2016 has seen an unimaginable plethora of musical talent and inspiration leave us behind, but perhaps none greater or more iconic than the likes of David Bowie and Prince. Unsurprisingly, the music world was rocked by the sudden and unexpected deaths of two absolute legends in such a short space of time, and heartfelt tributes and messages of appreciation have continued to flow from countless individuals the world over. Though they may have gone too soon, we can take comfort in what they have left behind. Undoubtedly, both Bowie and Prince’s music will live on, and continue to inspire new generations irrespective of their deaths.
Below are the best musical tributes from this year to two of the most musically innovative and unique artists who paved the way for so many to follow in their revered footsteps.
DAVID BOWIE TRIBUTES
The Last Shadow Puppets – ‘Moonage Daydream’
Since the Starman’s death early this year, Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys vocalist/guitarist) and Miles Kane have regularly incorporated ‘Moonage Daydream’ into their live sets with their supergroup side-project The Last Shadow Puppets, while on tour promoting their latest album Everything You’ve Come To Expect. Although many variants of TLSP’s performance have since surfaced on YouTube, their recital of the track live at Glastonbury is a clear highlight, and features a swanky sax solo from Kane.
Sarah Blasko – ‘Life on Mars?’
Only a few days after Bowie’s death, Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko performed a touching tribute to Ziggy Stardust with a stripped back version of ‘Life on Mars?’ for triple j’s Like a Version, taken from the 1971 album masterpiece Hunky Dory.
Passenger – ‘Space Oddity’
British folk rock artist Michael Rosenberg, better known by his stage name Passenger, released a cover of ‘Space Oddity’ on his official YouTube channel in memory of Bowie. The ‘Let Her Go’ singer’s unique vocal tone suits the track surprisingly well, as he recounts the space age odyssey of the fictional astronaut Major Tom.
Lady Gaga – ‘Space Oddity’ / ‘Changes’ / ‘Ziggy Stardust’ / ‘Suffragette City’ / ‘Rebel Rebel’ / ‘Fashion’ / ‘Fame’ / ‘Let’s Dance’ / ‘Heroes’ Medley
Lady Gaga’s tribute to her idol at this year’s 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards saw the ‘Born This Way’ star perform a rapid medley of Bowie’s greatest hits; a display that proved polarising among many fans and critics alike. As far as awards shows go, arguably the BRITs did it better; Bowie’s band were joined by Lorde to perform ‘Life On Mars?’, a performance which was much more universally received.
Rockin’ 1000 – ‘Rebel Rebel’
The Italian-based group of 1,000-strong musicians garnered international fame after covering the Foo Fighters’ ‘Learn to Fly’ in a successful bid to get the band to play live in their hometown. This year they returned to the spotlight with their grandiose cover of Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’.
Prince – ‘Heroes’
Spine-tingling and haunting to listen to, Prince performed ‘Heroes’ in honour of Bowie at his penultimate live show, just days before his own abrupt death.
Muse – ‘Sign o’ the Times’
British rockers Muse covered Prince’s ‘Sign o’ the Times’ – the title track and lead single of the 1987 album of the same name – live for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The band truly made the tune their own, adopting their own distinct, heavily distorted resonance to take on The Prince of Funk’s grooving original.
Bruce Springsteen – ‘Purple Rain’
The Boss is highly regarded for his own enduring, iconic anthems, so he and The E Street Band covering The Purple One’s most well-known 1984 track ‘Purple Rain’ makes perfect sense. Springsteen’s gritty vocals naturally offer up a rawer, less polished version than Prince’s own.
Coldplay & James Corden – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
Multi-talented TV talk show host, comedian and actor James Corden, known for his vocal performances from his Carpool Karaoke segment to his role in the 2014 musical Into the Woods, joined fellow British expats Coldplay on stage at the LA Rose Bowl for an acoustic version of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ in front of 55,000 adoring fans.
Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’
BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge saw another performance in honour of Prince when British soul-stirrer Michael Kiwanuka performed a fitting and intimate cover of ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’, the closing track from 1986’s Parade.
Janelle Monáe – ‘Delirious’ / ‘Kiss’ / ‘Pop Life’ / ‘I Would Die 4 U’ Medley
In the same vein of Lady Gaga’s GRAMMY Medley, Janelle Monáe performed a string of Prince songs at the 2016 BET Awards, adopting some of Prince’s unique style and dance moves for a riveting performance of ‘Delirious’, ‘Kiss’, ‘Pop Life’ and ‘I Would Die 4 U’.