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How the streaming world has paid tribute to David Bowie

As fans continue to mourn the loss of intrepid musician David Bowie, rock’s cosmos have been flooded with streams.


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Jan 16, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 8:53 am CDT

As fans the world over continue to mourn the loss of intrepid musician David Bowie, who died of liver cancer Sunday at 69, rock’s cosmos have been flooded with streams. We’ve been listening to so much Bowie that 19 of his records charted in the U.K.’s top 100 this week—and there’s been a shift in his greatest hits.

Forty-nine years after his debut album, this month’s farewell note Blackstar went out of stock on Amazon—as did every one of his albums. According to his official Facebook page, “Bowie tracks were streamed over 19 million times on audio streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer and more.”

And when a rock star with flavorful output strewn across 50 years leaves us, where does one even start? The heralded, essential Bowie spans “Space Oddity” (1969) to “Heroes” (1977). Except that ’83’s Let’s Dance—his 15th record—sold 10 million copies, ushered in the MTV era, and was a gorgeous, populist project ripe with radio-dominating singles. In between he pioneered glam rock; got bored and put out a soul album that landed him his first No. 1 single stateside, “Fame”; did enough cocaine to kill a horse; and recorded a trilogy of challenging albums with producer Brian Eno in Berlin. 

In the wake of Bowie’s death, one of Monday morning’s most shared bits of content was this career-spanning GIF:

As the New York Times noted, “Heroes” was “more or less a flop when it came out, falling short of getting on the Billboard charts.” It runs down forbidden love at the Berlin Wall and, despite its real-time lack of commercial success, has emerged as Bowie’s dominant offering on Spotify this week.

Bowie streams on Spotify shot up a staggering 2,822 percent in the wake of his passing, as the Guardian reported. Meanwhile, the streaming giant itself flew its company flag at half mast in his honor on Friday.

“Heroes” peaked at No. 24 in 1977, but is this week joined in the U.K. top 40—where it climbed up to No. 12 this week—by “Life On Mars?,” “Starman,” and “Space Oddity.”

Last year Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield famously sang “Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. Bowie himself intervened to make sure the original clip stayed on the Web amid copyright controversy—calling it “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.” We now know Bowie did so with the knowledge that his body was harboring a terminal illness.

Fitting, then, that three of Bowie’s most popular posthumous songs aim for outer space.

H/T the New York Times | Illustration via Bruno Moraes

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*First Published: Jan 16, 2016, 11:55 am CST