"Let's Dance" is the title-track from English singer David Bowie's 1983 album of the same name. It was also released as the first single from that album in 1983 and went on to become one of his biggest-selling tracks. Stevie Ray Vaughan played the guitar solo at the end of the song.
The single was one of Bowie's fastest selling, entering the UK Singles Chart at No. 5 on its first week of release, staying at the top of the charts for three weeks. Soon afterwards, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Bowie's second and last single to reach number-one in the U.S. In Oceania, it narrowly missed topping the Australian charts, peaking at No. 2 for three weeks but it topped the chart for 4 consecutive weeks in New Zealand. The single became one of the best selling of the year across North America, Central Europe and Oceania. It is one of the 300 best-selling UK singles of all time.
In a New York after hours club in November 1982, Nile Rodgers met David Bowie, and began talking with him about jazz music. Bowie subsequently invited Rodgers to Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, which Rodgers understood to be an audition.
Bowie played Rodgers what he later described as a "folk-song", on a 12-string acoustic guitar with only six strings, which Bowie wanted to call "Let's Dance". Bowie agreed to let Rodgers arrange the music, and he switched the key up to B?. After Rodgers inverted the basic tune and added upstrokes, engineer Bob Clearmountain then separated the groups of notes with a distinctive drum and bass mix delay. Bowie, Rodgers, Erdal K?z?lçay and other unnamed musicians then recorded the demo tape on 19 and 20 December 1982 at Mountain Studios.
In 2018, Rodgers recalled "This [demo] recording was the first indication of what we could do together as I took his 'folk song' and arranged it into something that the entire world would soon be dancing to and seemingly has not stopped dancing to for the last 35 years! It became the blueprint not only for 'Let’s Dance' the song but for the entire album as well."
The music video (which uses the shorter single version) was made in March 1983 by David Mallet on location in Australia including a bar in Carinda in New South Wales and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. In the beginning it featured Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple 'naturally' dancing "to the song they're playin' on the radio". The couple in this scene and in the whole video is played by Terry Roberts and Joelene King, two students from Sydney's Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre. As Bowie opted for real people, some residents of the 194-souls village of Carinda are in the pub too, watching and mocking the couple. They do not understand who David is nor what the take is all about, hence their behaviour towards the couple as seen in the video is real.
The red shoes mentioned in the song's lyrics appear in several contexts. The couple wanders solemnly through the outback with some other Aborigines, when the young woman finds a pair of mystical red pumps on a desert mountain and instantly learns to dance. Bowie's calling 'put on your red shoes' recalls Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Red Shoes", in which the little girl was vainly tempted to wear the shoes only to find they could not be removed, separating her from God's grace - "let's dance for fear your grace should fall" "The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success - black music is all about 'Put on your red shoes'", as Bowie confirmed.
Soon, the couple is visiting museums, enjoying candlelit dinners and casually dropping credit cards, drunk on modernity and consumerism. During a stroll through an arcade of shops, the couple spots the same pair of red pumps for sale in a window display, their personal key to joy and freedom. They toss away the magic kicks in revulsion, stomping them into the dust and return to the mountains, taking one final look at the city they’ve left behind.
Bowie described this video (and the video for his subsequent single, "China Girl") as "very simple, very direct" statements against racism and oppression, but also a very direct statement about integration of one culture with another.