Fascination (David Bowie song)

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Song by David Bowie
from the album Young Americans
RecordedDecember 1974 (1974-12)
StudioRecord Plant, New York City
Songwriter(s)David Bowie, Luther Vandross
Producer(s)Tony Visconti

"Fascination" is a song written by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie and the American musician Luther Vandross for Bowie's Young Americans album in 1975. The song originated from a Vandross song called "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)" which The Mike Garson Band used to play before Bowie concerts in 1974.

An alternate mix appeared on the 1989 Sound + Vision box set, though this was replaced with the original on the 2003 reissue of the compilation.

While Bowie never performed this track live in concert, it was rehearsed for potential inclusion in Bowie's set at the 1985 London Live Aid concert, though, along with "China Girl," it was eventually dropped from his final set list.


Luther Vandross had written a song entitled "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)" and was serving as a backup singer to Bowie's live tour in 1974.[1][2][3] Vandross would sing "Funky Music" during the supporting portion of the shows on the tour. Bowie retained Vandross as a backup singer for the sessions of Young Americans.[1] During those sessions Bowie and Vandross reworked "Funky Music" into "Fascination," including mostly brand new lyrics by Bowie, and included it on the album.[1][2] When Bowie asked Vandross for permission to record "Funky Music" himself, Vandross responded "What do you mean 'let' you record it. I'm living in a building with an elevator that barely works and you're asking me to 'let' you record one of my songs."[4] "Fascination" thus became Vandross' first published songwriting credit.[2]

When Vandross formed his own group Luther the following year, he included "Funky Music" as the first track of their first album Luther.[1] According to Spin writer Barry Walters, "Funky Music" with Vandross' original lyrics is a "love song about music."[5] Music writer Chris O'Leary describes the lyrics as being "a sales pitch for himself, a New York hustle" with lyrics such as "I do the singing, just give me a beat" that O'Leary describes as "pure George M. Cohan."[4] Music journalist Peter Doggett calls it a celebration of Vandross' cultural heritage.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Bowie biographer Nicholas Pegg describes the music of "Fascination" as "the most unabashed homage to Gamble and Huff's 'Philly' sound to be found on Young Americans."[2] O'Leary states that it has an "ominous, snaking bass hook."[4] Peter Doggett states that Bowie left Vandross' original "Funky Music" arrangement virtually unchanged, "as an utterly contemporary slide of funk."[6] The song structure is based on a descending chord progression from E minor to D major to C major.[4]

Pegg describes the lyrics as "opaque."[2] He notes that authors such as Doggett and O'Leary have described the inspiration for the lyrics as the nightclub sign in John Rechy's novel City of Night while Doggett also identifies the definition of "fascination" in J. H. Brennan's book The Occult Reich as a possible topic of the lyrics.[2][6] Pegg also notes that Bowie had been fascinated by the word "fascination," as evidenced by the lyrics of his 1971 song "Changes"[2] Doggett also states that Bowie sings the song as "a celebration of male lust and power."[6] According to music author David Buckley, "Fascination" "funks up the 'strange fascination' motif of 'Changes'" and "reaffirms a compulsion to keep doing, questing, acting, asking originally set out in 'Changes.'"[7] O'Leary notes that one of the changes Bowie made from Vandross' original lyrics was to change a description of "a man walking down the street looking for a good song into one prowling around for a fix."[4] Humanities professor Camille Paglia regards the lyrics as describing Bowie's "violent seizure by and enamored fascination with his own aspiring, gender-conflating mind."[8]


Allmusic critic Ned Raggett describes "Fascination" as "a dramatic and at times seriously groovy song" that "one could imagine Nile Rodgers giving an ear to in the early days of Chic."[9] Buckley regards the song as having the best riff on Young Americans.[7] Music professor James E. Perone praises Bowie's vocal performance as having a "great deal of emotional display" without resorting to exaggerated vibrato or having "intonation inconsistencies."[10] Raggett notes that Bowie's vocals are "either pitched low or almost half-whispered" and speculates whether this was intentional or just the unintentional result of trying to sing in a new style, and says that this results in the backup singers being more prominent in the refrain than Bowie is.[9] Paglia states that "Fascination" is "so passionate, powerful and grand that it can be understood as Bowie's artistic manifesto, addressed to no one but himself."[8] New Musical Express editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray said that "Fascination" "grooves along in a fairly elegant manner."[11]


According to Chris O'Leary and Benoît Clerc:[4][12]


  • Tony Visconti – producer
  • Harry Maslin, Carl Paruolo – engineer

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Neal, Mark Anthony (2013). Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities. NYU Press. pp. 145–146. ISBN 9780814758366.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Pegg, Nicholas (2016). The Complete David Bowie. Titan Books. ISBN 9781785655333.
  3. ^ Slapper, Clifford (2018). Bowie's Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson Updated and Revised. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617137372.
  4. ^ a b c d e f O'Leary, Chris (2015). Rebel Rebel. Zero Books. ASIN B00VSEQM2C.
  5. ^ Walters, Barry (April 1987). "Soul God". Spin. p. 33.
  6. ^ a b c d Doggett, Peter (2012). The Man Who Sold the World. Harper. pp. 270–271. ISBN 9780062024664.
  7. ^ a b Buckley, David (2012). Strange Fascination. Ebury Publishing. p. 221. ISBN 9781448132478.
  8. ^ a b Paglia, Camille (2019). Provocations: Collected Essays on Art, Feminism, Politics, Sex, and Education. Knopf. pp. 46–47. ISBN 9780525433866.
  9. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Fascination". Allmusic. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  10. ^ Perone, James E. (2007). The Words and Music of David Bowie. Praeger. p. 48. ISBN 9780275992453.
  11. ^ Carr, Roy & Shaar Murray, Charles (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record. Avon. p. 72. ISBN 0380779668.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Clerc, Benoît (2021). David Bowie All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. New York City: Black Dog & Leventhal. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7624-7471-4.