Musicians on Musicians 2019: Cover Featuring Elton John, Lana Del Rey - Rolling Stone
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Musicians on Musicians 2019

What happens when musicians ask the questions?

Over the course of 52 years and thousands of interviews with musicians, actors, politicians and celebrities in these pages, at least one thing has remained consistent: we’ve always asked the questions. Aside from a memorable encounter between Carrie Fisher and Madonna for a 1991 cover story, our staff has rarely given up the role of interlocutors. Until now.

For our first annual Musicians on Musicians issue (or, the “Icons on Icons” issue as Puffy re-named it in his conversation with DJ Khaled), we invited some of our favorite artists to get together for intimate conversations about music, life, inspiration, and creativity. “You had to ignore every instinct you have as a journalist to jump in,” says Senior Editor Patrick Doyle, who edited the package and moderated many of the conversations. “It was almost like you weren’t supposed to be there and that’s how we wanted it to feel. All the layers of mystery, ego or anything else fell away when they sat down together.”

In many cases, the conversations paired an artist with one of her or his biggest influences: H.E.R. and Lenny Kravitz bonded over breaking industry rules as black artists; St. Vincent reveals to Metallica’s Kirk Hammett that he inspired her to put down her violin and pick up the guitar at age 12; and Billie Eilish — who was three years old when Green Day’s American Idiot came out — visits her hero Billie Joe Armstrong, and finds out that she’s his hero, too. “I always gravitate towards music that sounds like freedom,” Billie Joe told Billie. “And that’s what I get from your music. “

Artists went to great lengths to make these conversations happen: Dave Grohl cut his vacation short to meet up with Ringo Starr in Los Angeles, and David Byrne rode his bicycle all the way across Brooklyn to talk to rapper Tierra Whack. Elton John sat down with Lana Del Rey at his Beverly Hills home hours before a concert in Anaheim. Del Rey pulled up to his house in a pickup truck armed with 13 pages of questions she wrote up on a typewriter. “She opened up to Elton in a way that I’d never seen her open up to anyone,” says Doyle. “Elton had such respect for her. It didn’t feel like anyone was a superstar in that room. You were just sitting at a kitchen table talking to two people.” — Jason Fine

elton lana

Ryan McGinley for Rolling Stone

Elton John and Lana Del Rey

Pop’s most enigmatic star visits her idol at his Beverly Hills home to talk about songwriting, 1970s Los Angeles, and how live shows are like sex.

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billie billie

Brad Ogbonna for Rolling Stone

Billie Joe Armstrong and Billie Eilish

The teen-pop superstar asks her hero about early Green Day, staying sane in the industry, and that time he got into a fight with a guy in the audience.

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bonnie brandi

Lauren Dukoff for Rolling Stone

Bonnie Raitt and Brandi Carlile

“She illuminated the path I could have,” Carlile says as she sits down with her hero for the first time. “She taught me I could lead and not apologize.”

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diddy dj khaled

Wayne Lawrence for Rolling Stone

Diddy and DJ Khaled

The hip-hop producers have had similar careers, and for good reason. Says Khaled, ‘He’s the blueprint.’ The latest in a series of intimate conversations between artists.

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kirk annie

Clayton Cotterell for Rolling Stone

Kirk Hammett and Annie Clark (St. Vincent)

Annie Clark gave up violin so she could learn Metallica songs on the guitar. Now, she asks their lead guitarist about riffs, band politics, and turning rage into music.

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lenny her

Magdalena Wosinska for Rolling Stone

Lenny Kravitz and H.E.R.

The rising R&B singer-guitarist bonds with her hero about having musical parents, Miles Davis, and the importance of not listening to others.

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