Thursday's Child singleWritten by: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels
Recorded: 1998; February-June 1999
Producers: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels
Engineer: Kevin Paul

Released: 20 September 1999

Available on:
‘hours…’
Nothing Has Changed
Legacy
VH1 Storytellers
Something In The Air (Live Paris 99)
At The Kit Kat Klub (Live New York 99)

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, keyboards
Reeves Gabrels: guitar, synthesizer, drum programming
Mark Plati: bass guitar
Mike Levesque: drums
Holly Palmer: vocals

‘Thursday’s Child’ is the opening song and lead single from ‘hours…’, David Bowie’s 22nd studio album.

No, I don’t find it particularly hard – the guy in the song’s had a tough life, though. He’s a teeth-grinding, I’ll-get-this-job-done guy. But, right, it’s not a dogged labour for me: I do work hard, but it comes easily.
David Bowie
Uncut, October 1999

After the experimental art rock of 1.Outside and the electronic expeditions of Earthling, fans might have expected Bowie to have gone further on his next album. Instead he undertook a volte-face, returning with an introspective ballad which was unlike much else he recorded in the 1990s.

The song was not autobiographical or to be taken literally. For a start, Bowie was born on 8 January 1947, a Wednesday. The 19th century nursery rhyme has numerous variations, but a common version is:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
And the child born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.

Bowie offered some explanation of the song on a BowieNet web chat ahead of the album’s release:

Host sailor says:
thursdays child has far too go….though that line does not appear in the song. You’re kind of meant to know the nursery rhyme

Host sailor says:
yes, electric, it is. Though it’s also one of the first rhymes for children to be in print. about 1700 i think. it was contained in the original childrens primer called Mother Goose.

Host sailor says:
if you’re interested here is the poem to the best of my memory:Mondays child is full of grace Tuesdays child is fair of face Wednesdays child is full of woe Thursdays child has far to go Fridays child is loving and giving Saturdays child works hard for a living.

Host sailor says:
but the child that is born on the sabbath day is bonny and lithe and happy and gay!!!!!

Host sailor says:
I LOVE reading to kids. I just simply become one. The escape I suppose. I had such importent questions then. My questions have gotten smaller as I’ve gotten bigger.

David Bowie
davidbowie.com, 1999

As he explained on VH1 Storytellers, it was inspired by Eartha Kitt’s 1956 autobiography Thursday’s Child. It is worth mentioning that Kitt was born on 17 January 1927, a Monday, and ‘Thursday’s Child’ was also the name of a song and album released by her in 1956.

This little pretty ditty is from a new album that we’ve made called ‘hours…’. It’s called ‘Thursday’s Child’. It’s a title not imbued with arcane knowledge as you might think, but it was prompted by the memory of the autobiography of Eartha Kitt.

When I was about fourteen, Eartha Kitt and DH Lawrence were some of my favourite bedtime reading. Not just at my bedtimes, if the truth be known! I’d seen this paperback in WH Smith’s, the Eartha Kitt life story, and she was standing quite sexily by a tree with fields in the background, and it was called Thursday’s Child.

That stayed with me since I was fourteen, I don’t know why, but it just kind of bubbled up the other month when we wrote this. This song, I might point out, is not actually about Eartha Kitt!

David Bowie
VH1 Storytellers

Thursday's Child by Eartha Kitt

Another influence – this time on the “Monday, Tuesday” backing vocals – was ‘The Inch Worm’, written by Frank Loesser and originally performed by Danny Kaye in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. The song was a key influence on Bowie during childhood.

‘Inch Worm’ is a very important song to me… ‘Two and two are four, four and four are eight…” I love the effect of two melodies together. That nursery rhyme feeling shows itself in a lot of songs I’ve written, like ‘Ashes To Ashes’. And maybe on my new album, ‘Thursday’s Child’.
David Bowie, 1999
When Ziggy Played Guitar, Dylan Jones