- 2 Track listing
- 3 Charts
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Live versions
- 6 Other releases
- 7 Cover versions
- 8 In other media
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The first studio result of Bowie’s mid-1970s obsession with soul music, "Young Americans" was a breakthrough hit for the artist in the United States (where the single was released in an edited 3:11 version). The sound, often later reflected on by Bowie as "plastic soul", was matched by a cynical lyric, making references to McCarthyism, black repression via Rosa Parks, Richard Nixon (who had resigned the U.S. Presidency two days before the recording session), as well as a near-direct lift from The Beatles’ "A Day in the Life" with the line "I heard the news today oh boy!" (John Lennon, who originally authored the line, appeared twice on the Young Americans album, providing background vocals and guitar on his own "Across The Universe" and "Fame", for which he also received a co-writing credit.) In falsetto, Bowie asks the question: "Ain't there one damn song that can make me... break down and cry?". The backing vocal arrangement came at the suggestion of Luther Vandross.
The song was a massive breakthrough in the United States, where glam rock had never really become very popular outside the major cities. The song reached No. 28 in the Billboard charts, making it his biggest success there up until that point. The song is ranked at number 481 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
All songs written by David Bowie except as noted.
- "Young Americans" – 5:10
- "Suffragette City" (Live) – 3:45
- "Young Americans" (single version) – 3:16
- "Knock on Wood" (Live) (Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper) – 3:03
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|U.S. BillboardHot 100||28|
|Canadian Singles Chart||33|
|UK Singles Chart||18|
|Irish Singles Chart||13|
|Australian Singles Chart||27|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||1|
("Young Americans" only except Bowie)
- David Bowie – vocals, guitar
- Willie Weeks – bass
- Mike Garson – piano
- Andy Newmark – drums
- David Sanborn – saxophone
- Pablo Rosario – percussion
- Larry Washington – congas
- Ava Cherry – backing vocals
- Robin Clark – backing vocals
- Luther Vandross – backing vocals
- Earl Slick – guitar on "Knock on Wood"
- Herbie Flowers – bass on "Knock on Wood"
- Tony Newman – drums on "Knock on Wood"
- Mike Garson – piano on "Knock on Wood"
- A live in-studio performance of "Young Americans", taped on 2 November 1974, is included on the DVD sets The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons and Best of Bowie.
- A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 is included on the concert DVD Serious Moonlight (1983 film).
- It appeared on several compilations:
- The U.S. single version appears on The Best of 1974/1979, Rare, and the American/Canadian edition of Best of Bowie.
20 Feet From Stardom (2013)
- It was released as picture disc in the RCA Life Time picture disc set.
- The Braids – Here We Come (1998)
- The Cure – An XFM Compilation Album (1992)
- Everything – Drop Dead Gorgeous Soundtrack (1999)
- Lily of the Valley – Live Recording: Webster Hall, NYC
- Luther Vandross and Ava Cherry – Luther Vandross Live at Wembley, London
- Danny Michel – Loving the Alien: Danny Michel Sings the Songs of David Bowie
- Replica Schmeplica – Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie (2007)
The song has accompanied the end credits of Dogville and Manderlay, the first two films of Lars Von Trier's trilogy USA - Land of Opportunities. "Young Americans" was also featured on the soundtrack of John Hughes' film Sixteen Candles.
It was used in the trailer to the Ben Stiller-directed film Reality Bites to show how Generation X had been affected by earlier American history. It was used in the 2012 thriller Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise.