Music Industry

David Bowie becomes a country star 7 years after his death. Here’s how.

David Bowie did not like country music. While he was alive, he was pretty dismissive of it. Now, seven years after his death, he’s now credited as a co-writer of a song called “Young Love & Saturday Nights” by Chris Young. See if you can figure out why.

Yep. Those opening bits are pretty much identical to the opening bars of Bowie’s 1974 hit, “Rebel Rebel.”

While chord progressions are un-copyrightable, this is different because the guitar in “Rebel Rebel” serves as the melodic underpinning of the entire song. You cannot copy a melody without given credit. But there’s even more to the story.

Warner Chappell Music, the holder of the rights to Bowie’s catalogue. Its president and chief executive asked Nashville songwriter Jesse Frature to “get creative using elements from Bowie’s catalogue to write a new country song.” In other words, this copying was openly encouraged by the rightsholder. The result is what’s known as an “interpolation” which appears the the Frature-composed “Young Love & Saturday Nights.”

Why would Warner Chappell do such a thing? So Bowie’s catalogue can generate more income as well as to keep Bowie’s memory alive by introducing his sound to a new genre.

But what would Bowie have thought of this? In 2002, he said this to NPR: “I think the only music I didn’t listen to was country and wester, and that holds to this day. It’s much easier to say that, the kind of music I didn’t listen to was pretty much that.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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