Just as everyone else thought they were catching up to the Thin White Duke, they realized he had already made laps around them. David Bowie’s indelible influence on musicians through the ‘70s and ‘80s has cemented his role as one of the most integral pioneers of composition in the 20th century. His lyrics and music encapsulated what it meant to be isolated: everything from the celestial themes of Space Oddity and Ziggy Stardust, to his unapologetic attitude in his bisexuality. His discography is the soundtrack for any beatnik, bohemian, rebel, or godforsaken wretch. He filled a void for countless wanderers without a grip on their idiosyncrasies; a beacon of light for people who didn’t have the insight they needed from family or friends, and in that sense, had an intimate connection to many of his fans that made him feel like a genuine companion. Now that Bowie is gone, we feel that we are alone again.
David Bowie was an exemplary model for what you can do with nothing but a human body and 69 short years: You can change the horizon of music, style, culture and art for generations to come, and still have enough time to be a close friend to millions of confused, scared, introverted and dissident individuals. He also has the unique distinction that no one has ever been able to produce a better version of one of his songs than the original. But here are 10 that came close:
10. Chris Hadfield performing “Space Oddity” aboard the ISS.
Bowie called this “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created” back in 2013. I’m not sure anyone could argue.
9. John C Reilly performing “Starman” in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
A tongue in cheek cover that completely removes the sincerity from the original. (Funnier rather than genuinely great)
8.A Camp – “Boys Keep Swinging”
A great contemporary rendition.
7. Murder by Death – “Five Years”
A note for note remake, but with Adam Turlas distinctive croon.
6. Nirvanas performance of “Man Who Sold the World” on MTV unplugged
This stripped down performance shows Kurt Cobains intimate relation to the meaning behind the song; disillusioned with becoming a commodity, Cobain took his own life a few months after the recording.
5. Milky Edward & the Chamberlings–”Moonage Daydream”
A bit of an online mystery, no one knows who the real Milky Edward is.
4. Warpaint – “Ashes to Ashes”
A Bowie classic with a feminine touch.
3. Queen Bitch – “Eater”
A few british punks ripping through one of Bowies standards in half the time of the original. Now that’s efficiency.
2. Seu Jorge – “Life on Mars”
(Honestly, Seu Jorge could have been half of this list)
1. Venture Brothers reworking of “Space Oddity”
David Bowie was a recurring character on The Venture Brothers, and creators Doc Hammer and Christopher McCulloch are both avid fans, but this moment is easily the series best reference to the singers work.8