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Readers Poll: Best Collaborations of All Time

Mariah Carey fans turn out in force to make their preferences known

Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Last week, we asked our readers to vote for the best punk band of all time. Green Day won after the band posted the link on their website. To put it mildly, this upset many people on the Internet. As we said at the time, even Green Day probably doesn't think they are better than The Clash or The Ramones – but the votes are the votes. 

This week we polled our readers about their favorite collaboration of all time. This time around, the Mariah Carey fans rallied for one of her songs. It won by a huge margin. I can already see the furious comments coming – and the commentary on other sites saying this poll somehow reflects the opinion of Rolling Stone's editors. Well, where would the Internet be if it wasn't for misdirected anger? We welcome it. 

By Andy Greene

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10. Santana and Rob Thomas, ‘Smooth’

Before Carlos Santana released "Smooth" in the summer of 1999 it was hard to imagine any scenario where he'd score a massive hit single. That was the year of Britney Spears, N'Sync and Ricky Martin – and Santana was a Woodstock veteran who hadn't been in the top 10 of the Hot 100 since "Black Magic Woman" almost 30 years earlier. But Clive Davis had the bright idea of pairing the guitar legend with younger pop stars for the LP Supernatural. The first single from the album was written by Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, though the original idea was to have George Michael sing it. Santana liked Thomas' version so much that he decided to let him sing it on the album. The song shot to Number One, won a slew of Grammys and made Santana a household name again. It was one of the biggest comebacks in rock history, rivaled perhaps only by Meatloaf six years earlier. 

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9. Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, ‘Say, Say, Say’

Michael Jackson was at the peak of his fame when he agreed to record a duet with Paul McCartney for his 1983 LP Pipes of Peace. Thriller had been on the shelves for nearly a year at that point, and was continuing to generate huge sales and hit singles. McCartney's career wasn't going nearly as well, but the previous year he had recorded a guest spot on Thriller for "The Girl Is Mine" and Jackson was quite happy to return the favor. Produced by George Martin, "Say, Say, Say" shot to Number One on the Hot 100 and capped off an incredible year for Jackson. I've never quite understood why the video depicts Jackson and McCartney as grifters in the old west, but it's pretty cool anyway. Their relationship soured a few years later when Jackson outbid McCartney for the rights to the Beatles catalog. 

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8. David Bowie and Mick Jagger, ‘Dancing In The Street’

David Bowie and Mick Jagger were both struggling with their careers by the summer of 1985. Earlier that year, Jagger released his commercially disappointing solo debut She's The Boss. Bowie's latest album was Tonight, an extremely underwhelming follow-up to 1983's Let's Dance. Both artists agreed to perform at Live Aid that summer, and they initially wanted to perform this Martha and the Vandellas classic as a video duet across the Atlantic Ocean. When they learned that a half-second satellite delay would make that impossible, they decided to cut this video instead. Under the gun for time, they recorded the song and shot the video in a marathon 24-hour period. "It was an interesting exercise in how you can do something in 24 hours without really worrying about it too much," Jagger told Rolling Stone in 2008. "It was fantastically 1980’s with the outfits. And my children look at it and go, 'Look at that shirt, dad! You could get two of you in there!'" 

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7. Good Charlotte and Avenged Sevenfold, ‘The River’

On Good Charlotte's 2007 disc Good Morning Revival they decided to take their sound into a slightly more alternative direction than their previous pop-punk efforts. "The River," the band's first single from the LP, features contributions from M. Shadows and Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold. The spiritual song connected with fans and landed at Number 25 on the Hot 100 – which was the band's biggest hit since 2002's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Is it a better duet than "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" or "Some Velvet Morning"? That's not for us to say. We just count your votes. 

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6. The Beatles featuring Eric Clapton, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’

George Harrison wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at his mother's house in Warrington, England. "We tried to record it, but Paul and John were so used to just cranking out their tunes that it was very difficult at times to get serious and record one of mine," Harrison said in 1995. "It just wasn't happening . . . The next day I was driving into London with Eric Clapton and I said, 'What are you doing today? Why don't you come into the studio and play on this song for me? He said, 'Oh, no – I can't do that. Nobody's ever played on a Beatles record and the others wouldn't like it.' I said, 'Look, it's my song and I'd like you to play on it.'"

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5. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’

Tom Petty originally wrote "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" as a solo song, but his producer Jimmy Iovine was working with Stevie Nicks at the time and he talked Petty into letting her sing on it. She released it as the first single from her 1981 debut solo LP Bella Donna and it shot to Number Three on the Hot 100, firmly establishing that Nicks could have a career outside of Fleetwood Mac. In 2006, Nicks went on tour with Petty and they revived this song every single night. 

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4. U2 and Green Day, ‘The Saints Are Coming’

About one year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, U2 and Green Day came together at London's Abbey Road Studios to record a charity song to benefit the city. They picked "The Saints Are Coming," a rather obscure track by the 1978 Scottish punk rock and the Skids. "If there's any statement, it's us showing up and wanting to support the city," the Edge told Rolling Stone in 2006. "It's about rebirth and the future and things coming back to normal." Both bands had a blast at the recording session. "We started playing Buzzcocks songs and a little bit of Stiff Little Fingers and, because it was Abbey Road, some Beatles songs, too," Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2008. "Some of it sounded god-awful, and some of it was pretty good."

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3. Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C., ‘Walk This Way’

Run DMC's 1985 LP was almost completed when the Jam Master Jay spontaneously spun Aerosmith's classic "Walk This Way" in the studio. Run and DMC began rapping over the intro, giving producer Rick Rubin a great idea. "The album needed one more element," Rubin told Rolling Stone in 2009. "I thought there had to be a way to present this to rock fans so people would think, 'This really isn't that different than the kind of music I like.'" He asked Run and D.M.C. to rap Aerosmith's original lyrics. "We said, 'Motherfucker, this is hillbilly gibberish, this is fucking bullshit!'" D.M.C. told Rolling Stone in 2009. Russell Simmons insisted, and Rubin increased the pressure by inviting Steven Tyler and Joe Perry down to the studio. "We needed someone to play guitar and sing the chorus," Rubin said. "Who better than the people who do it every day?" The song was a huge smash, and it not only resurrected Aerosmith's career – it also introduced hip-hop to a white audience. 

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2. Queen and David Bowie, ‘Under Pressure’

In 1981, Queen invited David Bowie to Mountain Studios in Switzerland to sing back-up vocals on their new song "Cool Cat." They weren't satisfied with the results, but Bowie and the four members of Queen started jamming that day and the result was "Under Pressure." The song became a massive hit all over the world. They never performed it live together, and although they played back-to-back at Live Aid, for whatever reason they didn't take the opportunity to play the song. Vanilla Ice heavily sampled "Under Pressure" on "Ice Ice Baby," though he hilariously denied that the songs were that similar. 

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1. Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, ‘One Sweet Day’

Okay, so this song wouldn't have won if the Mariah Carey fans hadn't stuffed the ballot boxes in this poll. Most of you reading this probably don't think it's the greatest duet of all-time. You're probably enraged to see it here. We understand. Back in 1995, however, everybody loved this song. Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey were both at their peak, and the song held the Number One spot for a staggering 16 weeks. It was completely inescapable that year. Some of you may feel that it hasn't aged all that well, but the voters have spoken and they feel it's the greatest duet of all time. Who are we to say they're wrong?

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