David Bowie’s “Heroes” Lyrics Meaning

The titular “heroes” of this David Bowie song are lovers (the singer and his partner). And both the singer and his woman are hell-bent on enjoying each other’s company despite the odds being against their romance. Indeed it can even be deemed from the lyrics of the song that their relationship is actually forbidden. As such, the idea of them having a normal union is totally out of the question. So instead they opt to spend “just… one day” together despite this decision, as alluded to earlier, putting their very wellbeing at risk. 

And it is this action which has earned them the distinction of being classified as “heroes”. And what action are we talking about? Their willingness to love each other regardless of the fact that they are doing so under dangerous circumstances. And although it is never mentioned forthrightly in the song, this is based on the two of them being from opposing sides of the now-defunct Berlin Wall.

Lyrics of "Heroes"

Writing and Inspiration for “Heroes”

This song was written by David Bowie himself. He also co-produced it alongside Tony Visconti.

The inspiration for the story behind “Heroes” was Bowie observing Visconti kissing his lover next to the Berlin Wall adjacent to a gun turret. Their affair was apparently secretive. The couple hid their affair not because they were from two different sides of the Wall but rather because Visconti was married to another woman at the time.

Success of “Heroes” after Bowie’s Death

Although “Heroes” is considered one of David Bowie’s signature songs, it was not really very commercially successful at the time of its release. This is illustrated by the fact that when it did first come out (as a single) on 23 September 1977, it only managed to peak at number 24 on the UK Singles Chart. Furthermore, it didn’t really impress in the United States. However, following Bowie’s death in 2016, it was his most-streamed song on Spotify. It went on to re-chart in the UK, this time peaking at number 12 as well as hitting number 11 amongst Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs. It also charted for the first time in a number of other countries and broke the top 10 in France and Scotland.

“Heroes” was originally released by RCA Records as the title track on David Bowie’s album of the same name, which came out on 14 October 1977.

Accolades

“Heroes” has received a number of accolades, most notably making Time magazine’s 2011 list of “All-Time 100 Songs”. Another major accolade the song received was being placed at number 36 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, a list compiled in 2003. It has also been recognized a number of times by NME, Pitchfork and other (primarily music-based) media outlets.

Notable live performances of “Heroes”

David Bowie considers the performance of “Heroes” at the Berlin Wall during the Platz der Republik Festival on 7 June 1987 as “one of the most-emotional performances (he’s) ever done”, one in which he literally cried. Wikipedia has acknowledged that particularly-powerful rendition as being “considered a catalyst to the later fall of the Berlin Wall”.

Another notable venue where Bowie performed “Heroes” was at Live Aid (Wembley Stadium, London) on 13 July 1985. He also performed this classic at The Concert for New York City (in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks) in Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001.

First performance of “Heroes”

David Bowie first performed “Heroes” on the television show “Marc”, which was hosted by his homey Marc Bolan (1947-1977). That particular episode was recorded on 7 September 1977, just a week before Bolan’s accidental death.

 Did “Heroes” win David Bowie any Grammy Awards?

No. It not only didn’t pick any Grammy Awards, but it was also never nominated for one. As a matter of fact, Bowie received only two Grammy Awards during his lifetime.

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