Duets


Philip Bailey & Phil Collins – “Easy Lover” – (1984)

Phil Collins was a pretty big deal circa 1984. So when Philip Bailey teamed up with him to record and release this song, there was a good chance it was going to be a big hit. And it was – hitting #2 on the Hot 100. Bailey’s high-pitched vocals are the perfect complement to Collins’ unique voice. It sounds very 80s but it holds up today whenever I hear it. I said last week we were saving the best for last and this is it, the final duet from our months-long run. Hope you enjoyed it.

Ike & Tina Turner – “Proud Mary” – (1971)

“Proud Mary” is one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s best songs. And it’s one of the most-famous. This 1971 cover is a big part of the song’s fame. In fact, it’s become one of Tina Turner’s signature songs as well as one of her biggest hits – it hit #5 in the U.S. (CCR made it to #2). What’s great about this version is that it’s their own take on the song and not a direct cover. It starts off real slow and soulful and then at like the 2:20 mark if goes crazy. It’s wild. And a legitimately awesome song.

Sonny & Cher – “The Beat Goes On” – (1967)

This isn’t a duet in the same vein as the other duets we’ve featured. Sonny & Cher were a duo and thus, all of their songs were duets. This song was written by Sonny Bono. This song made it to #6 on the Hot 100 and it remains one of their best-known songs.

Patti Austin & James Ingram – “Baby, Come to Me” – (1981)

I sorta went with the whole “save the best for last” thing with this song. While we’re not quite done with our big duet post rundown, we’re getting close. And I love this song. The music is perfect 80s, and the harmonizing between Austin and uncredited backing vocals-provider Michael McDonald is just fantastic. In 1982 this song peaked at #73 on the Hot 100. Later that year it appeared on General Hospital and re-charted – this time at #1. Worthy of it, I’d say.

Elton John with Kiki Dee – “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” – (1976)

Here’s one of the most famous duets of all time. It was a #1 hit on the Hot 100 for the better part of a month and it was intended as sort of Marvin Gaye-esque duet and if you listen to it that way, you certainly can hear it. This song was never included on an actual album, but only released as a single (it appeared on other albums years later, however). It remains one of Elton’s biggest hits and the main thing Kiki Dee is known for.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “You’re All I Need to Get By” – (1968)

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell were duet masters. First of all, Marvin Gaye is one of the best singers we’ve ever had, even if his time was cut way too short. Tammi Terrell’s career was cut even shorter, dying from a brain tumor in 1970 at age 24. Before she went, she and Marvin put out some great tunes together, including this Billboard top ten hit. This song was actually written by Ashford & Simpson, but made famous by these two here.

The Lonely Island feat. Justin Timberlake – “Dick in a Box” – (2006)

Yeah, yeah. I know I always list the album release year as the date above, but because this was an SNL Digital Short in 2006, I listed it as that (the album came out in 2006). This was one of the biggest Digital Shorts they ever did. The song was recorded in one night and the music video shot in a day. SNL published the uncensored song online the day after it aired and it was a huge internet phenomenon. The song actually won an Emmy and the two characters that Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake created for this song have made re-appearances, releasing two more songs. And yes, I know I’m at the bottom of the duet barrel.

Jon B. feat. Babyface – “Someone to Love” – (1995)

The dramatically goateed Jon B. had a #32 hit on the Hot 100 in 1995 with this duet with Babyface. It was included on the Bad Boys soundtrack and that was what caused it to be such a hit. Babyface was the driving force behind R&B in the 1990s, writing and producing over 25 #1 R&B hits. Having him included on your track was almost a guarantee for success. Kind of like Pharrell right now.

USA for Africa – “We are the World” – (1985)

Charity singles. The U.K. goes crazy for them and has them all the time. It doesn’t work so well here in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because this track. I’m not sure. It’s definitely cheesy and a part of 1980s culture. This was a group of singers who came together to perform a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sell it to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The whole thing was inspired by Band Aid (from the U.K.). It ended up raising $100 million and selling over 20 million copies (impressive). Annoyingly, USA for Africa stands for “United Support of Artists for Africa” and that’s because a few of the artists weren’t American. Here’s everyone other than Jackson and Richie who were involved: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (who was responsible for Band Aid), both Hall and Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson (the one from the Jackson 5… not the one from American Idol), Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (the whole band), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, all three Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah, pretty impressive. Look at how many of those people are respectable and/or legendary (many of them) and think about how that would play out today. Do we really need Bieber and Kesha and company coming together for charity? That’s the exact reason charity singles don’t work in the U.S. anymore. The current crop of North American are trash. Also: not how hilariously out of place Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan sound here.

Gwen Stefani feat. Eve – “Rich Girl” – (2004)

Gwen Stefani’s debut solo album, while not No Doubt, really wasn’t too bad. “Interesting” might be one way to classify it, but hits like this propelled it to multi-platinum status with over seven million copies sold. This is actually a Dr. Dre-produced cover of a song from 1993 and features Eve. It was Eve who gave Gwen one of her first solo hits with her song “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” This peaked at #7 on the Hot 100.

Celine Dion & Clive Griffin – “When I Fall in Love” – (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle may have been the defining “chick flick” or romantic comedy of the 90s. It was produced by David Foster and recorded by Celine Dion – who was coming on strong about this time – and Clive Griffin. Griffin’s spot was supposed to be Stevie Wonder, but I think that may have overshadowed everything. This is Griffin’s best-known work and biggest hit. This is a Grammy-winning song but it wasn’t eligible for an Oscar as it wasn’t original. The song appeared first on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack before coming out on Celine’s The Colour of My Love later that year.

Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne – “You’re a Friend of Mine” – (1985)

I guess if part of song being “very 80s” is a raging saxophone, then Clarence Clemons is your man. Clemons – who you might not know by name – you definitely know by his performance. Until his death in 2011, he was the saxophone player in the E. Street Band, backing Bruce Springsteen since 1972. This was Clemons’ only solo hit and his association with The Boss didn’t hurt sales figures. Jackson Browne is guest musician and vocalist here – and his then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah also provided backing vocals. Weird.

Counting Crows feat. Vanessa Carlton – “Big Yellow Taxi” – (2002)

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song originally written and obnoxiously recorded by Joni Mitchell. It’s been covered a lot over the years, but most famously by Counting Crows with vocals by Vanessa Carlton. This was the biggest version, becoming an Adult Contemporary top five hit. This song came from an era of music where artists just covered older songs (looking at you Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker). While I don’t love this song (but do love its message), it is infinitely better than the nerve-grating original.

Mariah Carey feat. Joe & 98 Degrees – “Thank God I Found You” – (1999)

This song is from Mariah Carey’s “Whisper Period” – those years in the late 1990s/early 2000s where she barely made any noise on any of her songs and it just sounds like she’s humming words in the next room. Fortunately, this track features boy band 98 Degrees and late-90s R&B dude Joe to provide actual lyrics. Because it is a Mariah Carey song technically from the 90s, it obviously went to #1. But it’s by no means the best of them.

Patrick Swayze feat. Wendy Fraser – “She’s Like the Wind” – (1987)

The Dirty Dancing soundtrack is one of the most successful soundtracks of all time, selling over 32 million copies. I can’t be the only one who finds it weird that Patrick Swayze had a top three hit in the U.S.? Then again, this was the decade of all kinds of actors releasing music – Don Johnson, Bruce Willis, etc. Patrick Swayze is the main credited artist, but the single was actually released with “featuring Wendy Fraser” attached to it. You can tell this is from the 80s because of the power ballad lyrical delivery and the saxophone. Mostly that sax.

Patty Smyth & Don Henley – “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” – (1992)

I could’ve sworn this song was from the 80s. Nope – 1992. But hey, adult contemporary from the early 1990s might as well have been from the 80s because it all sounds very similar. Also, let’s note that this is by Patty Smyth, former lead singer of Scandal and not Patti Smith, the punk singer. Big distinction. And of course, Don Henley, the Eagle. This was an Adult Contemporary #1 and a #2 on the Hot 100. And I’ve always thought Patty Smyth sounds like a country singer in this song. Am I crazy?

Peter Cetera & Amy Grant – “The Next Time I Fall” – (1986)

This was a #1 hit for Peter Cetera and Amy Grant and it comes off of Peter Cetera’s most successful solo album. This was Amy Grant’s first hit in mainstream music and the song that marked her shift away from Christian music. I like Peter Cetera’s voice and the weird twang or whatever it is that he has when he sings. Whenever I hear Amy Grant’s voice, I can only think of Christmas music. This is solid 80s.

Common feat. Lily Allen – “Drivin’ Me Wild” – (2007)

Here was a song that I once saw featured on some near-the-end-of-it-all music video program on MTV or VH1. Probably VH1. Anyway, it was a minor hit in the U.K. – due to featured artist Lily Allen’s large fame. This song by Common was produced by Kanye West. It’s average. Lily Allen is the best part. As she usually is.

Glenn Medeiros & Bobby Brown – “She Ain’t Worth It” – (1990)

This was a #1 hit for Glenn Medeiros (and Bobby Brown). His successful years were between 1984 and 1993. After that, he became a teacher and currently is a vice-principal at a school in Hawaii. How about that for a career turn? Imagine having a teacher who had a huge radio smash. This song is a good example of early-90s R&B/new jack swing. I like it (although I don’t care for Bobby Brown’s rap verse).

Dionne Warwick & Friends – “That’s What Friends Are For” – (1985)

This song was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Rod Stewart recorded it originally but it was Dionne Warwick’s version that went to #1. Well, Dionne Warwick and friends. Those friends? Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder. Pretty impressive friends. Well name-dropped, Dionne. This was a charity single to benefit AIDS research. It’s one of those tunes that everybody knows.

Jennifer Lopez feat. LL Cool J – “All I Have” – (2002)

This was the second single from J.Lo’s “Jenny From the Block” album (that’s not actually what the album’s called, but it’s the single it is best known for and how I refer to not only the album but this phase in J.Lo’s career – as if I do this a lot). This is one of those #1 hits that I don’t ever actually remember hearing on the radio. I remember the Christmas-themed video on MTV back in the day, but the song was somewhat foreign for many years. And this is one of the last songs I can recall from LL Cool J before he went all NCIS on us.

Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue – “Whatta Man” – (1993)

This is one of the most popular songs by either Salt-n-Pepa or En Vogue (the best girl group the 90s, sorry TLC). “What a Man” was originally recorded as a soul track in 1968 by Linda Lyndell. En Vogue covered it and layered a Salt-n-Pepa rap over top of it to generate a top three hit on the Hot 100. It was also nominated for a Grammy. It’s an awesome 90s track.

Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald – “On My Own” – (1986)

This Hot 100 #1 hit was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick, but never released. So Patti LaBelle and the former lead singer of the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald – the best voice in blue-eyed soul – put out a version to top the charts. The duet was not recorded live together, but instead recorded in different cities independently and merged into one track. If you like McDonald’s unique voice, you’ll like this song.

John Mayer feat. Taylor Swift – “Half of My Heart” – (2009)

Well 2009 is officially over five years ago, so I can feature songs from that year. And this duet between John Mayer and Taylor Swift gained significant radio popularity in the first half of 2010. It peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 and its best performance was on the Adult Top 40 chart, where it reached #2. This is the kind of song the Adult Contemporary crowd loves.

Brandy & Monica – “The Boy is Mine” – (1998)

Here’s one of the greatest R&B songs of the 90s. Man I loved this song when it came out and have no idea how it wasn’t included in the top 50 in our 200 Best Songs of the 90s countdown. I messed that one up. The song was released on albums by both Brandy and Monica (Brandy first, hence her album over there at left). The song was a Hot 100 #1 for 13 weeks over the summer of 1998. It was everywhere. It won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group and was nominated for Record of the Year. Awesome, awesome song.

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