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30 Wild David Bowie Duets and Collaborations

John Lennon, Cher, Bing Crosby and more

David Bowie

15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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With a career that dated nearly 48 years and a reputation as rock's greatest chameleon, David Bowie has managed to team with the best and brightest of every generation's rising underground — glammers, punkers, art-proggers, disco masters, rappers, R&B stars, industrial brooders, electronica blippers and contemporary indie rockers. But that doesn't mean he's not down to work with Cher, Bing Crosby or a Beatle. Here's 30 of Bowie's collabos from the iconic, to the underrated to the curious. 

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Queen Latifah, “Fame ’90” (1990)

Bowie gave his first American chart-topper a facelift 15 years after its release. Coinciding with both his Sound+Vision tour and the rise of hip-hop in the pop mainstream, he called up Queen Latifah, who offered a rap remix that reflects on the meaning of acclaim and recognition for a black woman. "It covers a lot of ground, 'Fame,'" Bowie told Q Magazine. "It stands up really well in time. It still sounds potent."

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Al B. Sure!, “Black Tie White Noise” (1993)

With 1993's Black Tie White Noise, Bowie turned away from the hard rock sound he had been mining with Tin Machine and toward a glossier, R&B-inflected approach. He reenlisted Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers, who had helmed Let's Dance a decade earlier, to produce, and, on the title track, pulled in New Jack Swing man Al B. Sure!, then just a few years out from his smash "Night and Day," to duet on vocals. The overall sound, replete with backup singers and horn bleats, was uptown funky, but the lyrics, inspired by the L.A. riots, were more incendiary, with Bowie "looking through African eyes/Lit by the glare of an L.A. fire."

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Lester Bowie, “Jump They Say” (1993)

After making two rock albums with the band Tin Machine and putting on a crowd-pleasing greatest hits tour, Sound + Vision, Bowie reconvened with producer Nile Rodgers to make a return to solo work with 2003's Black Tie White Noise. Heavily influenced by his ongoing fascination with contemporary black American music, the first single, "Jump They Say," merged an urgent rhythm and thick layers of synthesized strings with Bowie's signature melodic vocal sense. Always with an ear to the worlds of jazz and avant-garde, Bowie called on renowned trumpeter Lester Bowie (no relation) to add a skittering solo to match the song's frantic mood.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Lenny Kravitz, “The Buddha of Suburbia” (1993)

Bowie once called 1993's The Buddha of Suburbia his favorite of his own albums, which makes it all the remarkable that, on these shores at least, it's virtually unknown. This is mostly due to the fact that the album's title track was initially composed for a BBC-TV miniseries (also called The Buddha of Suburbia and based on the novel of the same name) that never saw the light of day in America. It's a shame, because the song itself – which appears on the album in two versions; the first in its original theme song take and the second with a soaring outro guitar solo from Lenny Kravitz – is one of Bowie's Nineties-era best, a breezy, acoustic-guitar-led outsider's lament.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Pet Shop Boys, “Hallo Spaceboy” (1996)

According to a statement from Brian Eno after the news of Bowie's passing, both artists had been discussing revisiting their 1995 collaborative album, Outside. Discussed far less than other Bowie full-lengths, it's one that deserves reconsideration: It's a high concept work, set in a sci-fi dystopia, that continues some of the best themes in his 1970s work. It also yielded some excellent dark, synth-y disco, like this song, remixed by the Pet Shop Boys for its release as the LP's third single.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Trent Reznor, “I’m Afraid of Americans (V1)” (1997)

Nine Inch Nails opened for Bowie on his 1995-96 tour in support of his industrial-influenced album Outside, and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor would later remix that album's lead single, "The Heart's Filthy Lesson." For his next album, 1997's Earthling, Bowie issued Reznor's bludgeoning mix of "I'm Afraid of Americans" as a single. The video features Reznor as Jonny, an American psycho who stalks a frazzled Bowie throughout New York City before obliterating a taxi cab with bullets fired from an invisible automatic weapon. 

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Goldie, “Truth” (1998)

At the end of the last millennium, drum'n'bass seemed like the electronic avant-garde, a sound ready to take up various musical threads — reggae, hip-hop, soul — and push them, splintered, into the future. Is it any surprise, then, that David Bowie would seek to work with one of its most exciting proponents, Goldie? Surprisingly, though, this track — off Goldie's sophomore album, 1998's Saturnz Return — skips all of the breakbeats in favor of atmospheric washes, tinkling piano and Bowie's late-period, deeper timbre.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Placebo, “Without You I’m Nothing” (1999)

If any commercially successful guitar band came close to reviving the gender-bending, moody spirit of David Bowie's brand of glam rock, it was Placebo. As such, this title track from the band’s sophomore album had to represent the ultimate dream come true, especially for its heavily eyelinered, unapologetically tough-and-pretty singer Brian Molko. Here, his adenoidal, lovesick lead gets anchored by Bowie's reassuring backing vocals.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Rustic Overtones, “Sector Z” (2001)

Rustic Overtones, a seven-piece band from Portland, Maine, signed to Arista Records in 1999 and scored longtime David Bowie producer Tony Visconti for their first major-label album. One morning, the band's saxophonist Jason Ward arrived at New York's Avatar Studios and saw someone sitting next to Visconti. It was Bowie. "My jaw dropped on the floor, I was in absolute awe," says Ward. Bowie stuck around and gave the band feedback on their music, and even offered to record with them. He performed on two underrated gems, "Sector Z," which the band describe as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Ziggy Stardust, and the pummeling album closer "Man Without a Mouth." "He was so kind and down to earth," says Rustic frontman Dave Gutter. "He spoke of his collaboration with us in the same breath as Lennon and Queen. He treated our band as equals. He was the best kind of rock star." Bowie even stayed in touch with Gutter: "He used to send me emails of nasty naked old women and joke that they were his family members that wanted to meet me. I bummed cigarettes from him, farted into his headphones during our session and we laughed our asses off."

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Massive Attack, “Nature Boy” (2001)

Trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack were initially reluctant to contribute to the 2001 soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, but they were won over after hearing that they'd be collaborating with an enthusiastic David Bowie. Having already been commissioned to cover Nat King Cole's 1948 standard, "Nature Boy," Bowie lent a lilting, nuanced reading of the song over Massive Attack's moody and ominous backdrop of looped string samples and bursts of guitar noise. 

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Scarlett Johannson, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” (2008)

In 2007, Scarlett Johansson and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana to record an album of Tom Waits covers. At a party in Los Angeles before the sessions, Johansson ran into Bowie, who asked about the project. Weeks later, as Johansson was in Spain filming a movie, Bowie stopped by as the album was being mixed and cut vocals for "Falling Down" and "Fannin Street.'" "It was the best phone call I ever got," Johansson told RS at the time. 

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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David Gilmour, “Arnold Layne” (2006)

After staying relatively quiet in the wake of his heart surgery in 2004, Bowie surprised the crowd at London's Royal Albert Hall two years later by walking onstage during friend David Gilmour's set. He howled Pink Floyd's first single, the garage-y psych-rock classic "Arnold Layne." The song, about a man who steals women's clothes, was banned from radio when it was released in 1967; at that time, Bowie was just getting started and there was no bigger act on the underground English rock scene than Floyd. (Bowie especially adored the eccentric Syd Barrett.) Bowie finished the Royal Albert Hall set with a take on "Comfortably Numb" under psychedelic lasers. Bowie made the song unmistakably his own, proving he'd lost nothing in his years off the stage.

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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Arcade Fire, “Reflektor” (2013)

Win Butler was looking for another voice for the hypnotic title track to Arcade Fire's fourth album. He worked up the courage to ask Bowie, a fan of the band who had come to shows and performed onstage with them in 2005. "He was really gracious to come and do it," Butler told Rolling Stone in 2013. "It was kinda just too perfect, because he came in and the last time he had been there was when he was recording 'Fame' in the basement with John Lennon at that same studio. And it kinda felt like related in a certain way, John Lennon sang backing vocals for him on his, and now Bowie singing back vocals on ours for us in the same space." 

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15 May 1978, Rhineland, Germany --- (File) David Bowie performs during his concert in Frankfurt Main on 15 May 1978. --- Image by © Kirmer/dpa/Corbis

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TV on the Radio, “Province” (2006)

Bowie sought out TV on the Radio, among the hippest bands in New York in the early 2000s. According to TVOTR singer Tunde Adebimpe, Bowie phoned band member Dave Sitek while they were on the road. "We were at a gas station and Dave got the phone call and hung up the phone, 'cause he thought it was our friend Julian pulling another joke: 'Yeah, you're David Bowie, right.' He called him back two more times and said, 'No, I'm really David Bowie.'" Bowie listened to the tracks that would make up Return to Cookie Mountain and chose to contribute backup vocals on "Province."

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