I love insane musical collaborations. Cross genre, cross decade, cross everything. Here are five of my favorite crazy collabs…
5. “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith & Run-D.M.C
This might seem like an obvious choice, because this collaboration is now considered to be a classic. But when it was released in 1986,
it was anything but a sure thing. Up to that point in music history, rap had not been able to break through into the mainstream. But a decade old rock song would be that break. Run-D.M.C. teamed up with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to remake the song. It was a massive success, becoming the first rap song EVER to be a Top 5 hit. Let me repeat that: EVER!
It also became the first rap video to get major airplay on MTV. Fittingly, the video shows Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. playing the same song in a building and literally tearing down the wall between them. It was pretty great.
(It looks like since the song is shared by two artists, in can only be downloaded as part of a full album. But go do yourself a favor and pick up The Essential Aerosmith. Thank me later.)
4. “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby.
During the middle part of the last century, a Bing Crosby Christmas special was as much a holiday tradition as presents and egg nog. Each year, Bing, who, by the way, has sold about half a billion records, would round up some celebrity friends and they’d merrily sing a few standards by a fireplace with a nice, fuzzy camera glare casting a glow over the screen.
In 1977, one of those guests was David Bowie. The stupendously unlikely pair exchanged some friendly banter about their differences before realizing that they did have one thing in common: music. They then sang a truly beautiful duet, and worlds successfully collided. Bing had been popular since the TWENTIES! And Bowie, of course, was at one of the peaks of his career. (His new album is terrific, for the record. Go buy it now.)
Bing Crosby passed away just five weeks after recording the Bowie collaboration, which Rolling Stone recently dubbed “lunatic.” But it became a lasting image of icons crossing paths to make wonderful music.
3. “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever) by will.i.am, Jennifer Lopez, Mick Jagger
This is probably the craziest collab on this list. You have will.i.am, the Black Eyed Peas hit-maker, JLo, a legend in her own right, and… Mick Jagger? Reportedly, will.i.am wanted to get the least likely sounding group together for this single, so he got in touch with Sir Mick. To his utter state of shock (shameless link to Jagger’s bizarre duet with Michael Jackson- an honorable mention), Jagger agreed to do the song, and the rest is really weird history.
The track was released in late fall 2011, and became a Top 40 hit, nearly fifty years after Jagger and the Stones first hit the charts. The song itself is pretty bizarre. It starts off with will.i.am dropping rickdiculous rhymes and JLo singing the title over and over. After about 3 minutes, the beat drops, will warns the listener “this is hard,” and out comes Mick effing Jagger, spitting lyrics that are, well, pretty “hard.”
2. “Cut Me Some Slack” by Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic & Pat Smear (aka NIRVAVA)
During the buildup to the massive 12/12/12/ concert for Hurricane Sandy relief, a story so crazy it couldn’t be true came out to the public: that the surviving members of Nirvana were getting back together for the show, and their new lead singer was going to be Paul McCartney. Crazy! No way! Never gonna happen!
About five hours into the already epic show, the Beatle was a few songs into his set when he cheekily said:
“So, recently, some guys asked me to go and jam with them. So I showed up, like you do, you know, ready to jam, and um, in the middle of it, these guys kept saying, ‘you know, we haven’t played together in years!” So the penny finally dropped and I realized I was in the middle of a Nirvana reunion.”
The craziest part of this story is the song is actually pretty great. Fans on both sides agree that it adds to both McCartney and Nirvana’s legacies.
A quick side note: while most of the world has moved on, New York and New Jersey are still rebuilding. To help, pick up the 12/12/12 album, a collection of songs from that historic night. Money from that goes straight to the Robin Hood Fund for Sandy Relief. You can also donate directly to the Red Cross.
1. “Stan” by Eminem feat. Elton John
Eminem’s 2000 hit “Stan” is, by itself, a very good song. Touching on the delicate subject of fans becoming obsessed with singers, it was a huge hit, and has been included in several best-of lists, including Rolling Stone‘s definitive 500 Greatest Songs. The track is based around a sample of Dido’s “Thank You,” which was released around the same time.
Although Em’s popularity was gigantic at the turn of the millenium, he was also a lightning rod for criticism, including allegations of homophobia. To silence those haters, he performed “Stan” at the 2001 Grammy Awards with Elton John. Yes, one of the biggest gay icons of all time. John sang the hook of the song, adding supreme gravitas. He also jammed away on his piano over Eminem’s raps.
At the end of the song, the two legends hugged it out and held hands. The performance is absolutely stunning. Slim Shady does his best at self-censoring the countless curse words, but a few “shits” do slip through the cracks. But it’s Elton’s haunting take on Dido’s words that elevate the already great song and make it spectacular.
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? That’s what the Comments box is for!
UPDATE: So the other day I promoted this post on Twitter and Krist Novoselic FROM NIRVANA retweeted the link!! Ahhh!!