David Bowie's Inspiration Behind The Song That Launched His Career

Everybody has their favorite David Bowie song. From the distinctly groovy "Let's Dance" to the ethereal "Life On Mars," Bowie was an innovative and experimental musician who pushed the boundaries of his craft. He was at his best when he was free to create, to be Ziggy Stardust or whoever he'd decided to be that album.

Bowie wasn't always the musical icon he would become, but there was one thing that was clear about him throughout his life: He celebrated difference and individuality, and embraced it to its fullest extent. As Far Out Magazine reports, he was a 17-year-old college student when he was interviewed by "Tonight" in 1964. Bowie had created the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men, and he defiantly told the show's presenter, "I like it. I think we all like long hair and we don't see why other people should persecute us because of this."

Be who you are, be proud, experiment, and try new things: This was the message Bowie would later impart to his legions of fans. Years later, he would explain that this is just the sort of creative and fearless spirit that led to the creation of the song that made him famous.

A conveniently-timed moon landing helped Space Oddity along

As with a lot of the industry's greats, David Bowie's phenomenal career took some time to gather momentum. During the 1960s, per Britannica, he honed his craft by performing with various small-scale bands. The legend of David Bowie was born during these years, when he selected his stage name and broke out to go it alone.

Bowie's big break (and what a break it was) was "Space Oddity," which released at the time of the famed Apollo 11 mission. AllMusic's Dave Thompson writes that with this haunting, distinctive, imagination-grabbing debut solo single, Bowie "had scored on the back of the moon landing that summer ... so distinctive an air did it possess that, for a moment, its maker really did seem capable of soaring as high as Major Tom."

Of course, the song's overlapping with the moon landing, perhaps still humankind's most remarkable feat to date, was no coincidence. It could be supposed that "Space Oddity" was written with this upcoming much-ballyhooed event in mind, but according to Bowie, the song had a different space-related inspiration.

The Starman's story

In a 2003 interview (via Performing Songwriter), Bowie discussed the foundations of his rollercoaster career. It was a Little Richard performance that made him want to become a musician. "If it hadn't have been for him, I probably wouldn't have gone into music," the star said. The nine-year-old Bowie watched Little Richard in a movie, which is how the inspiration came about. Interestingly, it was another film that led him to create "Space Oddity."

On the subject of the song, he acknowledged the fact that many believe the moon landing was the inspiration. Instead, Performing Songwriter reports, it was the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." Per Bowie, "It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing."

Discussing this iconic song, which boasts the same timeless, unmistakable "Bowie" quality as his string of hits that followed, he went on to say that it was ironic that "Space Oddity" was used in some television coverage of the moon landing. Things don't end well for Bowie's bold space explorer, after all. Be that as it may, it all certainly went very well for the man himself after the song's release. From the success of "Space Oddity" sprung one of the most acclaimed and electrifying music careers ever.