of July”
Yes, we’re all going to die, Sufjan. Thanks for pointing out that inevitability. But has anyone handled the topic with such grace and emotion? Why do you cry?
7. Charlotte Gainsbourg (feat. Beck) – “Heaven Can Wait”
Heaven is not a place on Earth. Earth is a purgatory in between heaven and hell. It’s all unknown, even those scars we cannot see.
8. The Flaming Lips – “The Spiderbite Song.”
Ever have a friend who was supposed to die, but didn’t? That extra time is a blessing, a bonus round of sorts. But what about when you didn’t know he was sick until he was gone? You never got to say goodbye. How sad.