Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest Duets of All Time

“Under Pressure,” “Hunger Strike” and your other favorite tunes by two artists

stevie nicks tom petty

KMazur/WireImage

Bruce Springsteen's recent guest appearance with the Rolling Stones got us thinking about great duets. They've been a staple of the charts since the beginning of pop music, and even today a huge percentage of tracks on the Hot 100 feature two or more artists. We asked our readers to select their favorite duets of all time. (In a funny coincidence, the top three songs all came from 1981.) Click through to see the results. 

Play video

6. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Real-life couple Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson knew they had something special on their hands when they wrote "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in 1966. They even declined an offer from Dusty Springfield to record the track since they thought it was get them access to the hallowed halls of Motown. The plan worked and it became the first of many duets recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The duo had a brief run of amazing hits, but Terrell was sidelined by a brain cancer diagnosis that took her life in 1970. She was only 24. 

Play video

5. Elton John and Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

Elton John and Bernie Taupin were working on their 1976 LP Blue Moves when they decided to write a duet like the great Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell songs of Sixties. They recruited English pop singer Kiki Dee to sing the song with Elton and it shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Elton has since gone on to sing the song with everyone from Miss Piggy to RuPaul. 

Play video

4. Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, “Don’t Give Up”

1986 was a really, really good time to be a member of Genesis, past or present. Phil Collins was still coasting off the huge success of No Jacket Required, Mike Rutherford's side project Mike and the Mechanics dropped "All I Need Is a Miracle," Steve Hackett's prog supergroup GTR scored a supremely unlikely radio hit with "When the Heart Rules The Mind," Genesis themselves reached a commercial peak with Invisible Touch and Peter Gabriel finally broke through to the mainstream with So. The track list nearly reads like a greatest hits collection ("In Your Eyes," "Sledgehammer," "Red Rain," "Big Time"), and the fifth single was "Don't Give Up," a beautiful and inspiring duet with Kate Bush. In recent years it's been covered by Alicia Keys with Bono and Willie Nelson with Sinead O'Connor. 

Play video

3. Stevie Nicks and Don Henley, “Leather and Lace”

They've never talked much about it, but Don Henley and Stevie Nicks dated for a couple of years in the 1970s. They remained friends even after the breakup, and when Nicks cut her debut solo LP in 1981, Henley agreed to duet with her on "Leather and Lace," a track she originally wrote for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. The country pair named their 1981 album Leather and Lace, but inexplicably cut the song from their disc. It was their loss since Henley and Nicks brought it to Number Six on the Hot 100, proving they didn't need the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac to land songs on the radio. 

Play video

2. Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”

Stevie Nicks wasn't going to take any chances on Bella Donna, her first solo album. Not only did she recruit Don Henley for "Leather and Lace," but managed to get her hands on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," a song Tom Petty and Mike Campbell wrote and slated for a Heartbreakers album. Stevie worked some of her magic (with a little help from Jimmy Iovine) and the song moved to her album. It hit Number Three on the Hot 100. They've sung it together a number of times over the years, most notably on Petty's 2006 tour, which featured Nicks on many of the dates. 

Play video

1. Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”

In July 1981, David Bowie headed over to Montreux's Mountain Studio to record a track with Queen. He originally planned on singing on "Cool Cat," but the session didn't gel. Luckily, the four members of Queen and Bowie started jamming on a new piece that soon morphed into "Under Pressure." The whole thing came together within a matter of hours, though there's a dispute to this day over who exactly came up with the iconic bass line. The song became a worldwide hit, though the never performed it together live — even though Bowie's set immediately followed Queen's at Live Aid. 

Show Comments