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Young Americans
Song

Young Americans

David Bowie
Album:
Young Americans

Song Meaning and Background of Young Americans by David Bowie


It’s about a newlywed couple who don’t know if they really like each other,” Bowie said of “Young Americans.”


He had ditched the glam look that made him a star and embraced what he called “plastic soul”.

In the song there are two furture stars in the making: Luther Vandross on backup vocals, and David Sanborn wailing on sax.


"Young Americans" is a song by English singer-songwriter David Bowie from his ninth studio album of the same name.


Released in 1975, the song reached number 18 on the UK Singles Chart but was a breakthrough in the United States, at the time becoming Bowie's second highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 28.


The title itself does not appear in the song, only "the young American", who runs through various myths to the point that by the end, he does not know which ones to believe or follow.


Unlike the fractured imagery of Bowie's previous album Diamond Dogs (1974), "Young Americans" is observational and lyrically influenced by the works of Bruce Springsteen.


Throughout the song, allusions are made to the Watergate scandal – US President Richard Nixon having resigned only three days prior to its recording – the McCarthy witch hunts ("now you have been the un-American") and civil rights struggles ("sit on your hands on a bus of survivors"). Additional references are made to charms of American society, including "Afro-sheen" – a hair-care product regularly advertised on Soul Train – "Ford Mustang", "Barbie doll", "Cadi" and "Chrysler", and lyrics that provoke images of violence and anguish ("would you carry a razor in case, just in case of depression?" and "ain't there a woman I can sock on the jaw?")


The song also makes several British allusions. The opening line, "they pulled in just behind the fridge", was a reference to the comedic English duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's stage revue Behind the Fridge, which Bowie had attended in London in 1973.


The revue painted American life as a British comedy rather than, in O'Leary's words, "a standard-issue American make-out session in a car parked off the highway".


"Young Americans" also contains a vocal quotation of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" (1967): "I heard the news today, oh boy", which anticipated Bowie's imminent collaboration with former band member John Lennon. Drawing further Lennon comparisons, Perone relates the song's production on saxophone to Phil Spector's work on Lennon's initial post-Beatle recordings.


Lyrics of Young Americans by David Bowie


They pulled in just behind the bridge

He lays her down, he frowns

"Gee, my life's a funny thing

Am I still too young?"

He kissed her then and there

She took his ring, took his babies

It took him minutes, took her nowhere

Heaven knows, she'd have taken anything, but

 

(All night)

She wants the young American

(Young American, young American)

(She wants the young American)

(All right)

She wants the young American

 

Scanning life through the picture window

She finds the slinky vagabond

He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang

But Heaven forbid, she'll take anything

But the freak, and his type, all for nothing

He misses a step and cuts his hand, but

Showing nothing, he swoops like a song

She cries, "Where have all Papa's heroes gone?"

 

(All night)

She wants the young American

(Young American, young American)

(She wants the young American)

(All right)

But she wants the young American

 

All the way from Washington

Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor

"We live for just these twenty years

Do we have to die for the fifty more?"

 

All night

He wants the young American

(Young American, young American)

(He wants the young American)

(All right) All right

He wants the young American

 

Do you remember, your President Nixon?

Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?

Or even yesterday?

 

Have you been the un-American?

Just you and your idol sing falsetto

'Bout Leather, leather everywhere

And not a myth left from the ghetto

Well, well, well, would you carry a razor

In case, just in case of depression?

Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors

Blushing at all the Afro-Sheeners

Ain't that close to love?

Well, ain't that poster love?

Well, it ain't that Barbie doll

Her heart's been broken just like you and

 

(All night)

All night, you want the young American

(Young American) young American

(You want the young American) All right

All right

You want the young American

 

You ain't a pimp and you ain't a hustler

A pimp's got a Cadi and a lady got a Chrysler

Black's got respect, and white's got his soul train

Mama's got cramps, and look at your hands ache

(I heard the news today, oh boy)

I got a suite and you got defeat

Ain't there a man who can say no more?

And ain't there a woman I can sock on the jaw?

And, ain't there a child I can hold without judging?

Ain't there a pen that will write before they die?

Ain't you proud that you've still got faces?

Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?

 

All night

I want the young American

(Young American) young American

(I want the young American)

All right

I want the young American, young American

 

(Young American, young American)

(I want the young American)

(All night)

You want I, I want you

(Young American, young American)

(I want the young American)

(All right)

All I want is the young American

(Young American, young American)

(I want the young American)

(All night)

Release Date

1975

Songwriter/s

David Bowie

Producer/s

Tony Visconti

Label/s

RCA

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