Feature artwork by Sad Truth Supply
Writing an introduction to a list of the best David Bowie songs in film is a very different task than it would have been yesterday. At the moment, it feels that every glimpse we have of this remarkable creature, every image and every note, has become more precious than it was before. To write a list and not include everything feels inadequate. To write a list at all feels small. But making art, experience art, sharing art—that’s important. It’s important on days most ordinary, and certainly on days like the one we’re living right now. Art reaches us alone and together. It’s solitary and shared. It changes us individually, just as it links us as one.
The coupling of one artist’s work with another’s—and in the case of film, the work of many others—brings new things out of both. “Moonage Daydream” is different now, because of both Guardians of the Galaxy and We Live in Public. “Space Oddity” changes and is changed by Mad Men and Mr. Deeds, and Bowie himself credited 2001: A Space Odyssey as being one source of the song’s inspiration. None of those pairings, some blissful and some bizarre, is included in this list, which just goes to show how long such a list could be—and that’s excluding things he didn’t himself sing, from “Lust for Life” (and thus Trainspotting) to “Walk on the Wild Side” (and Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
David Bowie made other artists better. He made art better. He made us feel, like the kids in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, infinite. I think he blew our minds.
With all due respect to “Kids in America”, Amy Heckerling’s wicked update on Emma should have just started with Bowie. Clueless looks at teenage life through a lens of fantastical privilege, and it starts with Cher (Alicia Silverstone) browsing her wardrobe on a touch-screen. Now it looks dated, but at the time, it was absurdly unreal. What made it work? “Fashion”. Imagine something too fabulous to exist, and Bowie’s the only possible soundtrack. “Fashion” sounded like the coolest of the cool songs in a really cool movie when I was 11. It would never have occurred to me that it pre-dated the film, that the song was the same age as Cher. Absurder still: it was by the same guy who sang that “Changes” song my mom was always playing, and both of them were also Jareth the Goblin King. My tiny mind was blown.