For an artist so singular in sound and vision, David Bowie has enjoyed some of his finest moments in the spotlight alongside another artist. Often finding sounds and nuances that other artists would miss, for a while Bowie had a Midas touch that everybody was interested in. It meant that the singer was often drafted in to turn music into solid gold.
Below, we’re taking a look back at nine of Bowie’s finest duets and seeing how the Starman always added an extra touch of glitter to the artists around him. Whether he’s just adding a hefty dose of flair with some eccentric moves or challenging them vocally to push themselves towards stardom, Bowie always brings out the best in the people he is working with.
Bowie may have shared the stage with some of the world’s finest musical artists but the six mentioned in this article remain as a beacon of Bowie’s own popularity among the upper echelon of music’s history. The singer was long famed for his eclectic styles and complete commitment to his role as an artist. As well as inspiring countless artists he also challenged them to complete their best work.
It means that whenever Bowie was sharing the stage, figuratively or literally, with another singer or artists the Starman always made people up their game and produce something completely and utterly brilliant.
David Bowie’s 9 best duets ever
‘Under Pressure’ – Queen
The notorious session Freddie Mercury and David Bowie shared before during and after the recording of Queen’s iconic hit will go down in history. It also may well be the reason for the shared intensity of the track.
Bowie happened to be recording an LP around the corner from Queen’s studio when he humbled in and ended up challenging Mercury to a sing-off. What transpired thereafter turned into one of Bowie’s finest tracks and one of Queen’s undying anthems.
Fuelled by cocaine, wine and a hefty dose of ego, Bowie and Freddie Mercury went toe to toe on this track and both came out as champions.
‘Young Americans Medley’ – Cher
David Bowie was appearing on the newly-solo-Cher hosted show, having decided to go separate ways with Sonny Bono, to promote his new album Young Americans, but what transpired would live in the hearts and minds of many for years to come far beyond the record.
The amalgamation of tunes the pair sang together amid a decadent ’70s set design, rested heavily on the duo’s pop sensibilities, dipping their musical toes across a range of instantly recognisable hits. It makes for wonderful viewing as two of the pop world’s most treasured artists took on some of that same world’s most legendary songs.
To see two of pop brightest stars sharing the stage is enough to make any muso smile, the fact that they have so much fun with it just adds the cherry on top.
‘Tonight’ – Tina Turner
Originally recorded with Bowie’s undying love and partner Iggy Pop, the singer later re-recorded the track with the musical juggernaut Tina Turner for his 1984 album of the same name. Watch below as the Queen of the stage welcomes Bowie to share a performance of the track as part of Turner’s Tina: Live In Europe live release. It’s a touching moment shared between to showstoppers.
The duo also shared one of the weirder moments of the ’80s too, as they joined forces to take part in a ‘Weird Science’ inspired advert for Pepsi. It may well be one of the most ludicrous collaborations Bowie has ever been apart of, especially considering that this one is so brilliant.
‘Quicksand’ – The Cure
David Bowie’s 50th birthday was never going to be a quiet affair. Ziggy Stardust would instead gather up all his favourite artists and put on one hell of a show for Madison Square Garden.
It saw Bowie utter his famous quote, “I have no idea where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you.”. He wasn’t joking, after welcoming performance from Frank Black and Foo Fighters, he introduced Robert Smith of The Cure who joined Bowie for Earthling’s ‘The Last Thing You Should Do’ and the Hunky Dory hit ‘Quicksand’.
The duo performed acoustically with both Bowie and Smith on vocals and guitars and it lands like a golden piece of nostalgia that should never be forgotten.
‘I Got You Babe’ – Marianne Faithfull
As it’s David Bowie there was a fair chance that someone was going to perform with him dressed in a PVC nun’s habit. The fact it just so happened to be the glorious Marianne Faithfull performing a cover of Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ just makes it all the sweeter.
Recorded as part of Bowie’s NBC special from 1973 the singer reportedly told the audience, which was mainly filled with fans: “This isn’t anything serious, it’s just a bit of fun. We’ve hardly even rehearsed it.”
With that line in your heads take in the splendour of this brilliantly nuanced performance of ‘I Got You Babe’ from David Bowie & Marianne Faithfull. It’s friendly and not exactly the most serious performance but it still packs a lot of punch and a double dose of style.
‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails
The most iconic cover of Nine Inch Nails’ masterpiece ‘hurt’ is of course not David Bowie. That title belongs to Johnny Cash, as we know. But this performance of the track from 1995 is the best duet of the track as Trent Reznor and Bowie share vocal duties.
NIN were opening for Bowie during his tour and struck up a keen friendship, often sharing songs and stages throughout the tour and becoming close friends ever since. ‘Hurt’ is a particularly great song for Bowie, it allows him to detract from his party-starting image and offer up something a little more ghostly.
‘Dancing in the Street’ – Mick Jagger
Easily the most recognisable of Bowie’s duets it has become a sore point for diehard fans. It’s fair to say the track isn’t the most artistically gifted but it does allow for some irreverence in Bowie’s extensive back catalogue.
Released in 1985, the song is really hinged on the fantastically eighties video of the song. The fact that we can look back at this meeting of minds in such brightly coloured and billowing shirts just makes sure this song will live on forever.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of a laugh, listening to the isolated track of this video is just about the best thing you could do with your day.
‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ – Lou Reed
Another appearance from David Bowie’s 50th saw the Starman collaborate with one of his longtime friends and longest working partnerships, The Velvet Underground founder, Lou Reed.
Reed joined Bowie on stage for a rendition of VU’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. Reed and Bowie shared a keen friendship and collaborate a lot throughout the years. While Bowie cited Reed as an overarching influence on his work Bowie would get Reed his first post-VU hit with Transformer.
Below is another clip of the pair working in perfect harmony as they share the stage as eagerly as they share smiles. There’s an added bonus of them performing ‘Queen Bitch’ too.
‘Under Pressure’ – Annie Lennox
The majesty of David Bowie’s legacy has left much of his artistic output shrowded in a veil of golden hues. His career was so glittering that one often worries that rose-tinted glasses can replace the lens under in the microscope. But when you look back at rehearsal footage of Bowie and Annie Lennox performing ‘Under Pressure’ in 1992 with Queen, you know that he was the real deal.
The footage comes from behind-the-scenes of a huge benefit concert for Queen singer Freddie Mercury who had died at the result of AIDS not long before. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness was held on Easter Monday, 20 April 1992 at Wembley Stadium in London, England for an audience of around 72,000.
The concert was produced for television by Ray Burdis, directed by David Mallet and broadcast live on television and radio to 76 countries around the world, with an audience of up to one billion. The concert was conducted in tribute to Queen’s lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, who had died of AIDS on 24 November 1991. All profits found their way to specific AIDS charities.