I’m a big fan of blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Did you know Stevie collaborated with David Bowie on an album produced by another legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers?
Well, the story I’m about to tell you is the honest truth.
And it involves this track, they all made together.
But first, if you’re new here, you may not know that years ago my wife worked at Fender guitars…
So that’s how this came about…
Alright, let’s go back in time…
…to the height of the 2020 pandemic
People were scared and thought the world was going to end.
This was when overnight jumping on Zoom or a video call became the norm…
My wife was working from home and we hadn’t set up an office for her yet…
She was taking calls right from the living room…
Early one morning I was fixing some breakfast in the kitchen…
Just spreading some peanut butter on an English muffin – with our tiny jack russel dog at my feet just praying I drop some human food.
I was still a bit sleepy and didn’t realize my wife had already started working…
Suddenly I hear this funky guitar…
It was the sound of an unplugged electric guitar.
You know that barely audible plinky sound, but it’s still kinda cool?
That’s what I heard some chords strumming a deep groove that hit me right in the pit of my stomach…
It made my head start bobbing right there in the kitchen…
I thought, “Yeeeeah that sounds good! What is that?”
So I creep over towards the living room trying not to get in the frame of my wife on a video call…
My hair’s sticking straight up and I’m in my PJs…
What do I hear and see next?
Well, it was Nile Rodgers on Zoom explaining to my wife the funky chords he used to play behind Stevie Ray Vaughan’s epic solo on this iconic track.
I took notes.
Today I want to share those magical chords with YOU.
So tune up, and let’s get started.
David Bowie wrote "Let's Dance" with Nile Rodgers, the guitarist and co-founder of the band Chic. Rodgers also produced the track. It was the title song of Bowie’s 1983 album "Let's Dance."
The song marked a shift in Bowie's style towards a more commercial and dance-oriented sound.
Stevie Ray Vaughan provided the screamin’ lead guitar solo. Vaughan's epic blues licks and improvisational call & response perfectly complemented Bowie's charismatic vocals and the song's funky rhythm. The collaboration marked a significant turning point in Vaughan's career as well, propelling him from relative obscurity into the international spotlight.
Bowie and Vaughan first crossed paths at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Bowie was deeply impressed by Vaughan's playing. So much so he invited the Vaughan to contribute to his upcoming album, "Let's Dance."
Vaughan initially hesitated, as he was unfamiliar with Bowie's music, but he eventually agreed to participate.
Vaughan's ended up playing on several tracks, including "Let's Dance," "China Girl," and "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)." His searing solos on these songs helped to redefine Bowie's sound and propel the album to commercial success.
The main part of the song and groove is in the key of Bbm. But the bridge sections goes to Ab major.
Here are the EXACT chord shapes Nile played for the main groove.
They are all on the top four strings.
Bbm11 is played in the 8th position like this:
Bbm6 just makes a subtle change from Bbm11:
Gb6 moves up to the 9th position and is played like this:
Then Bbm7 returns back to the 8th position like this:
"Let's Dance" is a beautiful example of the power of collaboration and musical fusion. The combination of David Bowie's visionary songwriting, Nile Rodgers' funky chords, and Stevie Ray Vaughan's electrifying blues guitar work created a timeless and influential piece of music.
Plus how cool is it that the track also marked a significant chapter in each artist's career.