Song Stories

“Space Oddity”

David Bowie | 1969

David Bowie's story of an astronaut who detaches himself from earthly communication progressed like a rocket launch, moving from an opening countdown to an ethereal drift into space. Released to coincide with the buildup to the first moon landing in the summer of 1969, it gave Bowie his first British hit, cracking the US Top Twenty when it was re-released in 1973. It was written, he told Performing Songwriter, "because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing....I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me."

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The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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