Maria asked me why so many country stars record duets. Great question, as it has a real history in country from Conway and Loretta, all the way up to today's Keith Urban and Pink. Many times it's to showcase a star with a far bigger star for larger recognition and exposure. There is often a lot of strategy to them for marketing and sales success. And sometimes it's just two power stars recording a can't miss song. Over the next few weeks we will look at some of the really big duets in our history. (There are too many to list them all)
It will be fun to look back and maybe introduce you to some you may have never heard or forgotten about. Some seem mismatched, but they worked. We will start with the 80's and work forward. I played all of these on great radio stations around the country. And I, like you, had some raised eyebrows when I saw the "record" for the first time.
Alabama and Lionel Richie - Deep River Woman (1986)
This was a Lionel Richie song from the Dancin' On The Ceiling album, that turned out to be a top ten country hit. It was a far bigger hit country than pop. Richie had recorded the song, Stuck On You a year or so earlier and had some country success with it, but this was a far more legit country hit. Stuck On You was a very nice song, just not a real country song. But this still sounds great all these years later, but seemed then like a very unusual pairing at the time, but both acts were very big stars then. Alabama was beyond huge with us, and pretty much what they touched turned out great. The strength of this song is that it really sounds like a perfect mix of who they both were at the time. This is one of Lionels best songs to date.
Nice Song - Big Song
Willie Nelson and Ray Charles - Seven Spanish Angels (1984)
I love to hear Ray Charles sing any song in the world. In his career, he charted eight songs country, but this was his only #1. This remarkable album, Friendship was a huge success, and was highly critically acclaimed with duets with legends like Willie and many thers. Another interesting combo, but this song further proved that Willie had incredible versatility. But make no mistake, Ray Charles is the absolute soulful the star of this song, and it's fun to hear Willie ride with him. Ray Charles was so great and was the kind of vocalist that really doesn't exist much anymore, he was a true treasure. This song also has been covered and recorded hundreds of times worldwide since, and has many millions of YouTube views.
A True, Much Loved Hit Song
Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias - To All The Girls I've Loved Before (1984)
I remember seeing this come into the station (and the above songs) when I was doing mornings at WRMZ in Columbus, Ohio. We were all like, "What??" There are not a whole lot of songs that are worldwide hits, but this is one of them. This song went #1 on the country charts and was number one in many countries over the next year or so. This has also been much parodied too, but its success can't be denied. Two world famous icons recording a song that was written about a decade earlier but had no success - until this. This was recorded to get Iglesias introduced to an English speaking audience - and it did. They also had a follow up song, Spanish Eyes that was a top ten hit a year or so later. But this song was an absolute smash. Voted Duo Of The Year that year as well.
One Of The Biggest Hits Of The 1980's
Eddie Rabbitt And Crystal Gayle - You And I (1982)
This song was a major country and pop hit, going number one on both charts. It also became one of the most popular wedding songs of the decade. It was one of the very few songs Eddie Rabbitt had as a big hit that he didn't write. Rabbitt was an incredible songwriter, penning at least 17 #1's and at the time was a major star and Gayle's popularity was riding high. This song was a perfect melding of voices that should have sung together more often, and everyone loved. One of the best "love ballad duets" we have ever had.
Huge Song, Both Pop And Country
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - Islands In The Stream (1983)
This was a monster hit. Originally written for Marvin Gaye by the Bee Gees. Its title is from an Ernest Hemingway story of the same name, and somehow ended up with Kenny and Dolly. It was another worldwide hit going number one all over the globe. It also was the song that dethroned Bonnie Tyler's, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, which had been there for several weeks on the pop charts. We could have played this song every 15 minutes on the radio and no one would have minded. It's on Kenny Rogers AMAZING Eyes That See In The Dark album, which I think was his best ever. Totally worth a download. (The song Buried Treasure with the Gatlins on that album is an incredible duet too)
Don Williams and Emmylou Harris - If I Needed You (1981)
Some think this is one of the most beautiful duets ever, and they may be right. This song too was written about 10 years earlier by an artist name Townes Van Zant, but this version really stuck going to #2. This song has been translated into dozens of languages and recorded all over the world for decades. This is from Emmylou's, Cimarron album, again which I think was her very best, totally worth a download. (The hit - Tennessee Rose - on that album is a terrific song too)
Much Loved Duet
From time to time we will look at more great country duets, as there are many. They are a big part of who we are and are worth remembering.