Legendary musician David Bowie was born in London on this date 75 years ago. The iconoclast, who died in 2016 days after turning 69, was renowned for his consistently innovative approach to making music, at times taking on personas – notably Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke – to fully embody the characteristics of the sounds he created.
Bowie was an outstanding songwriter, responsible for classics such as “Rebel, Rebel,” “Heroes,” “Space Oddity,” “Young Americans,” “Fame” and “Golden Years,” among many others. While Bowie was responsible for writing or co-writing many of his best-known songs, throughout his Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame career, Bowie frequently recorded covers of songs written by others. A playlist featuring 10 David Bowie covers of songs by The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and many others can be found below.
Perhaps Bowie’s best-known cover is “It Ain’t Easy,” which appeared on 1972’s Ziggy Stardust And The Rise And Fall Of The Spiders From Mars. Written by Ron Davies, “It Ain’t Easy” served as the title track to albums released by Three Dog Night in 1970 and by Long John Baldry in 1971.
The tracklist for Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane also had a lone cover. The record featured Bowie’s take on “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-written song released in 1967 by fellow British rock legends The Rolling Stones.
In addition to placing covers alongside his original material on albums across his storied career, Bowie also released Pin Ups in 1973. Entirely made up of covers, its single “Sorrow” had been released in 1965 by The McCoys and became a hit for The Merseys in the United Kingdom the following year.
Bowie’s 1975 album, Young Americans once again saw him interpret his contemporaries in the U.K. by taking on The Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, the latter contributed guitar and backing vocals to Bowie’s version.
Along with tracking covers in the studio, Bowie was known to incorporate them into his live setlists as well. A live release from a concert in Santa Monica, California in 1972 features a recording of Bowie’s version of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man.” The 1974 live album, David Live, presented Bowie’s fun take on the 1966 soul classic by Eddie Floyd, “Knock On Wood.”
Once again looking to 1960s British rock, a funkified version of Cream’s “I Feel Free” appeared on Bowie’s 1993 album, Black Tie White Noise. Bowie’s 2003 album, Reality was the vehicle for his interpretation of “Pablo Piccaso” from The Modern Lovers self-titled 1976 masterpiece.
The playlist also features Bowie’s covers of John Lennon’s “Mother” and Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven.” Posthumously released last year to mark what would have been Bowie’s 74th birthday, Bowie tracked Lennon’s “Mother” from 1970’s Plastic Ono Band in 1998 for a Lennon tribute project that never materialized. Bowie’s cover of Dylan’s “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” off 1997’s Time Out Of Mind was recorded in February 1998 during sessions for the 1999 live release, LiveAndWell.com.
Stream those two tracks and the others mentioned above as part of this 10-song playlist of David Bowie covers: