David Bowie - Changes - 1971

Introduction to "Changes" by David Bowie

David Bowie’s "Changes" is a song that has captivated audiences since its release in 1971. As part of his album "Hunky Dory," this track not only showcases Bowie's unique style but also reflects the cultural and artistic shifts of the early 1970s. In this MOOC, you'll explore the song's history, lyrics, and impact, diving into the world of David Bowie and his musical innovations.

Background of "Changes"

Released on December 17, 1971, "Changes" became one of David Bowie's most famous and enduring songs. It wasn't a chart-topper initially, but over time, it gained recognition for its catchy melody and thought-provoking lyrics. The song is known for its distinctive piano riff and saxophone solo, embodying the eclectic and experimental nature of Bowie's music. "Changes" is often interpreted as a reflection on Bowie's own transformations and the ever-changing nature of the music industry. To understand the song fully, it’s essential to delve into its context and Bowie's career at the time.

The Lyrics of "Changes"

The lyrics of "Changes" are rich with meaning and open to various interpretations. Bowie touches on themes of reinvention, the fleeting nature of fame, and the challenge of moving forward in the face of relentless change. The famous line "Time may change me, but I can't trace time" encapsulates the song's essence. Analyzing the lyrics offers insights into Bowie's artistic vision and the era's broader cultural context.

Musical Composition and Style

Musically, "Changes" stands out for its blend of pop, rock, and jazz elements. The song starts with a distinctive piano riff, followed by Bowie's versatile vocals and a memorable saxophone solo. This section will explore the song's musical structure, instrumentation, and the influence it had on later artists and genres.

Impact and Legacy

Despite its initial moderate success, "Changes" grew in stature over the years, becoming an anthem for adaptability and personal growth. It also marked the beginning of Bowie's chameleonic career, where he continually reinvented himself and his music. This part of the MOOC will explore how "Changes" influenced not just music but also fashion, culture, and the concept of celebrity in the modern era.

Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What year was "Changes" by David Bowie released? (1971) (!1972) (!1969) (!1974)

Which album features the song "Changes"? ("Hunky Dory") (!"Ziggy Stardust") (!"Aladdin Sane") (!"Diamond Dogs")

What is the distinctive musical feature that opens "Changes"? (Piano riff) (!Guitar solo) (!Drum beat) (!Saxophone solo)

Which instrument is prominently featured in the solo of "Changes"? (Saxophone) (!Guitar) (!Piano) (!Violin)

What is a central theme in the lyrics of "Changes"? (Transformation and adaptability) (!Space exploration) (Rejection of societal norms) (!Love and heartbreak) (!Political unrest)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

David Bowie is known for his ability to constantly... (Reinvent himself) (!Retire from music) (!Focus on one genre) (!Avoid public attention)

Before adopting the name David Bowie, he was known as... (David Robert Jones) (!David Johnson) (!Robert Bowie) (!David Smith)

Which of the following personas is associated with David Bowie? (Ziggy Stardust) (!The Thin White Duke) (!Major Tom) (!All of the above)

In what decade did David Bowie rise to fame? (1970s) (!1960s) (!1980s) (!1990s)

Which other art form was David Bowie heavily involved in? (Acting) (!Painting) (!Sculpture) (!Dance)

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

Which line follows "Time may change me" in "Changes"? (But I can't trace time) (!But I won't change time) (!But time can't change me) (!But time will tell)

The lyrics "Strange fascination, fascinating me" suggests a theme of... (Intrigue with change) (!Fear of the unknown) (!Desire for stability) (!Dislike of fame)

In "Changes," Bowie refers to the "stream" as a metaphor for... (The passage of time) (!A river) (!Consciousness) (!Life's challenges)

The line "Look out, you rock 'n rollers" is seen as... (A call to the next generation) (!A tribute to past musicians) (!A personal mantra) (!A critique of the music industry)

"Changes" contains the lyric "Turn and face the strange." What does this suggest? (Embracing change) (!Facing fears) (!Confronting enemies) (!Looking back at the past)


David Bowie Ziggy Stardust
1971 Release year of "Changes"
"Hunky Dory" Album featuring "Changes"
Piano riff Opening feature of "Changes"
Transformation Central theme in "Changes"

Open Tasks


  1. Create a Playlist: Compile a playlist of songs from the 1970s that share themes with "Changes."
  2. Research Project: Research other artists from the 1970s who, like Bowie, were known for their innovative styles.
  3. Artwork Creation: Create a piece of art inspired by the themes and style of "Changes."


  1. Essay Writing: Write an essay on the influence of "Changes" on modern music.
  2. Musical Analysis: Analyze the musical structure of "Changes" and discuss its unique elements.
  3. Cultural Impact Study: Explore how "Changes" reflected the cultural shifts of the early 1970s.


  1. Video Documentary: Create a short documentary on David Bowie's career focusing on the era of "Changes."
  2. Songwriting Challenge: Write and record a song that captures the spirit of "Changes."
  3. In-depth Analysis: Conduct a detailed analysis of the lyrics of "Changes" and their significance in Bowie's career.

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Oral Exam

  1. Discussing Innovation: Discuss how "Changes" represents innovation in music and culture.
  2. Comparative Analysis: Compare "Changes" with another Bowie song in terms of theme and style.
  3. Historical Context: Explain how "Changes" reflects the social and cultural context of the early 1970s.
  4. Artist's Influence: Evaluate Bowie's influence on later artists and genres.
  5. Personal Interpretation: Share your interpretation of "Changes" and its message.

OERs on the Topic


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