Young Americans (song)

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"Young Americans"
Bowie YoungAmericansSingle.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Young Americans
B-side"Knock on Wood" (US)
"Suffragette City" (Intl.)
Released21 February 1975 (1975-02-21)
RecordedAugust 1974
StudioSigma Sound, Philadelphia
Length5:10 (album)
3:11 (single)
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)Tony Visconti
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rock 'n' Roll with Me"
"Young Americans"

"Young Americans" is a song by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released in 1975. It is included on 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, moving up to number 204 in its 2021 revised list.[3] In 2016, it ranked at number 44 on Pitchfork's list of the 200 best songs of the 1970s.[4]


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'."[5]

Release and reception[edit]

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."[6]

Following Bowie's death in 2016, Rolling Stone listed it as one of Bowie's 30 essential songs.[7] In 2018, the writers of NME, in their list of Bowie's 41 greatest songs, ranked "Young Americans" at number 4.[8]

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.[4]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Bowie except where noted.

UK release[edit]

  1. "Young Americans" – 5:10
  2. "Suffragette City" (Live) – 3:45

US release[edit]

  1. "Young Americans" (single version) – 3:16
  2. "Knock on Wood" (Live) (Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper) – 3:03


("Young Americans" only except Bowie and Garson)

Additional personnel[edit]


Chart (1975–2016) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[citation needed] 27
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[9] 36
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 33
France (IFOP)[11] 51
France (SNEP)[12] 133
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[14] 7
UK Singles (OCC)[15] 18
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 28
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[17] 25
US Cash Box[18] 20

Live versions[edit]

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.[19]

Other releases[edit]

In other media[edit]

The song has accompanied the end credits of Dogville[20] 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.

The song was used briefly in the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War. It was also played at the beginning of the film Down to You, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles.

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.


  1. ^ Edwards, Gavin (5 June 2014). "Flashback: David Bowie and Cher Duet on 'Young Americans'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  2. ^ Vogelman, Nee (18 January 2016). "The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on 21 February 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  3. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: David Bowie, 'Young Americans'". Rolling Stone. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  4. ^ a b Pitchfork Staff (22 August 2016). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 12 September 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  5. ^ Collis, Clark; et al. (October 2003). "The 1001 greatest songs to download right now!". Blender Number 20. p. 98.
  6. ^ "Young Americans – David Bowie | Song Info | AllMusic".
  7. ^ Rolling Stone Staff (11 January 2016). "David Bowie: 30 Essential Songs". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 3 December 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  8. ^ Barker, Emily (8 January 2018). "David Bowie's 40 greatest songs – as decided by NME and friends". NME. Archived from the original on 3 November 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  9. ^ "David Bowie – Young Americans" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3958a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). InfoDisc. 1 March 1975. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  12. ^ "David Bowie – Young Americans" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Young Americans". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  14. ^ "David Bowie – Young Americans". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  15. ^ "David Bowie: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  16. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  17. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ O'Leary, Chris (2012). "Did Bowie really retire his oldies?". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  20. ^ Heath, Chris (11 January 2015). "7 David Bowie Songs to Play Over and Over Today". GQ. Archived from the original on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  • Pegg, Nicholas (2000). The Complete David Bowie. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-14-5.

External links[edit]