David Bowie’s first wife, Angie, once said that Bowie could do a “devastating” impersonation of Elvis Presley. She also revealed that Presley, in the late ‘70s, considered recording a cover version of Bowie’s “Golden Years.” Indeed, the two men had much in common: they shared the same birthday (January 8); they recorded for the same record label (RCA); they were tethered to Svengali-like managers; and, at least for a time, they exhibited a preference for flashy jump suits. As a tribute to these pioneering legends, on their birthday, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of songs the two artists could have shared as well.

“Golden Years” (1976)

Bowie himself believed this single from his pioneering techno-soul album, Station to Station, would have been a perfect fit for Elvis. Thematically, the song could have served as a fine capstone to all that had gone before in The King’s career. It would also have been interesting to hear what James Burton might have done with the track’s angular, disco-fied riff.

“Love Me Tender” (1956)

Led by Mick Ronson, Bowie’s Ziggy-era backing band recorded this early Elvis hit as the lead single on Ronson’s debut solo album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Ronson’s glam-stoked arrangement conforms to the sort of glittery version Bowie himself would have likely chosen to do. Moreover, the stately ballad might have served Bowie well as he entered his phase as elegant sophisticate in the late ’80s.

“Life on Mars?” (1971)

Barbra Streisand recorded a straight-up cover of this towering ballad – one of Bowie’s best – on her 1974 album, Butterfly. No one, however, could have done more with the track than Elvis, whose theatrical flair and soaring vocal crescendos were suited perfectly to the song’s broad-stroked show tune vibe. Performed with Ronson’s beautifully majestic string arrangement intact, the song could have been a high point in Presley’s Vegas act.

“Hound Dog” (1956)

In 1971, in full-throttle Ziggy mode, Bowie recorded a rousing version of Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around.” Cut from similar stylistic cloth, “Hound Dog” might have been even more striking, had Bowie elected to cover this Presley classic instead. To hear Ronson’s interpretation of Scotty Moore’s searing licks would have been a treat as well.


“Word on a Wing” (1976)

Elvis loved performing hymns and gospel tunes, and if ever Bowie wrote a hymn, this was it. It’s easy to imagine mid-’70s period Elvis, bathed in a golden spotlight, bringing his stately baritone fully to bear on this prayerful anthem. Had Presley “borrowed” Bowie guitarist Earl Slick to lend his sustain-drenched fills to the track, such as performance would have been pure magic.

“Viva Las Vegas” (1964)

No Elvis song is better suited to Bowie’s “Thin White Duke” period than this title track to one of Presley’s best early ’60s films. Though spiced with Caribbean flourishes, the song is tailor-made for the stylized European croon Bowie adopted at the time. During his middle period -- for the 1983 “Serious Moonlight” tour, for instance – Bowie could have enlisted his pal Tina Turner to play Ann-Margret to his Elvis.

“Fame” (1975)

Which song from Bowie’s catalog could be more fitting for the world’s most renowned rock and roll pioneer? Performance-wise, Presley could have owned this 1975 hit, imbuing such lines as “got to get a rain check on pain” with a ringing authority. To have heard Presley take on an undiluted funk style – jumping headlong into a genre he never really embraced – would have been a treat as well.


“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (1960)

This song would have suited Bowie well at the turn of the century, as his role shifted toward that of elder rock statesman. With his much-vaunted upper register long gone, Bowie could have rolled out the full force of his rich baritone in a dramatic reading of this tender ballad. In addition, no rock singer other than The King himself could pull off the track’s spoken-word section with greater aplomb.

“Burning Love” (1972)

This Elvis hit, similar in tempo to Bowie’s “Suffragette City,” would have made a fine addition to Bowie’s Pinups album, had the glam pioneer chosen to cover songs by American artists. As he did on the entirety of that album, Ronson would likely have fitted the track with searing riffs and churning power chords. The vocal melody for “Burning Love” bears a strong resemblance to much of Bowie’s Ziggy-era work as well.


“Rebel Rebel” (1974)

If early-period Elvis was the rock and roll equivalent of James Dean, then this song could have served as Presley’s personal anthem. Notwithstanding the track’s androgynous themes, the song’s muscular riff – one of Bowie’s most memorable – would have fit Elvis’s physical swagger like a hand-in-glove. In retrospect, the video for the song came off as a near-Elvis tribute, with Bowie slinging his guitar to his side, making no effort to disguise the instrument’s status as a prop.