Musical Madness: The Great Collaborators
We love collaboration at Mindjet. And no collaboration is as satisfying as the synthesis that occurs when musicians with diverse influences come together to produce brilliant recordings. For the past month, our Facebook page has hosted a bracket competition called “Greatest Music Collaboration of All Time,” with the winners determined by reader comments. The debate has been contentious at times, but always entertaining. And after several knock-out rounds, we finally have a winner!
But before we highlight the apex of musical alchemy, let’s quickly run through the worthy competitors.
Simon & Garfunkel
Two singer-songwriters beloved for their choirboy harmonies and melancholy folk songs. Both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were accomplished performers, but many felt that Simon didn’t truly blossom until he went solo in the 1970s. Their “Bridge of Troubled Water” is regarded as a pop classic.
Aerosmith & Run–D.M.C.
Run–D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way” with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry guesting on vocals and guitars was a seamless pop smash that introduced hip hop to a wider audience. It was the first rap song to hit the Top 5 in The Billboard Hot 100.
Bing Crosby & Irving Berlin
Bing Crosby was an enormously successful singer, and Irving Berlin the undisputed songwriting king of that era. But it wasn’t until relatively late in Crosby’s career that he recorded a Berlin number—”White Christmas.” His version of the song became a holiday standard and according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the number one song of all time.
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Broadway’s most successful composer-lyricist pairing are responsible for such timeless standards as “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “Getting to Know You,” and “The Sound of Music”. Without this team, the Great American Songbook wouldn’t be quite as great.
Lennon & McCartney
During a seven year stretch in the sixties, Lennon and McCartney produced nearly 180 jointly credited songs, including the vast majority of The Beatles catalog. Although John and Paul often composed independently, nearly all of their songs were completed with input from both writers.
Col. Tom Parker & Elvis Presley
The relationship between these two men was more of a business collaboration than a musical one. Parker was a crafty promoter and shrewd talent manager whose intervention into Presley’s career launched the singer’s meteoric rise. But Parker also steered Presley into Hollywood during what should have been his musical prime.
Michael Jackson & Quincy Jones
Michael Jackson was the prodigal star of the Jackson 5, while Quincy Jones was the veteran musician, composer, and producer who’d worked with Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. After working together on Jackson’s 1979 solo album, Off the Wall, the two went back into the studio to produce Thriller, a pop masterpiece and still remains the best-selling album of all time.
WILL.I.AM & Mick Jagger & Jennifer Lopez
Not quite analogous to Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker coming together to form Cream, but this pop music dream team did produce a catchy radio number titled “T.H.E [The Hardest Ever].”
And The Winner Is…
No surprises here: Lennon & McCartney for the win. No other song writing duo has been so prolific, so successful, and so effective at effortlessly welding harmony to verse, verse to melody, and melody to arrangement. Their collaborations were truly that: structures from one writer complemented by flourishes from the other. Take “A Day in the Life” (posted above), for instance. Lennon wrote the bulk of the song, with dark and sardonic lyrics about war and suicide. But McCartney provided the more uptempo middle passage, which riffs nostalgically on getting ready for school and catching the bus—and feels all the more profound for it. The sections are linked by orchestral crescendos provided by producer George Martin. Any aspiring songwriter (or writer, period) should study John and Paul’s tightly constructed mini-epic, which conveys so much more—lyrically and musically—in four minutes and forty-five seconds than many artists manage over entire albums.
We had a wonderful time putting the Greatest Music Collaboration bracket together, and we hope it inspired you to go back to your LPs (or at least iTunes) and listen carefully to some brilliant tunes. We’ll be continuing our collaboration series in the weeks to come. Please check our Facebook page for further updates.