Credit: Robert Sullivan/NA

The song that David Bowie wrote for Elvis Presley

David Bowie and Elvis Presley’s relationship went way beyond just being two of the most popular icons in the music industry. Presley, who was often referred to as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was a significant cultural icon in the history of music. With his charming and energetic stage presence and with his performance style often bordering on the lines of being sexually provocative, Presley became the subject of a long list of controversies. This didn’t stop his success, though, and he soon became one of the biggest names in popular culture.

On the other hand, David Bowie had a career as colourful and varied as no other. The ‘Heroes’ singer was known for incorporating intriguing twists to his musicality and coming up with stage personas such as Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, and more. Bowie started his journey as a musician a long time after Elvis – though, at one point in time, the two were contemporaries in the music industry, too. But, largely, Bowie operated in an unusual arena when considering Elvis — he was simply a fan.  

Born on the same day, January 8th, Bowie was a huge fan of Elvis Presley. So, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if we were to know that Bowie wrote a song for Presley. Since both the singers were signed up with RCA Records, its manager asked Bowie to write a song for Presley. Bowie, the Presley fan he was, was more than happy to keep the request. He wrote ‘Golden Years’ as a track for Presley to put out, but the iconic singer turned him down.

Considering he was such a huge fan of The King, we’d imagine the refusal hit the singer harder than it may have done if it was anybody else behind it. Bowie, when asked about it in an interview in 2002, said, “There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity. But it never came to pass. I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it.” Presley sent a note to Bowie saying, “All the best, and have a great tour”, which Bowie kept with himself for the rest of his life.

The song in question, ‘Golden Years’, which Bowie later recorded and released on his tenth studio album Station to Station, has since become a rich part of Bowie’s own iconography. In fact, ‘Golden Years’ has gone down in history as one of the most popular David Bowie songs out there. Even though much of the backstory of the song revolved around Elvis Presley, as Bowie himself admitted, David Bowie’s then-wife Angela, had a different story to tell. She claimed that Bowie had written the song with her as the inspiration.

In a rather disappointed tone, recalling how Bowie didn’t support her enough in her career as she had done for him, she said, “I did The Mike Douglas Show, singing ‘I’ve Got A Crush on You’. And David was so astonished that he wrote ‘Golden Years’.” She also added that Bowie had apparently sung the track to her over the phone, too.

‘Golden Years’ bordered on the genres of a revised form of funk and disco and David Bowie’s performance in the song was simply magnificent. It featured him on the vocals as well as the melodica, a Moog synthesizer along with handclaps on the side. All in all, it was and still is a treat to the ears.

Here’s Bowie’s iconic ‘Golden Years’ for you to listen to.

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