Top 25 Pop Music Duets of All Time

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Righteous Brothers - "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (1964)

Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'. Courtesy Verve

Music duets are an enduring part of pop music. They may range from artists who perform all of their music as vocal duets to one off superstar collaborations. These are 25 of the greatest pop music duets of all time in chronological order.

When producer Phil Spector finished writing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" with legendary Brill Building songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, they took it to the Righteous Brothers. The soulful duo were looking for their first major pop hit, but they had doubts. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was longer than the usual AM radio pop hit of the time, and the Righteous Brothers thought it was too slow for pop fans who were clamoring after the British Invasion. The song became a #1 smash pop hit. The vocal interplay between Bill Medley on the low parts and Bobby Hatfield on the high remains thrilling to this day.

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Simon & Garfunkel - "The Sound of Silence" (1965)

Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence
Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence. Courtesy Columbia

"The Sound of Silence" both nearly killed Simon & Garfunkel's career as a duo, and then became their breakthrough. It was originally released in a completely acoustic folk version by the pair on the 1964 album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. The album was a failure and live audiences often laughed at the song "The Sound of Silence." However, in the spring of 1965 the song began to attract radio airplay, and producer Tom Wilson remixed the track adding in new electric instrumentation. The new version was released in September 1965, and it immediately hit the charts. By early December it was a #1 hit. 

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Sonny & Cher - "I Got You Babe" (1965)

Sonny and Cher - I Got You Babe
Sonny and Cher - "I Got You Babe". Courtesy Atco

Salvatore Bono first met Cherilyn Sarkasian in 1962 when he was 27 and she was 16. He was working as a producer for Phil Spector. Through the connection, Cher began to sing backup on classic Phil Spector recordings. They first recorded together in 1964 under the name Caesar and Cleo but failed to have any breakthrough hits. Sonny Bono wrote "I Got You Babe" about the pair's relationship, and it turned into their first national hit eventually going to #1 and selling a million copies. The pair trade vocals to a waltz beat and sing the chorus in unison.

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Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra - "Somethin' Stupid" (1967)

Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra - Somethin' Stupid
Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra - "Somethin' Stupid". Courtesy Reprise

Both Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy Sinatra were at career peaks heading into 1967. They each hit #1 on the charts with solo hits in 1966. Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" and Frank Sinatra's "Strangers In the Night" were chart-toppers. Frank Sinatra discovered the song "Somethin' Stupid" in its original recording by the duo Carson and Gaile. He played it for Nancy Sinatra's producer Lee Hazlewood and the pair decided it should be a father daughter duet. "Somethin' Stupid" became the first and so far only father daughter duet to top the Billboard Hot 100. Some were uneasy that the song detailing a love relationship was sung by a father and daughter, but that did not stop its route to success.

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Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967)

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". Courtesy Tamla Motown

In the mid-1960s Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were a young songwriting team with some success looking to climb the next rung by joining Motown. British singer Dusty Springfield expressed interest in the song, but the songwriters held out for Motown. It became the first duet recorded by Motown's Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The highly praised romantic duet was inducted into the Grammy Awards Hall of Fame in 1999. A cover version of the song by Diana Ross became her first solo #1 hit after leaving the Supremes.

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Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg - "Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus" (1969)

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg - Je t' non plus
Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg - "Je t' non plus". Courtesy Fontana

French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg first wrote "Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus" in 1967 for his then girlfriend actress Brigitte Bardot. The pair recorded it, and when word got out, Bardot's husband Gunter Sachs called for it to be withdrawn from release. After pleading by Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg complied. In 1968 he re-recorded the song with a new girlfriend English actress Jane Birkin. It was released in 1969 and drew controversy due to Jane Birkin's heavy breathing on the recording. It became the first #1 single in the UK subject to a radio ban. The US distributor Mercury Records was accused of releasing an obscene record and the song only reached #58 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Elton John and Kiki Dee - "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (1976)

Elton John and Kiki Dee - Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Elton John and Kiki Dee - "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". Courtesy MCA

Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" under the pseudonyms Ann Orson and Carte Blanche. They saw it as an affectionate tribute to the Motown duet style of Marvin Gaye and his partners Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston. Elton John's singing partner was Kiki Dee, the first white British artist signed to Motown. Her first single for Motown was released in 1970. In 1973 she signed to Elton John's Rocket record label and had the international pop hit "I've Got the Music In Me." The pair breezily trade vocals, and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" became a #1 pop smash spending four weeks at #1 in the US and six in the UK where it was the first #1 for both Elton John and Kiki Dee.

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Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway - "The Closer I Get To You" (1978)

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Courtesy Atlantic

"The Closer I Get To You" was not originally intended as a duet, but it was rewritten to include parts for Donny Hathaway. Sadly, although the song is a classic, it was recorded when Donny Hathaway was suffering from serious bouts with clinical depression. "The Closer I Get To You" was a #2 charting smash hit and Roberta Flack recorded a full album of duets in response. However, less than a year after the release of "The Closer I Get To You," Donny Hathaway took his own life. Roberta Flack gave instructions that the song was forever dedicated to his memory and all proceeds would go to his family.


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John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John - "You're the One That I Want" (1978)

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - You're the One That I Want
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - "You're the One That I Want". Courtesy RSO

As one of the new songs written for the film version of Grease, "You're the One That I Want" was released in advance of the movie and instantly became a smash hit. Written and produced by Australian John Farrar, a frequent collaborator with Olivia Newton-John, it is a romantic dance-pop hit recorded with a nod to 50s rhythms. The song hit #1 in the US just as the film was hitting theaters. It is one of the bestselling singles of all time in the UK and the first of three singles from the Grease soundtrack that hit the top 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

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Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer - "No More Tears" (1979)

Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer - No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)
Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer - "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)". Courtesy Casablanca

In order to fit Barbra Streisand's concept album Wet, "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" was retitled and had some of the lyrics retooled. She and Donna Summer were two of the biggest female pop stars of the moment. There were slightly different versions recorded and released as singles by each artist's record labels. However, the sales were combined for chart and certification purposes. Coming at the end of the disco's reign in pop music, "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" was the fourth #1 pop hit for each singer. The song was never performed live by the pair.


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Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty - "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (1981)

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty - Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty - "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around". Courtesy Modern

Written by Tom Petty and his bandmate Mike Campbell, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was originally intended as a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song. However, Jimmy Iovine, who was working with both Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks at the time, brought Stevie Nicks into the project. The finished song was released as the first single from Stevie Nicks' solo debut album Bella Donna and hit #3 on the pop singles chart. It remains one of the most loved rock duets of all time.

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Queen and David Bowie - "Under Pressure" (1981)

Queen and David Bowie - Under Pressure
Queen and David Bowie - "Under Pressure". Courtesy Elektra

The origins of "Under Pressure" date back to David Bowie being brought in to sing backing vocals for the Queen song "Cool Cat" in sessions that would result in the album Hot Space. Queen first began "Under Pressure" as a song called "Feel Like," but a jam session with David Bowie created the final track. Vocally, it is a powerful duet between Queen's Freddie Mercury and David Bowie that climbed to #1 on the UK pop singles chart while reaching the top 30 in the US.

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Diana Ross and Lionel Richie - "Endless Love" (1981)

Diana Ross and Lionel Richie - Endless Love
Diana Ross and Lionel Richie - "Endless Love". Courtesy Motown

Written by Lionel Richie as his career with the Commodores was winding down, "Endless Love" is regarded by some as unforgivably treacly and by others as a romantic classic. The vocals echo each other through much of the song.  The song was used as the theme for the movie of the same name. "Endless Love" was a huge commercial success topping the US pop chart for nine weeks. It also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. Lionel Richie released his self-titled solo debut album the following year.

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Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes - "Up Where We Belong" (1982)

Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes - Up Where We Belong
Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes - "Up Where We Belong". Courtesy Island

British soul singer Joe Cocker and American pop singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes might seem unusual suspects for partnering in a duet. However, his gravelly style, and her full, resonant voice matched perfectly in this romantic theme from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. It hit #1 on the pop singles chart and earned the pair a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. "Up Where We Belong" also took home the Academy Award for Best Song.

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Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - "Islands In the Stream" (1983)

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - Islands in the Stream
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - "Islands in the Stream". Courtesy RCA

The Bee Gees first wrote "Islands in the Stream" for Marvin Gaye with an R&B style. However, they retooled it for Kenny Rogers' album Eyes That See In the Dark. He brought in fellow country music legend Dolly Parton, and the song went all the way to #1 on pop, country, and adult contemporary charts. "Islands in the Stream" was the second #1 pop hit for both singers. It sold over two million physical copies in its original release, and has sold over 500,000 digital copies to date. 

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Ashford and Simpson - "Solid" (1984)

Ashford and Simpson - Solid
Ashford and Simpson - "Solid". Courtesy Capitol

Songwriting duo Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson had long fruitful careers writing hit songs for other artists including such classics as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." As artists in their own right they released a series of top 10 R&B hit albums in the late 1970s. The pair wrote and recorded the song "Solid" in celebration of their own marital relationship in 1984, and it became their biggest hit as recording artists topping the R&B singles chart. 

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Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush - "Don't Give Up" (1986)

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush - Don't Give Up
Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush - "Don't Give Up". Courtesy Geffen

Peter Gabriel wrote "Don't Give Up" for his solo album So. It details a man's emotional descent into despair while a woman offers him consolation and encouragement to look to the future. Initially, Peter Gabriel asked Dolly Parton to be his duet partner.  When she declined, he asked British star Kate Bush. The song became a top 10 pop hit in the UK and over time has become a favorite from Peter Gabriel's catalog re-recorded by a wide range of other artists. 

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Aretha Franklin and George Michael - "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (1987)

Aretha Franklin and George Michael - I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
Aretha Franklin and George Michael - "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)". Courtesy Arista

Music mogul Clive Davis was one of the driving forces in putting together the legendary Aretha Franklin and Wham! vocalist George Michael as he was embarking on a solo career. Aretha Franklin had recently returned to the upper reaches of the pop charts with her hits "Freeway of Love" and "Who's Zoomin' Who." With a sparkling Narada Michael Walden production, the song went to #1 on the pop singles chart and won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

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Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" (1987)

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - (I've Had) The Time of My Life
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - "(I've Had) The Time of My Life". Courtesy RCA

Franke Previte, lead vocalist for the pop band Franke and the Knockouts, was without a recording contract in the mid 1980's when he was asked to write songs for the upcoming movie Dirty Dancing. The duet "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" was one of those songs. It was chosen as the dance finale for the hit film. Jennifer Warnes found herself taking home another Grammy Award following her part on 1982's "Up Where We Belong" with Joe Cocker. Bill Medley, her duet partner on "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" was one half of the Righteous Brothers and recorded his own solo country hits earlier in the 1980s. 

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Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson - "Scream" (1995)

Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson - Scream
Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson - "Scream". Courtesy Epic

The brother/sister duet on "Scream" is Michael Jackson's howling response to attacks by the tabloid press particularly over accusations of child sexual abuse. His sister Janet Jackson chose to take part in the recording to show family support. It was their first recorded collaboration since she sang backup on Michael Jackson's 1982 hit "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" from Thriller. It was the first time Michael Jackson worked with the production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who helped put together many of Janet Jackson's hits. "Scream" was a top 5 pop hit and the subject of a much celebrated accompanying music video.

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Brandy and Monica - "The Boy Is Mine" (1998)

Brandy and Monica - The Boy Is Mine
Brandy and Monica - "The Boy Is Mine". Courtesy Atlantic

Conceived as an answer song to the 1982 Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney hit "The Girl Is Mine," "The Boy Is Mine" depicts a dispute over the love of a man. Teenagers Brandy and Monica were both rising R&B stars, and the song became the first single from the sophomore albums by each performer. Capitalizing on presumed rivalry between the singers, the record spent 13 weeks at #1 in the US. "The Boy Is Mine" took home the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group while being nominated for both Record of the Year and Best R&B Song.

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Eminem and Dido - "Stan" (2000)

Eminem and Dido - Stan
Eminem and Dido - "Stan". Courtesy Interscope

"Stan" remains one of the more disturbing songs released as a single by a major artist. The song tells the story of an imaginary fan named Stan who becomes obsessed with Eminem. The fan becomes progressively angrier when he doesn't hear a response to his letters written to the star and ultimately he kills both himself and his pregnant girlfriend. British singer Dido provides a haunting backing chorus and "Stan" includes samples from her hit "Thank You" as well. "Stan" hit #1 on the UK pop singles chart. It has been acclaimed as a landmark in hip hop.

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Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State Of Mind" (2009)

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind". Courtesy Roc Nation

"Empire State Of Mind" was originally written by Angela Hunte and Ja'net "Jnay" Sewell-Ulepic when they were overseas feeling homesick. The song was ultimately offered to Jay-Z, and when he asked the pair for suggestions on who should sing the chorus, they came up with Alicia Keys. "Empire State Of Mind" was instantly embraced as a contemporary anthem for New York City. It spent five weeks at #1 on the US pop singles chart and won two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. 

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Lady Gaga and Beyonce - "Telephone" (2010)

Lady Gaga and Beyonce - Telephone
Lady Gaga and Beyonce - "Telephone". Courtesy Interscope

Lady Gaga originally wrote "Telephone" for Britney Spears, but ultimately it was rejected. Lady Gaga then recorded it as a duet with Beyonce. The song details the feelings of being suffocated by those who constantly want to reach you. Instead, the protagonist chooses to lose herself on the dance floor. The accompanying music video by Jonas Akerlund is one of the most celebrated of the past decade. It continues a story begun in Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" music video. "Telephone" became Lady Gaga's sixth consecutive top 10 pop hit and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

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Beyonce and Jay-Z - "Drunk In Love" (2013)

Beyonce and Jay-Z - Drunk In Love
Beyonce and Jay-Z - "Drunk In Love". Courtesy Columbia

"Drunk In Love" seems to revisit the concept of Beyonce and Jay-Z's "Crazy In Love" from 10 years before. The pair are now a married couple, and "Drunk In Love" is a sensual celebration of their relationship. The song received immediate critical accolades and ultimately reached #2 on the US pop chart. "Drunk In Love" earned 2 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance.

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