Bowie leaves behind a legacy not only of creating but also inspiring others to create

By Drew Mackie
Updated January 12, 2016 04:45 PM
Credit: Georges DeKeerle/Getty

While we will remember David Bowie for his songs and the eye-catching way he chose to perform them, his legacy isn’t limited to his own art. In addition to being a creator and a performer, Bowie, who died this week at age 69, was also someone who inspired many people, both famous and not. Today, we’re celebrating Bowie s legacy by looking at some of the artists who’ve covered his songs.

1. "Space Oddity" by Chris Hadfield

No, Hadfield didn’t chart with this track, but that’s because he’s not a singer. He’s an astronaut, and while aboard the International Space Station in 2013, he recorded what is probably the best-ever cover of a David Bowie song and probably one of the best covers in the history of covers. How many rock songs make it into outer space?

Watched the original official music video, first released in 1972. (The song was first released in 1969.)

2. "The Man Who Sold the World" by Nirvana

It’s a David Bowie song that more than a few ’90s kids don’t realize is a Bowie song, thanks to Nirvana’s performance of it on a 1993 episode of MTV Unplugged. For the ones who did their homework, this Nirvana cover was a gateway song to Bowie’s work. However, today both versions stand on their own.

Watch Bowie perform the song live in 2000. (The original version was released in 1970.)

3. "Life on Mars" by Barbra Streisand

Thinking about it in 2016, the cross-section of Streisand and Bowie is a strange place to be, musically speaking. But it happened on Streisand’s 1974 album ButterFly, and against all odds it works.

Below, watch the official video for “Life on Mars,” which debuted in 1973.

4. "Life on Mars" by Seu Jorge

As an example of how flexible Bowie’s music can be, here’s a second take on “Life on Mars” from the 2004 movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It’s one of the most famous scenes in the film, and Jorge singing in his native Portuguese does nothing to diminish the power of the song, even if you don’t know what he’s saying.

5. "Sound and Vision" by Beck

He’d already contributed a great cover of Bowie’s "Diamond Dogs" to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, but Beck’s 2013 reimagining of the song, with a 167-piece orchestra, is about as epic as covers get.

Compare Bowie’s original version, released in 1977.

6. "Heroes" by Janelle Monée

“Heroes” is one of Bowie’s most popular songs, and it’s been covered by everyone from TV on the Radio to The Wallflowers, but we’re giving the nod on this one to Monée, who transformed it into a lighter, poppier confection.

Bowie’s original take on the song, first released in 1977, is timeless, however.

For more coverage of Bowie’s sad passing and inspiring legacy, read about his love story with Iman, see many moving fan tributes, or watch 16 of his most enduring videos.

7. "Rebel, Rebel" by Tegan and Sara

Bowie’s rocking ode to androgyny is purportedly his most covered song, and artists as diverse as Def Leppard, Dead or Alive and Cherie Currie have each given the song their own spin. But Tegan and Sara’s 2003 version, from a 2003 album of female-fronted bands covering Bowie, brings a new spirit to the song.

Check out Bowie’s original version, released in 1974.

8. "Let’s Dance" by M. Ward

“Let’s Dance” is one of Bowie’s most joyful tracks, and it helped introduce Bowie to a new generation of fans when he debuted it in 1983. But this version by M. Ward (a.k.a. the non-Zooey Deschanel half of She & Him) brings a somber dimension to the song that you might not have guessed ever existed.

Bowie’s original, of course, is an ’80s pop classic.

9. "After All" by Tori Amos

A wonderfully weird song that doesn’t get enough recognition alongside his other hits, “After All” is another one of those that some may not realize was originally performed by Bowie. Amos’ reworked it for Strange Little Girls, a 2001 cover album, but it sounds so much like a Tori Amos song that a casual fan might have assumed it was a Tori Amos original.

Bowie’s version first debuted in 1970.

10. "Golden Years" by James Murphy

You’ll find Bowie hiding in the oddest places. For the 2014 Ben Stiller comedy While We’re Young, Murphy, former frontman of the dance-rock band LCD Soundsystem, transformed this Bowie song into a peaceful lullaby-like part of the soundtrack. It’s just a small little thing, really, but it’s simple and beautiful – and remarkable for finding an aspect to a popular song that no one else had noticed before.

And here’s the 1975 original.