News Column

Music's Odd Couples: From Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks to Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

July 27, 2012

Piet Levy

Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks are singers. They've had long, illustrious careers.

And that's basically where the similarities end. Yet the two are on the road together for the second time in two years with the Heart and Soul tour, which makes a stop Monday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and will include a handful of duets.

Why, exactly, does this unusual pairing work? As Stewart joked when asked by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer earlier this month, "Well, we're both old people."

Unorthodox musical pairings are an old tradition, too. Sometimes they can be disastrous, other times they result in a sort of unexpected brilliance. But they almost always attract attention.

Here are 12 other odd musical pairings.

1.Bing Crosby and David Bowie: Bowie's ill-conceived "Dancing in the Streets" duet with Mick Jagger may be a case study example of "strange music pairings gone awry," but even more odd was the sight of straight-laced Ziggy Stardust singing the "Little Drummer Boy"-"Peace on Earth" with Crosby on his "Merrie Olde Christmas" TV special in 1977.

2.Sting and Annie Lennox: The pop singers, not likely to have been anyone's first choice of a hand-in-glove blockbuster pairing, hit the road together in 2004, including a stop at the Marcus Amphitheater.

3.William Shatner and Ben Folds: Shatner's bizarre 1968 album "The Transformed Man," with its atrocious cover of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," is a strong candidate for worst-album-of-all-time honors. But with musical collaborator Ben Folds, Shatner released the surprisingly effective "Has Been" in 2007, which inspired the Milwaukee Ballet's production "Common People" that debuted that year.

4.Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow: Against all odds, crass country-rock party animal Kid Rock successfully showcased his sensitive side with some help from class act Sheryl Crow for their 2002 duet "Picture." It became his biggest hit on the Billboard charts.

5.The Flaming Lips and Ke$ha: The Lips' legacy is built on out-there gimmicks, whether it's breaking a world record this summer for the most concerts performed in 24 hours or distributing new music in limited-edition gummy skulls. But the psychedelic rock band's decision to collaborate with radio-friendly pop singer Ke$ha for this year's "The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends" may be the most unexpected thing the group has ever done.

6.Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits: Combining country singer Gayle's smooth voice with Waits' smoky growl sounds like the musical equivalent of a peanut butter and broken-glass sandwich, but the voices blended surprisingly well on the jazzy lounge number "Picking Up After You," from Waits' soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 musical "One From The Heart."

7.Kanye West and Justin Vernon: Yeezy brought in such rap forces as Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj for his 2010 masterpiece "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," but his most surprising and inspiring creative stroke was recruiting Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, from Eau Claire, to coo his falsetto on album climax "Lost in the World."

8.Willie Nelson and Marty Dread: The Red Headed Stranger spent almost as much time at Farm Aid 2010 at Miller Park singing duets with other performers -- Amos Lee, Norah Jones, Dave Matthews, Steven Tyler -- as he did performing his own material. But the strangest duet of the night was with reggae singer Marty Dread for a song called "Lend a Hand to the Farmers." That's right, Willie went Rasta.

9.Jason Aldean and Ludacris: Part of Aldean's aggressive campaign to dominate the country world in 2011 included reaching out to the rap crowd with single "Dirt Road Anthem," which he performed with Ludacris at the CMT Music Awards.

10.Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith: For better or worse, you have this admittedly cool collaborative cover on the Aerosmith hit "Walk This Way" to thank for helping to break down the silos between hip-hop and rock, paving the way for rap-rock groups like Limp Bizkit and Hollywood Undead.

11.Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Arguably the best odd-couple collaboration in music history, the combination of Led Zeppelin legend Plant with bluegrass star Krauss, under the guidance of producer T Bone Burnett, resulted in five Grammy Awards, including album of the year, for 2007's "Raising Sand."

12.Jack White and Insane Clown Posse: One of the most respected figures in music teamed up with one of the most detested for last year's single "Leck Mich Im Arsch," which borrowed a melody composed by Mozart in 1782. Yes, this actually happened.



Source: (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by MCT Information Services


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