David Bowie’s 15th and most commercially successful studio album, “Let’s Dance” turns 40 on April 14, 2023.

Bowie’s iconic glam-rock image of the early-to-mid-’70’s quickly changed when he took on the persona of the Thin White Duke with 1976’s “Station to Station”. Bowie’s androgynous, bombastic sense of fashion and art gave way to a dark era. “Station to Station” maintains its status as a fan favorite and the prologue to the Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes, Lodger), a partnership between Bowie and Tony Visconti that led Bowie down new and experimental roads.

Bowie was known in the U.S. but not as commercially successful as his contemporaries. 1980’s “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” might have seen some radio play for “Fashion”, but even nowadays to call Bowie a radio artist is selling the majority of his recordings short.

Prior to the release of “Let’s Dance” Bowie teamed up with Queen for one of the most overplayed songs in radio history, “Under Pressure”, one of the most beloved team ups in music history (and the sample for what’s best described as “a product of its time” “Ice Ice Baby”). But not even “Under Pressure” reached the US Billboard Top 10. It made it to 29. In 2005 a cover by My Chemical Romance peaked at 41 on the chart. I mention this because I didn’t even know this cover existed…and I am an unapologetic MCR fan.

That brings us to “Let’s Dance”. Teaming up with Nile Rodgers Bowie would enter the oversaturated market of ’80’s pop with some heavy hitters. Probably the most iconic song on the album (if Spotify plays are anything to go by) is the titular song. “Let’s Dance” is a simple jam lacking much of the lyrical intrigue of past Bowie songs. But it’s a track that’s romantic and easy to dance to. “Modern Love”, the first track, offers up a jubilant bop that always gave me nostalgic ’50’s/60’s vibes.

Nothing else on the album can compare to these two songs. “China Girl”, “Without You” and “Ricochet” flatline. “Criminal World”, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” and “Shake It” all work but I’ve only ever had “Cat People” stick with me (and only the chorus is memorable for Bowie’s powerful vocals).

Despite the album being a contentious one in the Bowie fandom and the start of what might be called his Phil Collins phase (peaking with the truly awful 1987 album “Never Let Me Down”), it’s Bowie’s best seller, moving over 10 million copies and going Platinum. And whether a fan of Bowie or not, you likely know some of the songs on the album through continued radio play to this day.

Regardless of your opinion on his output in the 80’s, Bowie’s success only grew through the decade despite his not having any musical breakthroughs like “Let’s Dance”. His follow up, “Tonight”, is often forgotten. “Never Let Me Down” is tough to listen to but led to his highly successful “Glass Spiders” tour. But “Dancing in the Street” has had some legacy and if you haven’t heard “Absolute Beginners” you’re doing yourself a disservice. Meanwhile his work in film, especially “Labyrinth”, continues to introduce Bowie to new generations.

David Bowie passed away in 2016 but his musical legacy lives on and “Let’s Dance” is many music fans gateway to the eclectic, prolific work of Bowie.

Of note as well: “Aladdin Sane”, Bowie’s memorable follow-up to “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars”, released on April 13, 1973, making it fifty years old this week.