David Bowie and Cher Sing Duet of “Young Americans” and Other Songs on 1975 Variety Show

David Bowie and Cher: the com­bi­na­tion sounds so incon­gru­ous, but then you think about it and real­ize the two could hard­ly have more in com­mon. Two singers of the same gen­er­a­tion, close indeed in age but both (whether through their sen­si­bil­i­ties or through var­i­ous cos­met­ic tech­nolo­gies) per­pet­u­al­ly youth­ful; both per­form­ers of not exact­ly rock and not exact­ly pop, but some oscil­lat­ing form between that they’ve made whol­ly their own; both mas­ters of the dis­tinc­tive­ly flam­boy­ant and the­atri­cal; both giv­en to some­times rad­i­cal changes of image through­out the course of their careers; and both imme­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fi­able by just one name. The only vast dif­fer­ence comes in their per­for­mance sched­ules: Bowie, despite releas­ing an acclaimed album The Next Day last year, seems to have quit play­ing live shows in the mid-2000s, while Cher’s con­tin­u­ing tours grow only more lav­ish.

Long before this cur­rent stage of Bowie and Cher’s lives as musi­cal icons, the two came togeth­er on an episode of the lat­ter’s short-lived solo (i.e., with­out ex-hus­band Son­ny Bono, with whom she’d host­ed The Son­ny & Cher Show) tele­vi­sion vari­ety show, sim­ply titled Cher. On the broad­cast of Novem­ber 23, 1975, Bowie and Cher sang “Young Amer­i­cans,” at the top, “Can You Hear Me,” just above, and bits of oth­er songs besides.

Watch these clips not just for the per­for­mances, and not just for the out­fits — cos­tumes, real­ly, espe­cial­ly when you con­sid­er Cher’s even then-famous vari­ety of arti­fi­cial hair­styles — but for the video effects, which by mod­ern stan­dards look like some­thing out of a late-night pub­lic-access cable pro­gram. An espe­cial­ly trip­py set of visu­als accom­pa­nies Bowie’s solo moment on the episode below, singing about the one qual­i­ty that per­haps unites he and Cher more than any oth­er: “Fame.” And lots of it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie Sings ‘I Got You Babe’ with Mar­i­anne Faith­full in His Last Per­for­mance As Zig­gy Star­dust

David Bowie Releas­es Vin­tage Videos of His Great­est Hits from the 1970s and 1980s

David Bowie Recalls the Strange Expe­ri­ence of Invent­ing the Char­ac­ter Zig­gy Star­dust (1977)

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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