Top of the World: A Tribute To David Bowie Through His Films

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January 8th week belongs to David Bowie and his also known as Bowiemas among his fans. Indeed, David was born on January 8th, 1947 and left us two days after his 69th birthday on January 10, 2016, which left many of his admirers in a state of infinite sadness.

As I haven’t written on my blog for a very long time, I thought I would pay tribute to the starman by discussing his films, the ones I’ve seen anyway. I more precisely decided to present you my personal ranking of his films, from my least favourite one to my most favourite one.

Notice that I put them in two separate categories: the fiction films and the documentaries/concert films

As always, I’ll ask you to respect my choices. I’m not claiming that the #1 on this list is the best film, but only that it is my personal favourite so it’s very subjective.

If you wonder why a certain film isn’t on the list, the only reason is that I haven’t seen it yet. Of course, I’m open to recommendations!

So, here we go!

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Fiction films

7- Absolute Beginners (Julien Temple, 1986)

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Absolute Beginners is not a great film, far from it. The reason why I put it in the last place is that it disappointed me for several reasons. It’s a musical and there are some fine songs, but I thought it was a bit too over the top, and not in a good way. I like extravagant films, but in this particular case, it wasn’t really going anywhere, which isn’t really a good thing. Some of the actors also tend to over-act, which didn’t add any sobriety to the film either. I was also disappointed by the fact that David Bowie’s role is, as a matter of fact, a very small one! Its moment of glory lasts only a few minutes and it is perhaps the best part of the film. Anyway, as he was the third actor to be credited I expected to see a bit more of him. Luckily, Absolute Beginners also has some good sides: David Bowie singing “That’s Motivation”, the scene at the beginning of the film when the main character Colin (Eddie O’Connell) takes photos of his friends in the street in a very dynamic way, the beautiful theme song written and performed by Bowie (I already loved it before seeing the film), the vintage aesthetic and more. So, as you can see, I didn’t hate the film, but it lacks consistency and, at the end, I had completely lost the focus.

6- Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

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This is the first David Bowie film I ever saw and I must admit I don’t remember much of it, but I put it in the 6th place as I know it was a better film than Absolute Beginners. Actually, I saw it in my art history class in CEGEP when we were talking about Jean-Michel Basquiat. David Bowie in the role of Andy Warhol was a pretty top-notch casting choice. David himself even wrote a song years before named Andy Warhol (part of his album Hunky Dory) and it’s a personal favourite!  The cast also includes David’s great friend Gary Oldman and another personal favourite actor of mine: Dennis Hopper. Anyway, I think I would have to see the film again to give you a full appreciation. I wasn’t even a fan of David Bowie at the time like I am today! So, of course, my vision of things will probably ch-ch-ch-change.

5- The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983)

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This one is pretty fresh in my memory as I watched it yesterday! I must admit, I took time to see it as vampire movies aren’t really my thing…anymore. But in a logical order of things, this had to be the next one. The good thing about it is that it is not a typical vampire movie and, as a matter of fact, the word “vampire” is never used by the characters. What I liked the most about the film was its visual aesthetic, which was very beautiful and poetic. Narratively, it was ok, a bit weird, but my attention was kept until the end. Without revealing any spoiler, I must admit I didn’t really like the development of David Bowie’s character which is… a big part of the story. Oops! The Hunger starts in force with an unforgettable opening scene and also ends in a strong way. Finally, I appreciated the cast including Bowie, Susan Sarandon, and Catherine Deneuve. This one looks so beautiful and she made me think sooo much of Grace Kelly! The Hunger is not your typical gory vampire film and it’s, as a matter of fact, a very sexy film, but maybe not for everybody!

4- The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

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This is maybe THE David Bowie fiction film. I mean, can you think of a better role for him than the one of an extraterrestrial. Many also claim that this was his best performance and I’ll tend to agree. David Bowie’s presence on screen is always appreciated, especially in a leading role. The film itself wasn’t my favourite one and the main reason is that I found it a bit hard to follow and I am not that much a fan of science-fiction (but a few exceptions). At one point I wasn’t really sure what was going on anymore. But I recognize its quality and importance both in film history and David’s career. It’s a good think Criterion included in its collection. The Man Who Fell To Earth certainly was David Bowie’s most unforgettable role and he had the chance to play a very interesting character. The ending is very sad and sort of makes you say “well, that’s it?…”

3- Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983)

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Another film restored by Criterion. I found this one very interesting and David Bowie gives us a fair performance. I would call it a film of quality. As I read on the internet, this is indeed one of the rare POW films where the prisoners don’t attempt to escape the camp (if you compare it with films like Stalag 17, The Great Escape or La Grand Illusion). So, for that reason, it remains one of a kind. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence can be a bit slow at some point, but it remains a beautiful one. The music composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also plays in the film) is one of the strong elements of the film as well as some visually poignant scenes, and David Bowie’s well-calculated performance. I also have to say I rather enjoyed the very last scene. It’s sad, but also very touching and reveals us the kinder side of one of the characters.  The only thing that truly annoyed me when I watched it is the fact that the sound was sometimes not perfectly synchronised with the image, but that’s not David’s fault!

2- Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986)

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Just like The Hunger, it took me time to see this Labyrinth as I was not sure it would be my type of film. But, I knew it was an essential David Bowie film and, as you can see, I quite enjoyed it as I put it in the second place! Visually, it’s a bit dated and grotesque, but it remains a great entertainment and Jareth the Goldin King is a very interesting character and David gives it the right essence. The various sources of inspiration for this film also make it a worthy one. Finally, from Underground to Within You, I absolutely loved the score. You don’t often find such groove in fantasy movies!

1- The Linguini Incident (Richard Shepard, 1991)

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No, I’m not saying that The Linguini Incident is a better movie than The Man Who Fell To Earth or Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, but it is the one I personally enjoyed the most. It’s not exactly an excellent film, it’s more a typical guilty pleasure but it’s such fun! I really liked the characters, a lot happens so you don’t get bored, and David Bowie is just there and it’s fantastic you know! Notice a cameo by top model Iman, David Bowie’s second wife. Oh and Vivian’s bras! Oh. my. God. Hilarious!

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David Bowie documentaries/concert films

5- Cracked Actor (Alan Yentob, 1975)

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Cracked Actor is a very interesting film, and surely an essential one for curious people. However, David wasn’t really himself at the time due to his addiction to cocaine and he himself confirmed it in interviews years after. So, for that reason, I didn’t fully appreciate what I was watching. However, I found it worthy as it reveals us a bit of David’s creative process and shows us some excerpt of the Diamond Dogs Tour which unfortunately wasn’t released as a concert film.

4- Bowie in Berlin : ein Dokumentarfilm 1976-1979

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A film about his Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger, but also a bit of Station To Station as an introduction and Outside as a conclusion), Bowie in Berlin is an informative document and the interpretation of his albums made by the various commentators is an interesting one as it gives place to reflection. What I noticed the most about it is that his Berlin trilogy albums were a work of quality, but not necessarily his most mainstream music and, therefore, not accessible to everybody. The form of the documentary itself is however not the most “entertaining” one as it is most of the time static images of people speaking, and you don’t really have any archive images of David performing these songs or interviews with people who really worked on these albums such as a David himself, Brian Eno or Tony Visconti. It’s very sober, but it remains informative and interesting.

3- Serious Moonlight (David Mallet, 1984)

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Seeing David perform on stage is always a great enjoyment, especially for someone like me who never had the chance to see him live. Ok, I must admit his platinum blonde haircut is not my favourite look, but except for that, it was a great show! It also allowed me to discover some of his musicians such as the amazing Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar. However, I’m disappointed that some of the songs such as Modern Love weren’t included in the film! The form of the film with interruptions between each song is a bit weird at some point and sort of breaks its continuity which can be a bit annoying.

2- A Reality Tour (Marcus Viner, 2004)

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David gives us a strong show here and really seem to enjoy himself. I felt he was more generous to his audience in this one than he was with the Serious Moonlight Tour, explaining the 2nd position on my list. This concert also made me discover some songs of his “newer” albums that I hadn’t really listened before. Gail Ann Dorsey is such an amazing bassist and her duo with David on Under Pressure is maybe one of the best things about the show. But it’s sad now to think that none of the original singers are here anymore to perform it. Sadly, that was David Bowie’s last tour, but what a tour!

1- Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (D.A. Pennebaker, 1973)

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This has to be my absolute favourite David Bowie’s film, fiction and documentary confused. Ziggy Stardust really is THE thing that made me want to know all about Bowie and buy all his albums. It’s really what made me a fan of him. When I first watched it, I was so spellbound by that man, by Ziggy. It’s simple, I had the feeling God was in front of my eyes and David Bowie is the only god I believe in. Ziggy Stardust is more than just a concert, it’s a whole performance and something of high importance in David’s career. We also have to praise all these amazing costumes!

So, that’s it! I know I still have a lot to see, including that Last Five Years documentary, but I’m working on it. Any recommendations are welcomed. I hesitated on posting this article tomorrow to give me the chance to see one more film, but I thought today was a more suitable time to publish it.

Even if David Bowie’s singing career was more important than his on-screen one, he was made to act in films and was a much better actor than we suspect. He also was the actor of his life and constantly re-invented himself in various characters with highly developed personalities such as the immortal Ziggy Stardust or the dangerously fascinating Thin White Duke.

RIP David Bowie. We all love you and miss you.

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Illustrating David Bowie’s Song Lyrics

Yesterday, in my Alfred Hitchcock paintings post I mentionned that I had also made some David Bowie’s paintings. Yes, you might have seen some of them if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, but I thought I would also share them on my blog for more people to enjoy them. These are not David Bowie’s portraits, but little paintings illustrating some of my favourite song lyrics. These are made in the same style as my Hitchcock’s paintings. I did those paintings this summer and was just passionated about it. And it’s also a very relaxing activity. For once in my life, I enjoyed doing visual art or, should I say, actually LIKED what I was doing. Perhaps because I find my own style, my own personal touch. My mother told me it made her thing of Keith Harring paintings. I think I know what she means. I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Yes, this is not directly connected to movies, but, appart from classic films, David Bowie is another thing (person) I am crazy about. And, after all, the man did star in some films!

At the end of this post, I’ve included a list of the songs I’ve illustrated and linked them to youtube. If you are not too familiar with Bowie, this is maybe a way for you to discover him! 🙂

Ok, here we go!

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“And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear” (David Bowie, Space Oddity) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“With the man who sold the world” (David Bowie, The Man Who Sold the World)- Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“And the rumour spread that I was aging fast” (David Bowie, The Width of a Circle)- Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“If our love song could fly over mountains” (David Bowie, Absolute Beginners)- Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’ve made some breakfast and coffee” (David Bowie, Oh! You Pretty Thing) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“If you should fall into my arms and tremble like a flower” (David Bowie, Let’s Dance) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“As long as you’re still smiling, there’s nothing more I need” (David Bowie, Absolute Beginners) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“As long as we’re together, the rest can go to hell” (David Bowie, Absolute Beginners) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I, I will be king and you, you will be queen” (David Bowie, Heroes) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Yes we’re lovers” (David Bowie, Heroes) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“You are not a victim. You just scream with boredom” (David Bowie, Time) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’ll see you in the sky tonight” (David Bowie, Tonight) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Time. He’s waiting in the wings” (David Bowie, Time) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Burning up each others’ love” (David Bowie, Miracle Goodnight) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I laughed and shook his hand” (David Bowie, The Man Who Sold the World) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I wish I was a sailor, a thousand miles from here” (David Bowie, Miracle Goodnight) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“And your prayers they break the sky in two” (David Bowie, Loving the Alien) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Loving the alien” (David Bowie, Loving the Alien) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“But the film is a saddening bore” (David Bowie, Life On Mars?) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Sailors fighting in the dancehall” (David Bowie, Life On Mars?) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Watch that man!” (David Bowie, Watch That Man) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“We met upon a hill” (David Bowie, She Shook Me Cold) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“The Halloween Jack is a real cool cat” (David Bowie, Diamond Dogs) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Make me jump into the air” (David Bowie, Moonage Daydream) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’m an alligator” (David Bowie, Moonage Daydream) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Blue blue, electric blue” (David Bowie, Sound and Vision) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“We want you Big Brother” (David Bowie, Big Brother) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Something in the night, something in the day” (David Bowie, Beauty and the Beast) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“We know Major Tom’s a junky” (David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’m lying in the rain” (David Bowie, Modern Love) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Need an axe to break the ice” (David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Give me some good old lobotomy” (David Bowie, All the Madmen) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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” The virgin king” (David Bowie, We Are the Dead) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I will break my arm. I will do me harm” (David Bowie, All the Madmen) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Just to touch the flaming dove” (David Bowie, Soul Love) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Fashion! Turn to the left! Fashion! Turn to the right! Ouuuuuu! Fashion!” (David Bowie, Fashion) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“There’s a brand new talk but it’s not very clear” (David Bowie, Fashion) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Take your proteine pills and put your helmet on” (David Bowie, Space Oddity) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Talking ’bout Monroe” (David Bowie,  The Jean Genie) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“In 1910 I was so handsome and strong. My mustache was stiffly waxed and one foot long” (David Bowie, Rubber Band) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Looks a lot like Che Guevara” (David Bowie, Panic in Detroit) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Some people are marching together and some on their own” (David Bowie, After All) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Is it nice in your snowstorm” (David Bowie, Sweet Thing (Reprise) ) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“The jump in the river holding hands” (David Bowie, Candidate) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I was stone and he was was” (David Bowie, Bewlay Brothers) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“It’s not the side effects of the cocaine. I’m thinking that it must be love” (David Bowie, Station to Station)
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“She got a ticket to nowhere” (David Bowie, Day-In, Day-Out) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“My heart’s a flame” (David Bowie, Love You ‘Till Tuesday) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“You read it in the tea leaves” (David Bowie, 1984) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Johnny’s an American” (David Bowie, I’m Affraid of Americans) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I am a DJ, I am what I play” (David Bowie, DJ) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“So I run across a monster who is sleeping by a three” (David Bowie, The Width of a Circle) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“We’re the spiders from Mars” (David Bowie, Hang on to Yourself) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’m a blackstar” (David Bowie, Blackstar) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Just the beer light to guide us” (David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Day after day, they send my friends away to mansions cold and grey” (David Bowie, All the Madmen) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I drew something awful on him” (David Bowie, Breaking Glass) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Well, it ain’t that Barbie doll. Her hearts have been broken just like you” (David Bowie, Young Americans) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“When your a boy, you can wear an uniform” (David Bowie, Boys Keep Swinging) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“From station to station” (David Bowie, Station to Station) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Uncle Arthur and his new bride” (David Bowie, Uncle Arthur) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Don’t want to be a richer man” (David Bowie, Changes) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“The world will overpopulate” (David Bowie, We Are Hungry Men) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I just met a girl named Blue Jean” (David Bowie, Blue Jean) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Give me your hands ’cause you’re wonderful” (David Bowie, Rock ‘n Roll Suicide) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Your minds are too green” (David Bowie, Saviour Machine) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“You’re a porcupine” (David Bowie, Cracked Actor) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again” (David Bowie, Breaking Glass) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“The return of the Thin White Duke throwing darts in lovers’ eyes” (David Bowie, Station to Station) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Well, well, well, would you carry a razor just in case of depression?” (David Bowie, Young Americans) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“We had five years left to cry in” (David Bowie, Five Years) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues” (David Bowie, Let’s Dance) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Under the moonlight, the serious moonlight” (David Bowie, Let’s Dance) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Morning star you’re beautiful” (David Bowie, Miracle Goodnight) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I saw my baby, she was turning blue” (David Bowie, Goodnight) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Cold fire, you’ve got everything but cold fire” (David Bowie, The Prettiest Star) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“There’s a starman waiting in the sky” (David Bowie, Starman) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Cried so much his face was wet” (David Bowie, Five Years) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“I’ll give you television, I’ll give you eyes of blue” (David Bowie, China Girl) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“Will you see that I’m scared and I’m lonely” (David Bowie, Sweet Thing) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“My word on a wing” (David Bowie, Word on a Wing) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost
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“She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” (David Bowie, Rebel Rebel) – Artwork by ©Virginie Pronovost

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Here a list of the songs I illustrated 🙂

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Do I intend to do more? Of course! There are some lyrics I’ve noted that I still haven’t illustrated and I’ve recently discovered more of his songs. So, these artistic activities aren’t about to be over!

You know, David himself was an artist and did some paintings. Before becoming a famous singer, he studied art!

Please don’t hesitate to tell me wich paintings are your favourite! 🙂 I would love that!

Hope you enjoyed!

Top of the World: Remembering David Bowie with 15 Favourite Songs

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Already one year ago, on January 10, 2016, a musical legend, David Bowie passed away and left his fans in deep sorrow. He was an icon and a real source of inspiration. This sad event is one that we aren’t completely ready to accept and that seemed to have happened too suddenly. Unexpected deaths like this one are the most painful.

However, I’m strongly convinced that Bowie’s memory will never stop being celebrated. Today, in his honour, I’m back with a top 15 of my favourite Bowie’s songs (already another top? Yes!) Plus, two days ago it was his birthday so that makes it a double occasion. There are moments like this when I allow myself to put movies aside and focus on a different cultural subject. (Yes, David Bowie did play in some films, but that’s another story).

This list is very subjective as these are my personal favourites. I ask you to please respect my choices. If a song you like isn’t part of the top, it’s not because I don’t like it! It’s just not in my top 15.

I love Bowie, but I’m really not an expert. To tell you the sad truth, I discovered most of his songs after his death. (You know, stuff like that always happens). I think I knew 6 of them before. However, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a favourite before his death, and I was one of those who couldn’t believe it. I’m telling you all this because this top mostly contains Bowie’s famous songs, which are the one I know the most. I’m not too familiar with his more obscure songs.

Well, enjoy the top now!

15. Changes (1971)

Seriously, how can we forget this refrain?

14. Let’s Dance (1983)

A perfect song to dance indeed.

13. Under Pressure (1982)

Davie Bowie and Freddy Mercury = priceless

12. Dancing in the Streets ( David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s version: 1985)

This song was originally written by  William Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter et Marvin Gaye and contains several different versions. Bowie/Jaggers’s one deserves credits for its video clip only.

11. The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

A “mysterious” song, that’s why I like it.

10. Modern Love (1983)

I know it sounds strange said like that, but I’ve always loved the musicality of this song

9. Rebel Rebel (1974)

Just for that lyric: “Hot tramp, I love you so! “

8. Suffragette City (1972)

Another unforgettable David Bowie’s song

7. Ziggy Stardust (1972)

Because I like the creativity of this song and Bowie’s very sexy voice in it.

(Seriously, his legs are amazing. And this live version is my favourite one)

6. The Jean Genie (1973)

This song has “swag”.

5. Golden Years (1975)

This proves that David was able to perform different styles of music and did them all well.

4. Starman (1972)

The first Bowie’s song I discovered. Used to be my #1 once, but it still has a special place in my heart.

3. Heroes (1977)

A powerful song and Bowie’s voice: OH MY GOD. The emotion.

2. Space Oddity (1969)

Bowie’s most iconic song. Always makes me think of my favourite Quebecker movie, C.R.A.Z.Y (Jean-Marc Vallée) in which the main character is a fan of Bowie and listens to this song in an iconic scene.

The song was originally released in 1969, but my favourite version is the 1972’s re-release, also the most well-known version.

C.R.Z.Y’s scene, in case you are curious.

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  1. China Girl (1977)

Strangely, I used not to like this song very much. But now I love it and… it’s my favourite one. Once again, David Bowie’s voice is amazing and full of emotion, and a song that mentions Marlon Brando’s name is always a winner for me. 😉

That was difficult and I’m still not a 100 % sure of my order of preference. There are some I just love equally.

Anyway, I hope you like these ones too! Please don’t hesitate to share with me what are YOUR favourite David Bowie’s songs.

I watched Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars yesterday and discovered a bunch of other amazing songs in it, but as I’ve heard most of them only once (except those in the top) and because this article was already edited I will leave it as it is now. But a big shout out to this film and its songs!

David Bowie: the man is gone, but the legend will live forever. RIP

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