David Bowie packed seven or eight careers into his one. That’s one of those cliches that’s actually true: His catalog is full of album-length statements that wrestled pop’s future into revelatory new shapes again and again. But Bowie was also one of rock & roll’s all-time great singles artists — an AM-radio Picasso who could pack more joy and loss and wonder into three minutes than most other artists could dream of in a lifetime.
His genius comes into the sharpest focus when you listen to a playlist of his best songs spanning those four decades, which is what we’ve assembled here: a rough guide to Bowie, from 1969’s “Space Oddity” up through last week’s “Lazarus.” It’s a head trip, and it’s only the beginning.
Editor’s Note: This list was originally published in January 2016