Best David Bowie Songs: Top 5 Hits Most Recommended By Fans

David Robert Jones, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom, but you probably know him best as David Bowie. One of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time and a pioneer of the glam rock genre, David Bowie is easily one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. And today, we sought to discover the best David Bowie songs of all time. With five decades of music under his belt, there’s a lot to go through, so let’s go back to the start. 

Originally from London, Bowie received a collection of records at a young age, including Elvis Presley and Little Richard; after hearing Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” for the first time, Bowie claimed he had “heard God.” No doubt further pushing him on the path of becoming a musician. After forming his first band at age 15, he knew he had more drive and aspirations of becoming a “pop star” than his bandmates. This drive would take him far as he reached he made his first management contact, starting the momentum of his long career.

Though things didn’t start easy for Bowie, he wrote “Space Oddity,” a tale of an astronaut named Major Tom after feeling alienated about his troubles. Mercury Records would pick this song up and would be released to coincide with the Apollo 11 launch just a few days later. Bowie finally had a hit, though the roller coaster ride wasn’t over. The world was coming to know David Bowie; the rest would be history. 

Okay, so we’ve hit “Space Oddity,” but what are some other David Bowie hits that are a must-listen-to? Luckily we at StudyFinds have researched across multiple platforms to bring you the top five best David Bowie songs of all time. Don’t agree with our list? No worries, we have the comments open below so you can share your favorite song by the late rock star. 

David Bowie at the Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, May 6, 1978
David Bowie at the Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, May 6, 1978 (Photo by Arthur D’Amario III on Shutterstock)

The List: Best David Bowie Songs, According to Experts

1. “Life on Mars?” (1971)

“Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know. He’s in the best-selling show.” “A song that feels just as operatic and epic in feel as Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Life On Mars?’ is a thought-provoking song that will put you in an existential crisis – but in a good way! Originally released on the Hunky Dory album in 1971, this string-heavy and stirring masterpiece was made a single in 1973 during the height of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era,” describes Live365.

“Ultimately, the song itself provides the escapism that its heroine craves – for all its images of bathos and decline, it’s the work of art that temporarily makes a straitened life seem bigger and brighter. A more transparent lyric would only have clipped its wings because it’s the insoluble ambiguity in Bowie’s imagery that allows it to be covered by both Barbra Streisand and The Flaming Lips to speak to each listener in mysterious ways. The question mark continues to hang over this magnificently strange creation, unanswerable,” says Mojo.

“Without a doubt one of the most powerful and poignant songs Bowie has ever written. Likely to be as powerful in a rock opera as on a pop record, with ‘Life On Mars,’ Bowie really changed the game and made artistically-driven music hit the heights of pop stardom despite never being released as a single,” writes Far Out.

2. “Heroes” (1977)

I don’t know about you, but when we hear those first few notes of “Heroes,” it’s an immediate transportation to another plane of existence, which Bowie’s music came to be known for. “It would be almost irresponsible for us not to put this ultimate anthem of Bowie’s at the top of the tree. Though there are moments across the singer’s incredible canon that are more artistically pure or perhaps more daring and, therefore, in keeping with Bowie’s drive, there’s something about this song that is just utterly arresting, captivating, and sparkling in all manners of speaking. It is a song that has seen not only people connect to and enjoy one another but also to hold hands while bringing down those who oppress them. It has become the montage sequence of Bowie’s entire career,” describes Far Out.

“This has the lot: a theme that’s both self-serving and ironic, an epic ‘lovers across the Berlin Wall’ backstory, Eno’s ‘magic briefcase’, dolphins, three Robert Fripp guitar parts rolled into one, and Bowie himself rising above waves both new and old. Less remarked upon are parallels with ’60s heartbreaker ballads like Cilla Black’s ‘You’re My World’ or Mina’s ‘Se Telefonando’ – a dynamic twist on that old arrangement cliché the key change,” notes Mojo.

“Inspired by the sight of Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti embracing his lover by the Berlin Wall, the song tells the story of two lovers, one from East and one from West Berlin. His performance of ‘Heroes’ on June 6, 1987, at the German Reichstag in West Berlin, has been considered a catalyst to the fall of the Berlin Wall. After his death in 2016, the German government thanked Bowie for ‘helping to bring down the Wall,’” claims Smooth Radio.

3. “Space Oddity” (1969)

Remember that first Bowie hit we mentioned earlier? “No, not ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick. We’re talking about Bowie’s breakout 1969 hit ‘Space Oddity.’ This thing is a truly magical experience. It’s got the same intergalactic whimsy as ‘Moonage Daydream’ but feels more grounded in its narrative element. You really feel like you’re next to Major Tom as he rockets up to the stars in his ‘tin can’ and finds joy in being lost in space,” raves Live365.

“For an artist who created several masterpieces, perhaps his finest one was the 1969 track ‘Space Oddity’ – the No. 1 item on our list of the Top 10 David Bowie Songs. To think that Bowie was only 22 years old when this was released is mind-blowing. In a five-minute turn, Bowie manages to tell a story that can easily serve as the plot of a two-hour sci-fi film. The song was revolutionary for its time, musically and lyrically, and helped introduce the masses to one of the most dynamic and creative music acts we will ever know,” writes UCR.

“Undoubtedly the song that launched Bowie’s career, to this day, it remains a stunning piece of songwriting. David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ will go down in history as one of the singer’s most iconic songs. After a string of disappointing singles, Bowie finally grabs the public’s attention with this effort. When it was tied in with the moon landing, the track took on a whole new level of fame and gave Bowie the taste of what being a pop star was like,” says Far Out.

4. “Sound and Vision” (1977)

“The freewheeling first half of Low spawned one of the strangest hits of Bowie’s career, a bout of depression disguised as pop, delivered in a casual croon and structured like an old 78, where the vocalist arrives late – in this case exactly halfway through – to sing about the blue room where he’ll go ‘drifting into my solitude’ and wait for inspiration to strike. Its old-world feel is heightened by a cheesy string machine, like Mantovani on ice, and a saucy burst of Dave’s honky sax,” describes Mojo.

“Finally, my pick for the best David Bowie song ever is ‘Sound and Vision,’ a short little bop off 1977’s Low. Like many of the songs on this list, it’s absurdly catchy. And like many of the songs on the list, what it means to me is a little elusive and a little mysterious. Maybe it’s even simpler than it seems, though. ‘Don’t you wonder sometimes?’ Bowie sings about sound and vision?’ And you know what? I do. And like the song’s narrator, I sit around waiting for their gifts. And while I’m doing that, I listen to David Bowie and revel in the mysteries for a while,” says Ask.

“‘Sound and Vision’ is both a fantastic pop song and an act of artistic daring. A three-minute hit single that doesn’t even feature a lead vocal until halfway through, it twists a despondent lyric into something uplifting and, musically, transcends time. Completely original; nothing about its sound tethers it to the mid-70s. Its magic seems to sum Bowie up,” writes The Guardian.

5. “Changes” (1971)

If there’s one thing that Bowie taught us, it was to “turn and face the strange.” “1971’s Hunky Dory might be Bowie’s best album. It’s filled with some of his best songwriting. Like many tracks on that classic record, ‘Changes’ is equal parts simple pop perfection and subtle intricacy. One of his most beloved songs, ‘Changes,’ has earned its place in regular rotation on classic rock radio,” says Music in Minnesota.

NME also had an interesting take on the song claiming, “I think ‘Changes’ is appropriate funeral music – it’s cheery without being Paul McCartney with his thumbs in the air. Funerals are about change. Everyone dies. So what? ‘Time may change me, but I can’t trace time’ – that’s kind of perfect, really.” 

“David Bowie was seemingly in danger of being a one-hit wonder by 1972. ‘Space Oddity’ was three long years in the past, and the music scene had changed dramatically in that time. Bowie remained cocky, though, and on the lead single from Hunky Dory, he even unloaded a warning on his rivals. ‘Look out, you rock & rollers,’ he sang. ‘Pretty soon, you’re gonna get a little older.’ They were brash words for somebody without much of a following, but they proved prophetic. The song also became a theme of sorts as Bowie metamorphosed through the decades. In 2006, he sang it with Alicia Keys at the Hammerstein Ballroom at a charity show. It was his last public performance,” reports Rolling Stone. David Bowie passed away ten years later in January of 2016 at the age of 69, after an 18-month-long battle with cancer, but his music and legacy live on in the music industry to this day. 

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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