15 Popular and Obscure Songs Covered by David Bowie

The legendary artists was known to interpret other people's material.

January 16, 2016, 8:57 AM

— -- David Bowie's impact on future generations of musicians artists is immeasurable.

His sound and style can be found in artists of different genres, from post-punk and New Wave (Bauhaus, Duran Duran), to pop (Madonna, Lady Gaga), to modern rock (Arcade Fire, Radiohead). Although he mostly wrote his own music throughout his career, Bowie on many occasions recorded and performed other people's music. H

ere's a sampling of some of those covers, from the well-known to the obscure.

“Waiting for the Man” (The Velvet Underground)

It's no secret that Bowie was an admirer of the Velvet Underground, particularly the band's singer and songwriter Lou Reed (Bowie produced Reed's "Transformer" album, which included "Walk on the Wild Side"). During a show in Santa Monica, California, in 1972, Bowie and his band performed a rocking interpretation of the Velvets' song (originally titled “I'm Waiting for the Man”). The concert was officially released in 2008 as “Live Santa Monica '72."

“Let's Spend the Night Together” (The Rolling Stones)

From the 1973 “Aladdin Sane” album, Bowie delivered a raucous, glam-rock rendition of this Rolling Stones' classic. Twelve years later, he paired with the Stones' Mick Jagger for a cover of Martha and the Vandellas' “Dancing in the Street.”

“Rosalyn,” “Don't Bring Me Down”(The Pretty Things)

At the height of his fame as Ziggy Stardust, Bowie recorded "Pin Ups," an all-covers record from 1973, featuring songs originally recorded by the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and The Who. In addition, he also performed songs by some relatively lesser-known groups on this album, including two by the British band the Pretty Things, “Rosalyn” and “Don't Bring Me Down.”

“Knock on Wood," “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”(Eddie Floyd, Ohio Players)

From 1974's “David Live” album, Bowie paid respect to American soul music with his version of Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood,” an R&B tune from the Stax era -- as well as “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” originally recorded by the Ohio Players as "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow."

“It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City”(Bruce Springsteen)

Bruce Springsteen was a relatively unknown artist when he recorded “It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City” for his 1973 debut album "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J." Afterwards, Bowie took on Springsteen's obscure song and recorded his own dramatic version of it. The Bowie cover of “It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City” would remain unreleased for many years until 1989's "Sound + Vision" box set.

“Wild Is the Wind”(Nina Simone)

Written by Dimitri Tomkin and Ned Washington, the pop standard “Wild Is the Wind” was previously recorded by the legendary Nina Simone in 1966. Bowie's haunting version of the song appeared on 1976's brilliant “Station to Station” album.

“God Only Knows”(The Beach Boys)

From 1984's “Tonight" album, Bowie recorded a very lush and elegant version of the Beach Boys' classic love song from "Pet Sounds," with some soulful crooning.

“I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday”(Morrissey)

For his 1993 record “Black Tie White Noise,” Bowie took on “I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday,” originally written and recorded by the charismatic modern-rock singer Morrissey, formerly of the British group The Smiths.

“I Feel Free”(Cream)

One of the British power trio Cream's best known songs, “I Feel Free” was featured on Bowie's "Black Tie White Noise" album.


The alternative rock band Pixies had already broken up by the time Bowie recorded his take of the group's song “Cactus” for 2002's critically-acclaimed “Heathen” -- a return to form record. It's another example of Bowie's appreciation for the artists who came after him.

“I've Been Waiting for You” (Neil Young)

For "Heathen," Bowie recorded a very rocking version of “I've Been Waiting for You,” which first appeared on Neil Young's self-titled debut record from 1968.

“Try Some, Buy Some”(George Harrison)

On 2003's "Reality" album, Bowie delivered his interpretation of this George Harrison ballad that originally appeared on the former Beatle's 1973 solo record “Living in the Material World.”

“Wake Up”(Arcade Fire)

Bowie's 2005 duet with Canadian rock band Arcade Fire on the latter's "Wake Up" for a Fashion Rocks event is so moving given that it would be one of his last live performances.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events