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The Music King: Top 5 David Bowie Songs That Transformed Cinema

Written by Fathom Events on Feb 26, 2024 11:38 AM

“I find only freedom in the realms of eccentricity.” – David Bowie.  

David Bowie in Labyrinth

David Bowie was an enigma, a space oddity that shaped Western music and culture. His songs, performances, and ever-evolving style made him a generational wonder. Throughout Bowie’s career he would be influenced by cinema and influence film himself, going on to work with many well-known directors.  

One of those collaborations would be with puppeteer auteur Jim Henson on his film Labyrinth (1986). The stirring fairy tale captivated the imaginations of viewers, introducing several generations to Bowie’s music.  

To celebrate Labyrinth returning to theaters nationwide, we pressed play on our old cassette player and jammed out to five David Bowie songs that transcended generations.   

5. Life on Mars

Life on Mars, an alleged semi-parody of Frank Sinatra’s 1969 song ‘My Way,’ is considered David Bowie’s magnum opus. Featured on the album Hunky Dory, two years after it was originally recorded. The album was initially a failure, only selling 5,000 copies in the first quarter [1]. However, the song gained global recognition in the years following, cementing its legacy.   
The song was used by Wes Anderson in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza (2021).   

4. Ziggy Stardust

Released June 16, 1972, on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Ziggy Stardust explores themes of identity, fame, and rebellion. The song exploded alongside David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona [2]. The concept of a drug-using, androgynous alien rock star was ahead of its time.  
David Bowie was the master of acting, constantly taking elements of characters he fell in love with and transforming them into something special. The inspiration for Ziggy Stardust came from the English rock-n-roll singer Vince Taylor.   

3. Space Oddity

Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Space Oddity captures the zeitgeist of the moon landing, and continues to influence society today. Considered David Bowie’s first hit, the song tells the story of Major Tom, an astronaut who becomes lost in space [3]. This was the first time Bowie introduced the world to a recurring character in his work (Major Tom would return in Ashes to Ashes).  

Released days before the Apollo 11 moon landing, the song grew to be a timeless gem that spoke to a generation and inspired more to come.   

2. Starman

Released on April 28, 1972, Starman, another song on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album, made no impact on the UK charts when initially released. However, the song would become one of the most influential and iconic songs after it was performed on the hit British TV show Top of the Pops. In this performance, David Bowie captivated the stage with his flame-haired, multi-colored jumpsuit persona, Ziggy Stardust, setting off the “Starman epiphany.”   

The persona and hypnotic beats catapulted the song into stardom, inspiring a new generation of rock and rollers [4]. The song has been used in the films The Martian (2015) and Lightyear (2022). Starman will remain a quintessential song for generations to come.

1. Magic Dance

The song that introduced generations of moviegoers to the beautiful music of David Bowie, Magic Dance appeared in the 1986 film Labyrinth. Considered one of his strongest vocal melodies, with a running theme of “leaving childhood behind,” the song captivated imaginations.  

In addition, Bowie’s ability to not only transform himself into Jareth, the Goblin King, but weave in the famous line [“you remind me of the babe”] from the 1947 film, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, made it a pop-cultural staple.  

David Bowie will always be an enigma, the music king that has inspired generations of listeners and viewers alike. Don’t miss your chance to experience The Goblin King on the big screen when Labyrinth comes to theaters nationwide March 6 & 10 as part of Fathom’s Big Screen Classics.  

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