|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album Young Americans|
|Released||21 February 1975|
|Studio||Sigma Sound, Philadelphia|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
"Young Americans" is a song by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released in 1975. It is included in the album of the same name. The song was a breakthrough in the United States, where the glam rock of Bowie's earlier career had limited popularity outside the major cities. The song reached No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his second biggest success on that chart until that point, meanwhile it would go on to reach number 18 in the UK Singles Chart.
Bowie retired performing the song following his Sound+Vision Tour in 1990. "Young Americans" has since appeared on many compilation albums, and was remastered in 2016 as part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set.
In 2010, the song ranked at number 486 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2016, it ranked at number 44 on Pitchfork's list of the 200 best songs of the 1970s.
The first studio result of Bowie's mid-1970s obsession with soul music, "Young Americans" was a breakthrough for the artist in the United States (where the single was released in an edited 3:11 version). The sound, later described by Bowie as "plastic soul", was matched by a cynical lyric, making references to McCarthyism, black repression via Rosa Parks, Richard Nixon (who resigned the US presidency two days before the recording session), and a near-direct lift from the Beatles’ "A Day in the Life" with the line "I heard the news today oh boy!" (John Lennon, who wrote that line, appeared twice on the Young Americans album, providing guitar and backing vocals on his own "Across the Universe" and "Fame", for which he also received a co-writing credit). The backing vocal arrangement was suggested by Luther Vandross.
"America", noted production team The Matrix, "is a bit like a teenager: brimming with energy and imagination, occasionally overstepping the mark, but always with a great sense of possibility. Bowie captured a big piece of that in 'Young Americans'."
Release and reception
After nearly a decade of attempts, it was Bowie's first Top 40 hit in America on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but would only reach number 18 in the UK Singles Chart. Dave Thompson of AllMusic calls the track "a major stylistic change. Out went the glam and hard rock trappings of his most recent releases; in came the "plastic soul" sound which—after three years of trying—would finally break the singer in America."
Following Bowie's death in 2016, Rolling Stone listed it as one of Bowie's 30 essential songs. In 2018, the writers of NME, in their list of Bowie's 41 greatest songs, ranked "Young Americans" at number 4.
In 2004, the song ranked at number 481 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In an updated version of the same list released in 2010, it was ranked at number 486. In 2016, it ranked at number 44 on Pitchfork's list of the 200 best songs of the 1970s.
All songs written by David Bowie except as noted.
- "Young Americans" – 5:10
- "Suffragette City" (Live) – 3:45
- "Young Americans" (single version) – 3:16
- "Knock on Wood" (Live) (Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper) – 3:03
|Australian Singles Chart||27|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||36|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||33|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||7|
|UK Singles (OCC)||18|
|US Billboard Hot 100||28|
|US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)||25|
|US Cash Box||20|
("Young Americans" only except Bowie and Garson)
- David Bowie – vocals, guitar
- Carlos Alomar – guitar
- Willie Weeks – bass
- Mike Garson – piano
- Andy Newmark – drums
- David Sanborn – saxophone
- Larry Washington – congas
- Ava Cherry – backing vocals
- Robin Clark – backing vocals
- Luther Vandross – backing vocals
- Earl Slick – guitar on "Knock on Wood"
- Herbie Flowers – bass on "Knock on Wood"
- Tony Newman – drums on "Knock on Wood"
- Mike Garson – piano on "Knock on Wood"
A live version of "Young Americans", recorded in October 1974 on the third leg of Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, was released in 2020 on I'm Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74). A live in-studio performance of the song, taped on 2 November 1974, is included on the DVD sets The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons and Best of Bowie. A live performance from the Serious Moonlight Tour, filmed on 12 September 1983, was included on the concert DVD Serious Moonlight (1984) and on the live album Serious Moonlight (Live '83), which was part of the 2018 box set Loving the Alien (1983-1988) and was released separately the following year. The song was performed during Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour and was released on Glass Spider (1988/2007). "Young Americans" was performed during the Sound+Vision Tour in 1990, after which Bowie retired it from live performances for the rest of his career.
- The album version of the song has appeared on several compilations:
- The US single version appears on Rare (1982), The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 (1998), the American/Canadian edition of Best of Bowie (2002), Re:Call 2 (part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) boxed set released in 2016), and the 2-CD and vinyl editions of Bowie Legacy (2016).
- An edit of the 2007 Tony Visconti mix appears on the 2014 Nothing Has Changed compilation.
- The song was released as a picture disc in the RCA Life Time picture disc set.
- It appears on the soundtrack of 20 Feet From Stardom.
In other media
The song has accompanied the end credits of Dogville and Manderlay, the first two films of Lars Von Trier's trilogy USA - Land of Opportunities. "Young Americans" was also featured on the soundtrack of John Hughes' film Sixteen Candles.
It was used in the trailer to the Ben Stiller-directed film Reality Bites to show how Generation X had been affected by earlier American history. It was used in the 2012 thriller Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise.
The 2015 British drama series The Enfield Haunting featured the song during the finale and end credits of the final episode.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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