Saturday, May 1, 2010

David Bowie v. Elton John Songwriter Match Up #2

This week's match up pits two of rock music's most unconventional stars against each other to determine who is the best songwriter.

David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, was perhaps the most influential "glam rocker" as the androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust and later The Thin White Duke.

Elton John's outrageous stage costumes and exuberant uninhibited concerts wowed his fans and he became one of musics most successful artists. The single "Candle in the Wind" (the version written after the death of Diana) has sold over 37 million copies, and according to Wikipedia, is the best selling single of all time.

Both of these artists had their heyday in the 1970's, the golden age of album oriented rock.

Lyrics - Elton John / Bernie Taupin
To clarify, Bernie Taupin wrote or co-wrote the lyrics of many of Elton John's greatest hits, including "Candle in the Wind". David Bowie's lyrics always work well for his brand of rock and who doesn't love the weirdness of "Ziggy Stardust" or the sci-fi influenced "Major Tom"? But all in all, Elton John's lyrics have more of an emotional depth and a compelling narrative quality. Ten points for Elton John.

Composition - Elton John
Both Bowie and Elton John were innovative composers, but Elton John comes out on top. Listen to "Funeral for a Friend" or his version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Elton John's works are often more ambitious and more classical, sometimes employing full orchestral arrangements. Ten more points for Elton John.

Influence - David Bowie
David Bowie was the essence of what 70's rock stars aspired to be - exotic, charismatic, enigmatic. He played a part in shaping the music of Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and I'm sure many others that I don't have the time to research. He collaborated with greats such as John Lennon and Brian Eno. And the sound of Mike Ronson and crew in the Spiders from Mars band as well as his dabblings with electronica and funk all contributed heavily to the evolution of rock music. Five ponts for David Bowie.

Originality - David Bowie
I'm giving this the "The Man Who Fell to Earth", David Bowie. I think Elton John's song "Bennie and the Jets" lyrics sound as though they could have been about "The Spiders from Mars" (not saying that they were written about them, just the imagery the lyrics create). He was more instrumental in the establisment of 1970's "Glam Rock". He also became a flim star and incorporated some of the cinematic themes into his work. James Brown's 1976 single "Hot" (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" borrowed the main riff from "Fame" by David Bowie (I just found this out - I assumed at first that Bowie had stolen that riff from James Brown). Five points David Bowie.

Durability - David Bowie
This is a tough call, but I believe that David Bowie continued to innovate longer than Elton John. Just about all of Elton John's best songs are from the 70's and his later work often tended to be rather forgettable. While also more dominant in the 70's, David Bowie put out more interesting music in the 80's and 90's. Five points David Bowie.

So in conclusion, based upon the criteria I have established, Elton John wins 20 to 15. Personally I am more of a Bowie fan, but since this contest is focused on just one aspect of quality, songwriting, I have to give the nod to Elton John.


  1. How can you give Elton 10 points for song writing, when Bernie wrote the songs? Bowie wrote his own songs........this is a joke

  2. Elton wrote the music, Bernie the lyrics

  3. Elton's songs can make you shed a tear. A great artist is the one that stirs emotions in you, not the one who looks well in tight trousers and make up.

  4. Elton John is just simply amazing! Elton has managed to sustain popularity since 1970, releasing hits every year. Although he had a "slump" in the 80's, he still released hits like; I'm still standing, Little Jeanie, Ego,and etc. Actually Elton is performing at the iHeart Radio Concert, and received the first ever Brit Icon award! Although David is an amazing artist, Elton is much superior.....!

    Also I'm 13 and own most of their albums



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