Given that David Bowie lived in New York longer than any other city, and his experiences there went back to the early 1970s, it’s not difficult to find its influence on the sound and subject matter of his music.
“I’m terribly influenced by geography and where I am,” Mr. Bowie, whose career will be honored Monday at the Grammy Awards with a performance by Lady Gaga, said in 2003. “My albums are pretty good snapshots of where I was and what I was going through when I was there.”
With this in mind, here are 12 songs you might want as company should you choose to explore Mr. Bowie’s New York.
1. “The Jean Genie”
“Aladdin Sane” (1973)
Mr. Bowie said this track was “my first New York song.” His explanation of the song’s character varied somewhat over the years, but it’s clear that his friend Iggy Pop, whom he first met in New York in 1972, was one of the influences. He said in 1996 that the “Jean Genie” was “focused around Iggy, an Iggy-type character.”
2. “Watch That Man”
“Aladdin Sane” (1973)
“Aladdin Sane” aimed to collect Mr. Bowie’s thoughts and experiences of the United States as he toured the country for the first time in 1972, and each track was focused or inspired by one or more American cities, as indicated on the original album’s track listing. “Watch That Man” (along with “The Jean Genie”) earned New York designations. The lyrics tried to “pinpoint and exaggerate” an after-party that followed his first concert at Carnegie Hall on Sept. 28, 1972, he claimed to Circus in 1973.
“Young Americans” (1975)
While most of “Young Americans” was recorded in Philadelphia, “Fame” came about in an impromptu recording session at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York in 1975 with John Lennon, whom Mr. Bowie befriended in New York earlier that year, and guitarist Carlos Alomar. It would become Mr. Bowie’s first No. 1 single in the United States.
4. “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City”
Recorded mid-1970s; released 1989 on “Sound and Vision”
According to his friend Geoff MacCormack, Mr. Bowie became a Bruce Springsteen fan after they saw him perform at Max’s Kansas City, the famed New York music club, in January 1973. Mr. Bowie went on to record his own version of three songs from Mr. Springsteen’s 1973 debut, including “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.”
“After I heard this track I never rode the subway again,” Mr. Bowie said of the song in 1979.
5. “I’m Waiting for the Man (Live)”
“Station to Station (Deluxe)”
Mr. Bowie got one of his first tastes of city life in December 1966, when he was given an early copy of “The Velvet Underground and Nico.” One track, Lou Reed’s tale of pursuing dope in Harlem, seemed to resonate with him more than others.
“That December, my band Buzz broke up, but not without my demanding we play “I’m Waiting for the Man” as one of the encore songs at our last gig,” Mr. Bowie wrote in 2003. “It was the first time a Velvet song had been covered by anyone, anywhere in the world. Lucky me.”
Mr. Bowie would cover the song throughout his career, including the version recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in 1976 and released on the deluxe edition of “Station to Station” in 2010. Below, Mr. Reed joined Mr. Bowie in 1997 for a performance at Madison Square Garden.
“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” (1980)
“The ridiculous exclusivity of the London and New York club scenes at the turn of the 1980s provides the springboard” for this track, according to the writer and Bowie aficionado Nicholas Pegg. Mr. Bowie said in a 1980 interview with NME that the song has “to do with that dedication to fashion. I was trying to move on a little from that Ray Davies concept of fashion; to suggest more of a gritted teeth determination and an unsureness about why one’s doing it.”
Somewhat ironically, given the context of this song, Mr. Bowie, along with his supermodel-wife Iman, became a fixture of New York’s fashion scene and his influence on the industry is now considered a significant part of his legacy.
7. “I’m Afraid of Americans”
While the track, which is an unflattering take on corporate America, does not reference New York specifically, the music video features a paranoid Mr. Bowie being chased by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and others through the city’s streets. “They wanted a kind of ‘Taxi Driver’ feel to the whole thing,” Mr. Reznor told MTV in 1997.
8. “Slip Away”
This sad ballad features characters that nobody outside of New York or New Jersey would likely have heard of. “Bones” and “Oogie” were puppets on “The Uncle Floyd Show,” a low-budget program that ran on various local cable stations between 1974 and 2008. Mr. Bowie became a fan after a tip from Mr. Lennon, and would watch the show religiously every night during make-up sessions for “The Elephant Man,” according to photographer Bob Leafe.
“It had a Soupy Sales kind of appeal, and though ostensibly aimed at kids, I knew so many people of my age who just wouldn’t miss it,” Mr. Bowie said in 2002.
9. “Slow Burn”
This and other songs from “Heathen” have often been mistaken as containing references to Sept. 11, but while the album was released in 2002, it was written before the attacks. Though it may not have been intentional, the song’s lyrics and mood gamely convey the sense of despair and worry prevalent in New York in the months following Sept. 11.
“I hope that a writer does have these antennae that pick up on low-level anxiety,” Mr. Bowie told The New York Times in 2002. “But I don’t want to say that it was in any way trying to suggest that it was going to happen.”
10. “New Killer Star”
The opening lyric, “See the great white scar over Battery Park,” would appear to be a direct reference to Sept. 11, but Mr. Bowie had a broader idea in mind for the song as a whole.
“The lyrics weren’t really reflections of 9/11 itself, but on the state of New York as it is at the moment, the scattered pieces, the idea of collecting things back together, and is it worth trying to keep a community going, or do we kind of disperse at this point in time?” Mr. Bowie said in 2004.
11. “Bring Me the Disco King”
In 2003, The Times’s Mim Udovitch described “Reality,” which was recorded at the Looking Glass Studios in New York, as “more than a bit New Yorky,” for its “many references to the city’s contemporary landscape.” The album’s closing track captures Mr. Bowie in a reflective mood, encased in the sound of “dark NY Jazz,” as NME’s Tim Wild described the track in 2003.
“It means a lot to me, that particular song, because I was trying to summarize my feelings about certain events in my past,” Mr. Bowie told the San Diego Union Tribune in 2003.
Mr. Bowie’s final album was recorded at the Magic Shop recording studio on Crosby Street, a short walk from his SoHo apartment. “Lazarus,” which references New York directly, is also the title song of the play Mr. Bowie co-wrote that recently closed its run at the New York Theater Workshop.
The “Lazarus” video and “Blackstar” album were released days before his death on Jan. 10.
“He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it,” his longtime collaborator and producer Tony Visconti wrote on his Facebook page.