We’re not surprised when we hear that a songwriting endeavor was collaborative. With creating art, as with many other things, two heads can be far better than one – but when it comes time to perform, the spotlight tends to shine on one pair of pipes, even when a lead singer is accompanied by other members of a band. So when a great duet comes out, we take notice.
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen (and heard) quite a few incredible pairs, who prove that a song can become exponentially more powerful when sung as a duet. Here are just ten of the most powerful and successful duets of all time.
Don’t Know Much (1989) by Linda Ronstadt feat. Aaron Neville
Play this emotional duet at the end of the night in any local dive bar, and you’re sure to have a roomful of people passionately singing along. What they might not remember, though, is that this song marked somewhat of a comeback for Linda Ronstadt; while she racked up a number of hits in the late 70’s, she didn’t reappear on the charts until 1987 (with another duet, “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram.) “Don’t Know Much” reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 and won a Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group.
(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (1987) by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
If you’ve seen the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” – and even if you haven’t – you know the significance of this song. It’s the one that closes out the box office hit, and it was memorized by pretty much every girl who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. The song won the 1987 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and has been used in DJ club remixes across the country.
Dilemma (2002) by Nelly & Kelly Rowland
Kelly Rowland’s first hit after leaving Destiny’s Child, “Dilemma” proved that she was a force to be reckoned with on her own – or, rather, with Nelly. The single enjoyed a whopping 10-week run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was probably stuck in the heads of radio listeners everywhere for just as long.
Islands In The Stream (1983) by Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton
At a time when both Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton were wildly famous, with a combined 22 No. 1 hit country songs between them, the two decided to kick things up a notch and release a duet written by the Bee Gees. Unsurprisingly, “Islands In The Stream” was a massive success. It topped the Hot 100 chart for two weeks, and also soared to the top of Country Songs and Adult Contemporary.
Reunited (1979) by Peaches & Herb
A sweet, melodic ballad that speaks to the hopeless romantic in all of us, “Reunited” tells a tale of making up. Upon its release, the song quickly became a crossover hit, topping both the R&B Singles and Hot 100 charts. It’s also been covered numerous times over the years, most famously by David Hasselhoff, who sang the song at the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
Ebony And Ivory (1982) by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
A timely, political song that is still relevant today, “Ebony And Ivory” was recorded for Paul McCartney’s “Tug Of War” album. It’s “Can’t we all just get along?” message struck a chord with listeners everywhere, and became the longest-running solo No. 1 for both McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Say Say Say (1983) by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Just a year after “Ebony And Ivory” was released, Paul McCartney struck duet gold again – this time with pop music icon Michael Jackson. The song stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, and was followed up by “The Girl Is Mine” by the same duo. While the pair eventually drifted apart, it’s safe to say that their brief songwriting partnership produced some pretty incredible music.
Up Where We Belong (1982) by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
While it may have been written for the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” this song’s influence reaches much further. Not only did it stay at the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1982, but it also took home both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 1983.
The Boy Is Mine (1998) by Brandy & Monica
Released at a time when both Brandy’s and Monica’s stars were on the rise, and when the two pop singers were rumored to be in the midst of a feud, this song had all the makings of a smash hit – and it was. The R&B hit stayed at the No. 1 spot for a stunning 13 weeks; at the time, it was one of only seven singles to ever achieve such a feat.
Endless Love (1981) by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
The biggest hit for both Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, “Endless Love” stayed on the charts for an incredible 27 weeks. It was written by Richie for the Brooke Shields movie of the same name, and it was his brilliant idea for Diana Ross to accompany him on the track. Years later, in 1994, Luther Vandross and Mariah Cary covered the famous love song; their version reached the No. 2 spot, allowing the original to reign supreme.
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