Iggy Pop's gift for improvising lyrics as muscular and sinewy as his body has made him a natural collaborator over his nearly 50-year career. Though David Bowie may have been his best-known musical partner, Iggy has sung with a ridiculously diverse crew of musicians: the earliest punks and new-wavers of the Seventies, minimalist classical composers, electronic polyglots and pop stars whose careers couldn't have existed without his influence – many whom weren't even born when the Stooges were formed. In anticipation of his upcoming Post Pop Depression album with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, here are 20 of his most fascinating team-ups.
Stooges manager Danny Fields tapped Lou Reed's former foil in the Velvet Underground to oversee the band's debut album, which proved an inspired choice. Cale contributed some brilliant musical touches: That's his persistently thudding piano and haunting sleigh bells on "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and his viola provides the drone around which the 10-minute "We Will Fall" ebbs and flows. Even more importantly, Cale's insight into the group's dynamics enabled him to coax an almost professional performance from the sloppy punks. "He spotted that the guys didn't play as well if I wasn't dancing around," Iggy later recalled. "They just don't. My guess is that there's something about it that they find profoundly embarrassing and for that reason it's titillating and it removes barriers somehow… The more I dance, the more their heads go down and stare at their toes, and the better they played. But it was exhausting. Fucking exhausting."
"He resurrected me," Iggy said of David Bowie after his friend's death earlier this year. "The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation – simple as that." Bowie met Iggy in 1971, and the following year the Thin White Duke would produce the final Stooges studio album, Raw Power. The intervention Iggy refers to occurred in 1976, after the Stooges breakup, when Pop spiraled out of control and checked into a UCLA mental hospital. Bowie visited Iggy and invited him on tour, and the two men struggled to get clean together in West Berlin. It was in Germany that Bowie would produce two of Iggy's landmark albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life. They composed the title track of the latter while laying on the floor, as Bowie plucked out a riff on his son Duncan's ukulele, built around the rhythm of the Armed Forces Network call signal. In the Eighties, Bowie would record his own versions of the songs he and Iggy had co-written in the Seventies, including the hit "China Girl," which helped Pop financially during a tough stretch.
While Iggy was recording Soldier at Rockford Studios in rural Wales, he and Bowie decided they needed a bloke-y chorus to sing "I want to be a criminal/Play it safe" in the style of a football chant. At the same time, a fledgling Scottish New Wave group was also recording at Rockford, which is how Simple Minds got to guest on an Iggy Pop track. "In his diplomatic way, Bowie said, 'Why don't the people who sing professionally step nearer the microphone, and those who don't step well back?" Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr later told Mojo. "That's how I came to find myself sandwiched between David Bowie and Iggy Pop, singing that song." Speaking of sandwiches, the sessions also completely upended Kerr's expectations regarding Bowie's diet: "I remember David Bowie eating a lot of cheese and thinking, I didn't think David Bowie would be a cheese-eating guy."
Iggy Pop was in rough shape when director Alex Cox personally visited his apartment and asked him to record a song for his future cult classic, Repo Man. Iggy being Iggy, he had no problem quickly gathering up a punk supergroup: Steve Jones, the guitarist from the Sex Pistols, as well as Nigel Harrison and Clem Burke, the rhythm section from Blondie. Chas Ferry, an assistant engineer at the session, claims that the four musicians threw the song together in 20 minutes before the tape started rolling, then bashed out "Repo Man" in two takes, after which Iggy announced, "Well, I think that's good enough unless somebody has a problem with it."
The same year he would compose his Oscar-winning score for The Last Emperor, Ryuichi Sakamoto assembled a mostly instrumental album in collaboration with bassist and producer Bill Laswell. Nat Geo explored international music styles and cutting-edge electronics, and boasted an ensemble that included Bootsy Collins and Sly Dunbar. Iggy contributed the disc's sole English language vocal. He begins "Risky" by intoning, "Born in a corporate dungeon/Where people are cheated of life/I knew I could never stay home," before breaking into the low crooning style he settled into in the Eighties.
Iggy goes hair metal! Pop met Alice Cooper back in the Stooges days when they were front men for two of the wildest bands on the Detroit scene. By the late Eighties, the rock veterans realized they might be in a position to help each other out. Cooper passed along this collaboration with hard rock song doctor Desmond Child, adding some highly recognizable backing vocals, and Iggy found himself on the soundtrack to Wes Craven's Shocker. "Love Transfusion" was not a hit, but its all-too-Eighties production – saxophone, a synth part like the boing of an electronic bed spring, a wanky guitar solo from hired gun Guy Mann-Dude– offers a weirdly compelling snapshot of what Iggy Pop thought a hit record might sound like in the George H.W. Bush era.
Iggy was inspired to write his only Top 40 hit after reminiscing about his teenage girlfriend, Betsy, and realizing that the complexity of their relationship could only be captured as a duet. "I thought, 'Let's be fair. Let the girl have her say,'" he said in an interview at the time. To articulate Betsy's side, he called in Kate Pierson of the B-52's, a group that had recently become bigger than ever with the success of "Love Shack." "I wanted a girl who would sing with a small-town voice," Iggy explained, "and Kate has a little twang in her voice that sounds slightly rural and naive." The contrast between Iggy's gruff, rich baritone and Pierson's sassy retro cool is slightly comic but ultimately poignant – and when her voice disintegrates into a glitter bomb of joy on the climactic "Can-daaaaaay," it's transcendent.
The 1990 Red Hot + Blue LP, a tribute to the music of Cole Porter, was the first in a series of all-star collaborative albums whose proceeds benefitted AIDS research. Featuring everyone from Tom Waits to the Jungle Brothers, few interpreters played quite as loose with the material as Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop, who tear through the number that Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra recorded for High Society in 1956 with a careless joy that's truer to the spirit of the song than any staid reading would have been. Ad-libbing, chewing scenery, camping it up, they namedrop Pia Zadora, ask "Have you ever been out to L.A. lately?" and pronounce the word "swellegant" in multiple ridiculous ways before Debbie blurts a curt "piss off" and Iggy responds with a giggly guffaw.
Iggy began a second career as an actor in the Eighties, which seemed like a natural enough progression. He started with walk-ons in Sid & Nancy and The Color of Money; and, if you were born in the Eighties, you probably knew him better as Nona's dad on The Adventures of Pete & Pete than the self-slashing hedonist behind "Search and Destroy." But in his most unusual role, Pop became an opera star. The Manson Family was the second opera written by Philip Glass protégé John Moran, and it featured Iggy as "the Prosecutor," a.k.a. Vincent Bugliosi, the man who not only became famous in the Seventies for squaring off against Charles Manson in the courtroom but who also wrote the best-selling book Helter Skelter.
Goran Bregović had previously composed a score for fellow Serbian Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies, and for the director's next film – a surreal mix of drama and comedy set in the U.S. with an oddball cast that includes Johnny Depp, Jerry Lewis and Paulina Porizkova – the composer augmented his cinematic take on Balkan music with a distinctive guest. Iggy never sounds out of place, even when he's inserting topical lyrics like "Robert Maxwell had a yacht but he didn't die so groovy," name-checking the British publisher whose fraud allegations became tabloid fodder in the Nineties after drowning in the Mediterranean. Be sure to watch the video for "In the Deathcar" for the opportunity to see Iggy excitedly introduce his cat Mookie Moo.
Guitarist Fred Chichin and singer Catherine Ringer formed their French pop-rock group Les Rita Mitsouko in 1980. By the time they invited Iggy to sing along more than a dozen years later, they were major stars throughout Europe. Native speakers might still hear a little too much Michigan in Iggy's French, but "My Love is Bad" would hardly be Pop's final Francophiliac fling – the two albums that preceded his new Post Pop Depression included multiple French-language songs.
In the days of the "electronica" boom, this British duo made a name for themselves as a hard-driving instrumental act, mixing electronics and live instrumentation over a steadily driving beat. For their second album, they brought in several distinctive guest vocalists: Jim Reid of Jesus and Mary Chain, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and, of course, Iggy Pop. Iggy begins his nihilistically intoned spoken-word recitation by reintroducing himself: "Aisha/We only just met/And I think you ought to know/I'm a murderer." He follows with a bizarre choking interlude and the sort of crazed yowl we weren't sure he still had in him at the time.
In the late Nineties, nu-metal superproducer Ross Robinson was talking to Iggy about recording an album. That project never happened, but he did visit the studio where Robinson was recording post-hardcore Texans At the Drive-In's high-octane commercial breakthrough, Relationship of Command. Pop can be heard distinctively on "Rolodex Propaganda" – you don't ask Iggy Pop to sing back-up if you want him to blend in – but his big moment comes at the start of "Enfilade." A woman answers the phone only to hear a cryptically creepy message from a kidnapper that begins, "Hello, mother leopard, I have your cub."
The man who invented Pop-punk never exactly played pop-punk, but that doesn’t mean its younger practitioners weren’t eager to acknowledge their debt. On his guest-studded 14th album Skull Ring, Sum 41 back Iggy on “Little Know It All,” and the band’s singer, Deryck Whibley, would later credit Pop with helping him stay sober. Green Day also appeared on two songs: “Private Hell,” a punched-up revamp of “The Passenger” and the Clash-y shout-along “Supermarket.” But Pop’s sensibility meshes best with smutty performance artist Peaches on her two guest tracks: “Rock Show” rhymes with “big, gigantic cock show,” and their repetitive deconstruction of the word “titties” on “Motor Inn” sounds like some rediscovered dirty verse from “Surfin’ Bird.” The following year, Pop would appear on Peaches’ track “Kick It,” in which each sorts through the other’s catalog. (Peaches: “I wanna be your cat.” Iggy: “Screw that.”)
Dark Night of the Soul, a collaborative album between electronic producer Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous' indie-pop group Sparklehorse, is mostly notorious because EMI refused to release it for more than a year – the album wasn't commercially available until after Linkous' suicide in 2010. Each song features a different singer, and Linkous handed Iggy some of his darkest lyrics: "A massive headache in my aging skull/Means I do not feel well," with a simple chorus of "Pain, pain, pain."
The guest list on Slash's first solo album, Slash, is way more imaginative than its title – Ozzy Osbourne, Adam Levine, Fergie, Kid Rock and a bonus track featuring an Alice Cooper/Nicole Scherzinger duet. And then there's Iggy. It wasn't the first time Slash and Pop had worked together – along with his Guns 'N Roses bandmate, bassist Duff McKagan, the guitarist played on Iggy's 1990 album Brick by Brick and wrote the music for "My Baby Wants to Rock and Roll." On the chorus here, Iggy suggests different ways we should logically behave once we accept our universal mortality: "So let's get high" but also "So let's be nice," though neither of these seems to excite him nearly as much as the opportunity to "Pee on the ground/And jump around."
Ke$ha flaunted her rock side on second album Warrior, and "Dirty Love" was one of her victories. Over a big "Lust for Life"-style beat, she shouts, "It's Iggy Pop!" and he shouts back, "Yeah! And–," then nearly whispers, "Kesha." Iggy's verse is something like a scuzz-punk take on Cole Porters' "Let's Do It," with lines like "Cockroaches do it/In garbage cans" and "Santorum did it/In a v-neck sweater." Unfortunately, Iggy's voice was excised from the version used for the music video, but at least Iggy-worthy lyrics like "Champagne tastes like piss to me" and "Keep your leopard limousine" remain for Ke$ha to sing.
"Iggy's people had reached out to me saying he was a True Blood fan and if any opportunities come up, to please keep Iggy in mind," the show's music supervisor, Gary Calamar, said. So when Calamar and songwriter James Combs composed a track to play over the credits of an episode from the frisky vampire saga's fifth season, they made the call. Best Coast singer/songwriter Bethany Cosentino joins in on the second verse.
In 2014, Iggy Pop sang Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" along with New Order's Bernard Sumner at a Carnegie Hall benefit concert. "I can imagine Ian [Curtis] smiling when we did it. It would have meant a lot to him," Sumner told Rolling Stone afterward, recalling how he and the Joy Division singer had initially bonded over The Idiot. After their live duet, Sumner began jotting some lyrics down between gigs, and when they added up to a song, he emailed Iggy to ask if he wanted to sing it. After Iggy agreed, drummer Stephen Morris, remembering the thick vinyl of his copy of The Stooges, embarrassed himself in front of the legend. He recalls himself saying, "That first Stooges record, man. That was a really heavy record. Oh, God. I meant it weighed a lot. Not that it was … Oh, fuck. I've really made a mess of this, haven't I?"
Josh Homme got a text message last year. "It basically said, 'Hey, it would be great if we got together and maybe write something sometime – Iggy,'" he recalls. With no label support, the Queens of the Stone Age main man began recording Iggy Pop's first rock solo rock record in 13 years, along with QOTSA's Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. Pop has been suggesting the album may be his last, and he and Homme have been discussing the sessions with the wearied sense of unshakable mutual appreciation you usually hear from war buddies. Pop said Homme "took me to a place I'd never been," and Homme concurred: "This was to go where neither of us had gone before. That was the agreement. And to go all the way."