I didn't intend to do two music blogs in a row, but when I was digging into the Rosanne Cash material on YouTube, I came across the music video of "It's Such A Small World," her duet with her then-husband Rodney Crowell. It reminded me of how much I love duets, and I fell into a deep YouTube music wormhole.
Fortunately, I came out of it with some of my favorites:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz-UvQYAmbg -- MARVIN GAYE AND TAMMI TERRELL – "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH"
When I think of great duets, I think of Marvin Gaye and a female singer. Marvin sang with Kim Weston and Mary Wells, but it was his four sensational records with Tammi Terrell that define the soul duet. "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "You're All I Need To Get By," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" – all written by the husband-and-wife team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson -- aren't just songs: they are Love, set to music. The interaction between the two singers is what relationships are actually like. But with a groove.
The sad part was when Tammi Terrell collapsed in Marvin Gaye's arms on stage in Virginia in 1967, struck down by a brain tumor that ended her performing career and finally killed her in 1970. Her death left the fragile Gaye deeply shaken.
But enjoy these two beautiful people – both of whom came to tragic ends – lip-syncing to a Motown masterpiece.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apiq3VN2Ra8 -- SIR WILLARD WHITE AND CYNTHIA HAYMON – "BESS, YOU IS MY WOMAN" from PORGY AND BESS
"I like a Gershwin tune. How about you?"
There are few duets as lush and deeply felt as this one, between the crippled beggar and the conflicted woman he loves. The passion of the music spills over, from line to line, and builds to gorgeous heights. This is from the1993 full-scale recording by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, from Trevor Nunn's production. It's probably the best recording of the Gershwin score.
This is almost embarrassingly beautiful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5axlwCBXC8 -- JOHN PRINE AND IRIS DEMENT – 'IN SPITE OF OURSELVES"
I've been a fan of John Prine ever since his first album, in spite of the fact that he was pushed as another "new Dylan." Prine writes songs that are funny and sad and wistful and wacky. He comments on current events and old-time American life. And he puts together some of the best rhymes in the world.
This duet with Iris DeMent features one of my favorite Prine-isms:
"He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays,
Caught him once, he was sniffin' my undies"
Is that the greatest rhyme in the world? "Sundays – undies!!" Prine has a million of 'em.
He can also write sad lines, too. Here's the saddest lyric ever written, from "Sam Stone."
"There's a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBrOkNg2iNI -- TONY BENNETT AND BILL EVANS – "SOME OTHER TIME"
OK, it's not a vocal duet, but it is two masters of music – one singer, one pianist -- collaborating on a magnificent song. "Some Other Time" – music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green – is the "goodbye" song from ON THE TOWN, and it's as affecting as music gets.
The teaming of Bill Evans, arguably the most important and influential jazz pianist of the post-World War II era, and Tony Bennett, a major pop vocalist, might have seemed strange. But it created absolute magic. They recorded two albums together – in 1975 and 1977 – and Tony has said that it was the best music he ever made in his sixty-plus year career. He was right; this is holy music.
I'm keeping a list of songs for the Tiny Goddess to have played at my funeral. This is one of them.
And here's the duet that started it all:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ07Of0KM1U -- ROSANNE CASH AND RODNEY CROWELL – "IT'S SUCH A SMALL WORLD"
This is the music video of Rosanne and Rodney's #1 song on the country charts from 1988. Rodney wrote the song in 1983, right after Rosanne had taken him to his first Broadway musical, "Nine." Not a great show, but it really thrilled Rodney. It inspired him to write this juicy "dialogue" song.
They were staying in Rosanne's father's penthouse on Central Park South. So while the galvanized Rodney stayed home to write the song, sitting on the balcony overlooking the park, Rosanne went to Bloomingdale's. What came out was Rodney's first #1 record, the first of FIVE from his superb "Diamonds And Dirt" album.
The song features a Mount Rushmore of country players: Michael Rhodes on bass, Steuart Smith on lead guitar, Barry Beckett on keyboards, Eddie Bayers or Russ Kunkel on drums, Mark O'Connor on fiddle, Paul Franklin on steel guitar, etc. And it was co-produced by Tony Brown, the man with perhaps the most impressive resume in contemporary music: he played in Elvis Presley's TCB Band, played on Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" album, played in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band, produced and/or promoted the careers of Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Kelly Willis, Todd Snider, the Mavericks, and many others. He might be best known today for producing George Strait, Vince Gill, and Reba McEntire and being Nashville's most influential power broker.
And, you may ask, how did I leave out Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris' "Love Hurts?"
The answer is: there are other blogs to write, in the future.