Song of the Day, May 20: Heroes by David Bowie

davidbowie-heroesToday’s song is Heroes by David Bowie. After leaving L.A. to refresh himself and recording the stunning Low, Bowie settled into Berlin with collaborator Brian Eno for the second of his “Berlin Trilogy.” It is the only disc of the three to be fully realized in the city and is an amazing creative surge building on the experiments of its predecessor. Somewhat more traditional in its song structures, “Heroes” is one of his finest moments, and the title track is its crowning achievement.

Set in the divided city, the song tells the story of two lovers divided by the Berlin Wall. The lyrics are powerfully evocative and Bowie turns in what may be his finest vocal performance ever. The energy of the song builds moment by moment, capturing the desperation — and hope — of its protagonists. Bowie and co-producer Tony Visconti achieved an updated Wall of Sound that borrowed from the growing synth-rock movement in Europe and made the most of their rock backgrounds. Co-writer Eno provides a grand wash of synthesizer sounds. Bowie’s vocals were recorded through a series of microphones to help with the dramatic build. Guest guitarist Robert Fripp added his genius to the mix, using pitched feedback to manipulate his sound and turning in a solid solo.

The result is a song that hardly got its due at the time but has gone on to be recognized as one of rock’s finest moments. It appears in the top 50 of many “best of” lists and has become one of Bowie’s most covered tracks. Nothing matches the grandeur of the original.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day

Enjoy this classic track today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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