“Let’s Dance” is the number-one hit title album track on David Bowie‘s album Let’s Dance. It was also released as the first single from that album in 1983, and went on to become one of his biggest-selling tracks.
The single was one of Bowie’s fastest selling to date, entering the UK singles chart at number five on its first week of release, staying at the top of the charts for three weeks. Soon afterwards, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100, Bowie’s only single to reach number one on both sides of the Atlantic. It narrowly missed topping the Australian charts, peaking at number two.
The music video was made by David Mallet on location in Australia including a bar in Carinda in New South Wales and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. It featured Bowie playing with his band while impassively watching an Aboriginal couple’s struggles against metaphors of Western cultural imperialism. The red shoes mentioned in the song’s lyrics appear in several contexts. Bowie described this video (and the video for his subsequent single, “China Girl“) as “very simple, very direct” statements against racism and oppression.
7″: EMI America / EA 152 (UK)
- “Let’s Dance” (Single Version) (Bowie) – 4:07
- “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)“ (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09
12″: EMI America / 12EA 152 (UK)
- “Let’s Dance” (Bowie) – 7:38
- “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” (Bowie, Moroder) – 5:09
“Let’s Dance” introduced Bowie to a new younger audience oblivious to his former career in the 1970s. Although the track was his most popular to date, its very success had the incongruous effect of distancing Bowie from his new fans, with Bowie saying he didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. His next two albums, made as an attempt to cater to his new-found audience, suffered creatively as a result.
The track was a regular on the Serious Moonlight Tour (the name derived from a lyric in “Let’s Dance”), and was released on the 1983 concert video Serious Moonlight. It was also performed live on Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider Tour (and released on 1988′s Glass Spider), the 1990 Sound+Vision Tour, and was then reworked semi-acoustically for tours in 2000 and later.
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“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
|Irish Singles Chart number-one single
9 April 1983 – 16 April 1983
“Words” by F.R. David
“Is There Something I Should Know” by Duran Duran
|UK Singles Chart number-one single
9 April 1983 – 23 April 1983
“True” by Spandau Ballet
“Twisting by the Pool” by Dire Straits
|New Zealand Singles Chart number one
22 April 1983 – 20 May 1983
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson
“She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby
|Canadian “RPM” Singles Chart number-one single
May 7, 1983
“Angel Man (G.A.)” by Rhetta Hughes
|Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
April 30, 1983 – June 4, 1983
“Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
May 21, 1983
- It appeared on the following compilations:
Cultural references to the song
- The song is referenced in the Bret Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero
- Bowie himself appears in the film Zoolander to the accompaniment of this song.
- Both the song and the original music video have appeared on two PlayStation 2 games: Dance Dance Revolution STRIKE (the Japanese version of Dance Dance Revolution EXTREME 2) and the American PS2 version of DanceDanceRevolution SuperNOVA. Both games are released by Konami Digital Entertainment.
- In the indie film Eagle vs Shark, the character Lily sings part of the song incorrectly to herself and is corrected by her lover Jarrod.
- Appears as a playable song for the Nintendo DS game Elite Beat Agents.
- In the film The Boat That Rocked (the original UK version of the USA film “Pirate Radio”), the track is played at the end of the film as various album covers are displayed to celebrate 40 years of radio Rock and Pop broadcasting.
- The song appears in the HBO film Gia, starring Angelina Jolie.
- The song appears in both Band Hero and Lego Rock Band, two music video games.
- In the 2004 film “Shall We Dance”, directed by Peter Chelsom, a portion of the song, by Mýa, is played at the end of the film.
- Kex - 12-inch single (1983)
- Falco - Junge Roemer (1984)
- Tina Turner - Tina Live in Europe (duet with David Bowie) (1988)
- Overdose - Ashes to Ashes: A Tribute to David Bowie (1998)
- The Heroes - Access All Areas (1999)
- La Pieta - Let’s Dance (1999)
- Second Skin - Goth Oddity 2000: A Tribute to David Bowie (2000)
- Mýa - Shall We Dance? Soundtrack (2004)
- A cover version by Delaney Wolff appears in the music game Elite Beat Agents on the Nintendo DS (2006–07).
- Craig David - Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance) (2007)
- Paula Flynn (2007)
- Hi-Tack (2007)
- Porro y Los Bobos - Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie (2007)
- It was covered live by Sophie Ellis-Bextor in 2007.
- Adam Lambert uses the song as part of a medley in the American Idols Live 2009 Tour.
- Chic - Chic Freak and More Treats
- Angèle Dubeau
- E-Male - Single
- Dokkumer Lokaatsje
- Rabbit in the Moon
- The Rockridge Synthesiser Orchestra - Plays David Bowie Classic Trax
- The Smashing Pumpkins covered “Let’s Dance” during their live “Transmission” jam.
- The Futureheads covered the song for an 80s compilation for Q Magazine.
- M. Ward covers the song on his album “Transfiguration of Vincent“.
- Rob Thomas has performed the song several times during his live shows
- Ween has played covers live.
- Heidi Mortenson 2011. The digital album release “Run for Covers”.
- Umphrey’s McGee 2011. Live in concert on December 31, 2011 in St. Louis.
- Walk the Moon has covered it live.
- The Australian band ‘Something For Kate‘, fronted by Paul Dempsey, included an acoustic cover as a bonus track on their 2012 album ‘Leave Your Soul To Science.’
- Puff Daddy sampled “Let’s Dance” on his 1997 single “Been Around the World“, featuring The Notorious B.I.G and Mase.
- Craig David sampled this song for his single “Hot Stuff”.
- Collie Buddz samples this song for his song “My Everything”.
- UK Drum & Bass musician Dom and Roland sampled this for his single “Can’t Punish Me” on the record label Moving Shadow
- “Let’s Dance” is sampled in the song “Bowie” by New Zealand folk parody duo Flight of the Conchords.