Bowie explained on the VH1 Storytellers series that he penned this song as a prayer to see him through the period when a debilitating coke addiction had him flirting with fascism and black magic.
He recalled: "I think it was so steeped in awfulness that recall is nigh on impossible, certainly painful, and I was concerned with questions like: 'Do the dead interest themselves in the affairs of the living?' 'Can I change the channel on my TV without using the clicker?' Unwittingly, this next song was therefore our signal of distress; I'm sure that it was a call for help."
Bowie told the NME that the crunch point came when he was filming the Nicholas Roeg film, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Said the Thin White Duke: "There were days of such psychological terror when making the Roeg film that I nearly started to approach my reborn, born again thing. It was the first time I'd really seriously thought about Christ and God in any depth, and 'Word on a Wing' was a protection. It did come as a complete revolt against elements that I found in the film. The passion in the song was genuine... something I needed to produce from within myself to safeguard myself against some of the situations I felt were happening on the film set."
In 1980, Bowie told NME that he believes he was blinkered by religion around the time he wrote this song: "There was a point when I very nearly got suckered into that narrow sort of looking…finding the cross as the salvation of mankind."
His cocaine addiction was so severe during its recording that nowadays, Bowie is unable to remember making Station To Station.