March 2014

Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – (1981)

This was the debut single from Stevie Nicks’ solo career and it was the only song from her first album that she had no part in writing. This one was actually written by Tom Petty and a Heartbreaker (Mike Campbell). They were going to do it as a single for their band but someone managed to get Stevie Nicks into the recording booth and it ended up as a top five hit for her in 1981 (it peaked at #3). Really good song from the both of them, but largely overlooked today.

Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, & Pink – “Lady Marmalade” – (2001)

Four big female stars (plus Missy Elliott introducing them in the music video) came together for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge to record this cover of Patti LaBelle’s 1974 hit. It was a Hot 100 #1 and #1 all over the world. It was a big song 13 years ago (wow) known as much for its then-risqué video as for anything about the song musically. Yes, this one is slightly more than a “duet.”

Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey – “Endless Love” – (1994)

Didn’t we feature “Endless Love” a few weeks ago? Um, yeah. But it’s one of those songs that has been covered and covered. Instead of Lionel Richie we have the also-supremely-talented Luther Vandross and in place of Diana Ross we have the possibly-more-talented Mariah Carey (from a solo-career perspective). This was released on a Luther Vandross album and on Mariah’s Greatest Hits album seven years later. It was a #2 on the Hot 100 and is almost as good as the original.

Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne – “Close My Eyes Forever” – (1988)

Here’s a power ballad duet from the glam metal era. It features one of the kings of heavy metal: Ozzy Osbourne and one of its queens: Lita Ford. Lita was Lita Ford’s first album under the supervision of her new manager: Sharon Osbourne – thus Ozzy’s participation. As strange as it seems now, you can actually understand Ozzy’s vocals. Watch the video and relish in the awful hairstyles of the past.

George Michael & Elton John – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – (1991)

Obviously this song was a big hit for Elton John in 1974, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. In 1991, he and George Michael performed the song as a duet during the Live Aid concert. This version went to #1 on the Hot 100 and on charts around the world. This version was included on Elton John’s 1993 album Duets. The first part of the song is George Michael just blowing everyone away with incredible vocals and then he brings out Elton who kills it. This is an amazing version. It’s two incredible voices battling it out and we all win.

Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett – “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – (1987)

Oops. For whatever reason I thought I remembered this song as from 1992 (I thought it was on Dangerous and not Bad). Oh well, I’ll leave it here and bump the 90s to Friday and skip the 2000s for this week. This was a #1 hit for Jackson (and Garrett). Siedah Garrett made a career out of performing backing vocals and writing songs (although she didn’t write this one). This is not one of Michael Jackson’s best-remembered #1s but it really isn’t too bad.

Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – “Islands in the Stream” – (1983)

This song was written by the Bee Gees. Listen to it and you’ll be able to hear it. It was the second and final #1 hit for both Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton – well, on the Hot 100 anyway. The Bee Gees didn’t record it until 2001 but it stands as one of the signature duets of all time and a signature song for both Rogers and Parton. It was later famously sampled as “Ghetto Supastar” by Pras. This song is really not as bad as everything you could imagine tells you it is.

Kid Rock feat. Sheryl Crow – “Picture” – (2001)

Statistically, this is Sheryl Crow’s second most-successful single in the U.S. Betcha didn’t know that. It was a top five hit on the Hot 100 – Kid Rock’s highest charting single ever. It’s a country rock duet that went mainstream – even flying up the Adult Contemporary chart. It was co-written by both performers and Rock also did a more country version with Allison Moorer. Yes, this song technically has “featuring” and not “and” in the artist line but it’s about as close to a duet in the classical definition as the 2000s has given us.

Natalie & Nat King Cole – “Unforgettable” – (1991)

This song was one of Nat King Cole’s biggest hits and most well-known signature songs. Natalie Cole was 15 when her father, Nat King Cole, passed away. She’s a pretty incredible talent in her own right, even if her father’s shadow is rather large. Well, in 1991 she released an album of covers of her father’s material. This track was edited as a duet with his classic rendition. The album went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year and is certified 7x platinum. It’s an amazing song.

Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin – “Separate Lives” – (1985)

“Separate Lives” was a #1 hit on the Hot100 and the theme song from the film White Nights. This is one of those #1 hits that I look back on and go “Really?” I’m not sure I’ve heard this on the radio in the last 20 years. It was written by Stephen Bishop and he got an Oscar nomination for it. That’s about the highlight here.

Aaron Lewis & Fred Durst – “Outside” – (2000)

Fred Durst was a big deal in 1999 and 2000. Limp Bizkit was huge and they did this little (okay it was huge) tour called “The Family Values Tour” with Korn, Orgy, Primus, Ja Rule, Method Man & Redman, DMX, Filter, The Crystal Method, and a little known band called Staind. That was the 1999 lineup and it was huge. “Outside” (which would later become a hit for Staind – a band led by Aaron Lewis and promoted and produced by Durst) was first performed live and acoustically in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1999 by Aaron Lewis featuring backing vocals by Durst. Some of the lyrics were made up on the spot. Radio stations started playing the acoustic version and it ended up at #56 on the Hot 100 in 2001. Later that year, Staind released Break the Cycle – which was a monumental album (in popularity). This song, for me, marked a transition from the bubblegum pop of 1999/2000 and the more rock-oriented days of 2001 and on.

John Mellencamp & Me’Shell Ndegeocello – “Wild Night” – (1994)

Covering a Van Morrison song is always a risky proposition as he is amazing. But the man formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp – with help from singer Me’Shell Ndegeocello – really knock this one out of the park. The song has a funky feel to the bassline and pretty sweet guitar. It was a big hit too, topping out at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack – “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love” – (1983)

Born to Love was a duet album recorded by Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson in 1983. This song only made it to #16 on the Hot 100 but it was a staple at weddings for following 10 years after its release and is fairly widely known. This is the type of song that may not have exploded on the Hot 100, but it was a solid Adult Contemporary hit gaining a ton of airplay. And on a side note, I really like Peabo Bryson’s voice – but maybe that’s because I so associate it with Disney films.