Duets…of the Soul

14 Jul

Contributing Music Maven Editor, Colette, provides some good stuff on Duets (and a couple of trios) of the “soulful” kind. There are some FABULOUS videos here, with the Etta James performance likely being the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. And Shrew….no panty throwing when viewing the Tom Jones piece.

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a couple of recent favorite duets….

Marc Broussard & Toby Lightman – If I Could Build My World Around You

and this absolutely wonderful piece of “soulful” music:

Ray LaMontagne & Damien Rice – To Love Somebody

Here is Colette’s wonderful contribution. As always, thanks.

Soulful Duets Extraordinaire

The vogue for “duets” albums, with Tony Bennett and others teaming up with lots of singers you can’t imagine them being in the same universe with, was really started in a big way by Frank Sinatra (then came Ray, Etc.) Tony, impeccable musician that he is, was at least in the same studio when he recorded his duets. But such exercises got me thinking about unexpected duets/trios captured on video, that were a really fine fit. Since this is a HUGE topic, I’m boiling my first session down to classical soul, mostly Motown. I didn’t intend it this way, but my man Marvin Gaye is all over this set — as well he should be.

Chuck & Etta

Two tough customers, and look out! Firestorm! Etta belts it out. Chuck duck-walks and eggs her on. Keith Richards beams, ear-to-ear. Rock n’ Roll music, any old way you choose it….

Etta James & Chuck Berry, with Keith Richards – Rock n’ Roll Music

Dusty & Martha
What was it about Dusty Springfield? Beyond the impeccable pitch, the sultry voice, the swingin’ phrasing? Maybe that she was sort of the Bill Clinton of British blue-eyed soulsters — she felt entirely comfortable with African American musicians even before the big Civil Rights push, and they dug her like crazy too. This is from a great English TV special of the ’60s she hosted, about Motown — it’s all up on YouTube now. This is one of my favorite of her many team-ups: two soul sisters, with acrylic bouffant hairdos, sounding fab together — Martha Reeves (and, at the end, her Vandellas) and Dusty:

Martha Reeves & Dusty Springfield – Wishin’ & Hopin’

Stevie & Ray

A lot of people loved Taylor’s version on American Idol, and it’s one of Stevie Wonderful’s finest. What a treat, though, to hear Ray Charles sing “Livin for the City” with the composer over dueling keyboards! I love how Ray gives the lyrics an extra layer of grittiness. They both knew well the world they were singing about:

— Ray & Stevie — Livin’ for the City

Marvin & Tina

Speaking of Marvin, again, I have to share another gem from “Shindig!,” which Gray also posted for about a day. (I want Shin Dig’s entire archive, people!) Tina was a lot more country and funky sass than Marvin’s usual glamorous singing partners (Kim Weston, Tami Terrell, Diana Ross). But she and Marvin are marvelous together, in a cool-meets-hot, grits-with-caviar kinda way, on this terrific medley of Barrett Strong’s “Money” and Marvin’s “I’ll Be Doggone”:

Marvin Gaye & Tina Turner medley

Tom & Dionne

OK, this is a song I used to run screaming from, but when these two singers team up on it, in peak voice, I can even handle “Endless Love.” Who knew how good a vocal fit they’d be…….Dionne is in exceptional voice here.

Dionne Warwick & Tom Jones, Endless Love

Michael, Valerie & Nick

Michael McDonald does not to me sound much like Taylor Hicks, who is always compared to him — but they both possess low, grainy, bluesy voices I enjoy. McDonald had a musical resurgence a few years ago after making a couple of Motown cover albums, a natural for him. This is from a PBS special he did, and here he hunkers down on a great oldie (yes, again Marvin), with its authors, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson chiming in. (So why do Michael and me age, but Nick and Valerie don’t?)

Michael McDonald & Ashford and Simpson — Ain’t No Mountain High Enough <—–click here

Diana & Natalie

Ooh, so cool, smooth & swinging. Not “soul” in the usual sense, but who’s counting? On a song that Natalie’s pop Nat made famous, and the girls groove so nicely together. Taped in Amsterdam.

Diana Krall and Natalie Cole, Route 66

Corrine & John

They’re not Robert Flack & and Danny Hathaway, but I appreciate that Corrine Bailey Rae and John Legend went to Soul Duet Old School on their recent tour. They sing this hit of Flack & Hathaway often in concert together, but all video of it so far is pretty rugged. Here’s the best of what I’ve found, and here’s a plea: Hey you talented kids! We know duet albums with only two artists are considered passe or something, but give it a go please!!

— Corine Bailey Rae & John Legend, Where is the Love?

Ruben & Jordin

This isn’t rare, for sure. But for me (apart from a few numbers by girls Melinda and LaKisha) this duet was a rare highlight of the last under-inspired American Idol Season. Pairing on an old Marvin-Tami duet, Idol champs Ruben Stoddard and Jordin Sparks spurred each other on to show what a good song, a great arrangement, and a pair of sympatico voices can do in an R & B two-fer. It also accentuates the ridiculousness of many of the multi-star, many-mismatches duet albums recently. Why not just get two people who really click, and do a whole one a la Otis & Carla, Marvin & the girls, and (most recently) Tony Bennett and KD Lang? You tell me…..

— You’re All I need — Ruben & Jordin


Posted by on July 14, 2007 in Artists, Influences


3 responses to “Duets…of the Soul

  1. brc

    July 14, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Great topic sistahs!

    The Broussard/Lightman duet is amazing…. great pairing. And I loved the Corrine Bailey Rae and John Legend duet. The melodies of some of those older songs are fantastic.

    I couldn’t listen to Endless Love. I started, but I can’t get Lionel and Diana out of my head.

    And Stevie and Ray are superb.

    Here’s a link to one of my favorite duets of all time… Ray Charles and Billy Joel. Get past the intro and they play the whole song. I think their two styles blend very well in this tune…

  2. Little Deb

    July 15, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    I love these duets. Thanks MM and Colette. Great way to spend a Sunday evening. I apologize if I posted this one here before, but I just think it’s so cool. A 10 year old Billy Preston on the Nat King Cole Show.

  3. music maven

    July 16, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    It’s amazing how some of these young performers went on to be legends in the music industry. Here’s a great clip of 7 year old Ricky Skaggs…

    Ricky Skaggs – 7 years old with Lester Flatt


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