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Young Americans by David Bowie

Album: Young AmericansReleased: 1975Charted:
  • Bowie never was a young American - he was born and raised in England. Bowie said that this was the result of cramming his "whole American experience" into one song.
  • This was recorded between tour dates at Philadelphia's Sigma Sound Studios, which was the capital of black music in the area. The Soul influence had a very obvious effect on Bowie's style. He even completely redesigned the stage for the rest of his Diamond Dogs tour.
  • Over the course of about eight very creative days, Bowie recorded most of the songs for Young Americans at Sigma Studios. He usually recorded his vocals after midnight because he heard that's when Frank Sinatra recorded most of his vocals, and because there weren't so many people around.

    Sigma had a staff of very talented producers and musicians (known as MFSB - the same folks who had a #1 hit with "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)"), but Bowie used his own people - Tony Visconti produced this track.
  • The line near the end, "I heard the news today, oh boy," is a reference to the Beatles song "A Day In The Life." John Lennon worked with Bowie on "Fame" and also Bowie's cover of "Across The Universe." Both songs are on this album.
  • The lead instrument in this song the saxophone, which was played by American Jazz player David Sanborn, who was just starting to get noticed when Bowie brought him in to play on this.
  • Bowie hired Luther Vandross, who had yet to establish himself as a solo artist, to sing backup and create the vocal arrangements on the Young Americans album.
  • Near the end of the song, Bowie sings, "Black's got respect and white's got his soul train." Soul Train is an American TV show targeted to a black audience that started in 1970. The show features lots of very expressive dancing as well as a musical guest, and in November 1975, Bowie became one of the first white singers to perform on the show, something he was very proud of. The "Young Americans" single was released in February 1975, so Bowie performed "Fame" and "Golden Years," which was his current single.
  • Young Americans was the first Bowie album that guitarist Carlos Alomar played on. Bowie first saw Alomar playing in the house band at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and convinced him to play on this album and join the tour. Alomar became a major contributor, playing on several of Bowie's albums and coming up with guitar riffs for songs like "Fame" and "Golden Years."
  • The album was going to be called "Dancin'" before Bowie decided to name it after this track.
  • At a performance at Giants Stadium, Bowie stopped after singing the line, "Ain't there one damn song that can make me...", and dropped to the stage, where he stayed for 10 minutes. The crowd went nuts, but got concerned after a while. Bowie did it to see what kind of reaction he would get.
  • The Cure did a version of this in appreciation of Bowie, their long time friend. The lyrics "Do you remember President Nixon?" were changed to "...President Clinton?" The Cure's version was originally released on a British radio demo CD only, but can now be found on various bootlegs.
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Comments: 31

If you want the lyrics, just click on the "view lyrics" under the picture of David. Otherwise, you could just go on the 'net and find the lyrics.Maggie - St Paul, Mn
The best line in the song is "ain't you proud that you slapped our faces?" This refers to the American Revolution. Yes, David, we are proud.Michael - Niceville, Fl
This song makes me think of Ted Bundy. He was the young American. All night.Doug - Ontario, On
Great song, always loved it. Came on Songfacts to see if there was a logical explanation of the lyrics but no, there isn't. But I don't care. I still love it. Bowie sings the words like an evangelical preacher building up a crescendo from the pulpit to get a reaction out of his congregation. And he succeeds. Then the sax...the sax struts in, around and thru the song, perfectly portraying the sexiness of the "Young American".Camille - Toronto, Oh
I like the fact that the lyrics are poetic. You can draw images or meaning from some of them but most ambiguous and can be interpreted or felt very deeply in a universal kind of way.Robert - Brooklyn, Ny
Interpret it any way you want-it's about youth.John - Concord, Nh
I really like that line "We live for just these twenty years, do we have to die the fifty more?"Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
This song hasn't anything to do with Americans being self-reflexive about themselves -- least of all 'cos Bowie's English. This is about the rest of the world piling its hopes and fears, in the 70s, anyway, onto Americans or what Americans were supposed to represent. "She" wants the Young American, "he" does, "you" all do, "I" do.Sarah - Alta Loma, Ca
An underappreciated song form Bowie's short lived blue-eyed soul period. Listening to the album makes me wish he'd stuck with this persona a little longer.Nathan - Defiance, Oh
Also, Bowie frames the song in the joy of funk and the key of tolerance, nods to the chaos, as always, which reminds us to enjoy even the sh*t.John - Palm Beach Gardens, Fl
It's about upsets, such as teenage pregnancy, moreover, how everyone seems rushed into this cruel world filled with ignorant, irresponsible, hormone-driven children, all of whom would make it better if they could rise above it, but upon doing so, seem to sink further down than before, as power corrupts, etc. He gives us a montage of street scenes and accidental freaks a la Bruce Springsteen lyrics and his reference to "Day in the Life" reaffirms the unfair, breakneck pace of innocence & youth ('these twenty years') giving way to the violent crush of the absurd 'fifty more.' It's Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray meets Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone." She's have taken anything but... (a baby with no father) and worse, a junkie (beggin off the bathroom floor, etc.)John - Palm Beach Gardens, Fl
This is the Baby Boomers song. We were the "Young Americans" he sang about in 1975.N - Staten Island, Ny
When I first heard it I couldn't make out a lot of the lyrics. To me, the song has an infectious Latin rhythm, and I ended up thinking it concerned Hispanic immigrants and their children, looking for a better life. It took me a while to untangle everything through Bowie's accent and singing style! This is an amazing song, summarizing an experience in time in the same manner as "American Pie" or "Broken Arrow". I hope Bowie will be remembered for this at least as much as Ziggy Stardust...Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Did anyone read the lyrics?Dave - Scottsdale, Az
i like the beatles reference. Day in the Life has to be one of my favorite songs of all timeDaniel - Cincinnatti, Or
Well without Chuck Berry and his influences, such as Muddy Waters wock n roll wouldn't be here.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
I guess Christina has never heard of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, or Jimi Hendrix. Like it or not Christina, they're Americans too.Bob - Lakewood, Oh
I always thought it was about issues and decision-makings of young generations as well.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
ok, Muadie, I don't know where you got that, but david bowie was neither african-american nor looking for the american dream. This was a tribute, as stated above, and references the many influences while thanking those involved in its evolution, and yes, he is a genius. But sometimes you hit that genius mark on a 3 day coke binge. =)Dsco - Texas, Tx
im srry but eligh musican are way better than americans. It seems that they have more rhythm. And it seems that each rock musican seems to add soul at one point or as their whole career. Such as Mick Jagger ["Brown Sugar"], Joss StoneChristina - Nor*cal, Ca
David bowie wrote this song on a three day coke bing. He wrote every single musical part (guitar, sax, drums, lyrics) and the guitarist who played on this song claims that when he first heard it, he didn't understand what the hell david bowie was saying in this song, but after he listened to the song a couple of times, he said that it is about the 70's in general and that david bowie is a genius.Eric - Scranton, Pa
Lily of Random Lake, you've hit it right on the money. This hit's definitely 'bout breaking on through the issues of desire, personal safety and intellectual freedom by adolescents and even now the sons and daughters of our baby boom generation. Guess it'll always be like that - the feelings and decision-makings of kids in America, and by probably a few late-blooming elders as well. DUM DUM DUM DUMMMMMMMMM.Leya Qwest - Anchorage, Ak
funny, I never knew i liked soul until this songJosh - Las Vegas, Nv
Mark there's a view lyrics link on this facts page. Great song by the way! saxephone is cool!Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
John Lennon did not produce the album or the title track, actually. After recording most of the material, David met John and the two recorded Fame and a cover of Across The Universe. The bulk of the album was recorded with Tony Visconti as the producer and does not feature John Lennon.Charlie - Stittstown, Canada
all this is all and well, but the reason behind the young american verse "i heard the news today, oh boy" is that john lennon produced not only the song but the album.David - Plano, Tx
Geoff, it's sung as a tribute to "A Day in the Life"Paulo - New York, Ny
The bit where the background singers sings "I heard the news today, oh boy" sounds very very similar to the Beatles song "A Day in the Life"
Both are great songs
Geoff - Adelaide, Australia
Can anybody please get the lyrics to this song.Mark - Port Neches, Tx
This song has nothing to do with race. It encompasses the feelings within every young person living in America, including peer pressure, sex, choices, and hardships.Lily - Random Lake, Wi
a song about african-americans and their
struggle for the "american dream".
Maudie - Ft.worth, Tx
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