Top Ten Duos in Popular Music

Top Ten Duos in Popular Music

Why do good things always come in two’s and bad things always come in three’s? Well, they don’t but us humans think they do because we’re symmetrical beings. Therefore we are predisposed to think that sets of twos’ are good and sets of three’s are bad.

That’s probably why popular music is ripe with duos but low on trios… that and there’s less money to go around when you have to split it three-ways.

Inspired by Simon & Garfunkel’s recent announcement that they will be touring this spring (look for them to visit cities like Toronto, Montreal, and St. Paul), Land of Punt decided to chronicle the top ten duos in popular music history. Don’t worry, Captain & Tennille didn’t make the list.

Lennon and McCartney

  • Lennon and McCartney – The Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney are music’s preeminent archetypal duo. Although it’s not entirely accurate, Lennon is the pessimistic, sagacious, lyricists while McCartney is the optimistic, populist, melody maker. Their dichotomy is best represented in the following line, “A little better all the time (It can’t get no worse).”
    Seminal work: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

  • Jagger and Richards – The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards invented the combination of the charismatic lead singer and the Dionysius-like lead guitarist. Their pairing has turned into a cliché having been embraced by rock and roll music for nearly half a century. In addition to their on-stage personas, the duo has also written some of the greatest rock and roll songs of all-time.
    Seminal work: Exile on Main Street

Page and Plant

  • Page and Plant - Guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant took the Jagger and Richards’ model to the next level by adding more of everything. While not a consistent songwriting duo, Page and Plant did front the most important band of the 1970’s and set the trend for almost every heavy metal band that followed. The lead singer howls and struts while the lead guitarist reel s off killer licks and tasty riffs.
    Seminal work: Led Zeppelin IV

Simon and Garfunkel

  • Simon & Garfunkel – Simon & Garfunkel is the first actual duo on our list–not the two most prominent members of legendary rock band. Yet, this pairing may actual be the most lopsided of the ten as Simon was the principal songwriter and instrumentalist while Garfunkel mainly harmonized. Despite being one of the most successful acts of the 1960’s they could never really put aside their personal differences. Had their working relationship been better who knows what they could have achieved?
    Seminal work: Bridge Over Trouble Water

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry

  • Tyler and Perry – As America’s version of Jagger and Richards, guitarist Joe Perry and lead singer Steven Tyler took a little blues-rock quintet from Boston and made them one of the world’s greatest rock bands. The duo is responsible for writing rock gems like “Walk This Way,” “Back in the Saddle,” and “Love in an Elevator.” Tyler’s frantic dance moves and Perry’s rockin’ riffs are often imitated but never duplicated.
    Seminal work: Toys In the Attic


  • Strummer and Jones – Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash are the Lennon and McCartney of punk rock music; they complemented one another. Lacking the strict roles of duo’s like Jagger and Richards, Strummer and Jones changed the world in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as they evolved punk music from semi-organized noise to a full fledge musical art form. They started with “Janie Jones” and ended with “Straight To Hell.” They truly were the “only band that ever mattered.”
    Seminal work: London Calling

Elton John and Bernie Taupin

  • Elton John and Bernie Taupin – The song writing team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin have collaborated on more than 30 albums. The duo is responsible for smash-super-megahits like “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Your Song,” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” Their writing styles began with each working on their own but as the years have gone by the two have gotten closer in their creative process.
    Seminal work: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Brooks And Dunn

  • Brooks & Dunn – Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are the most successful “duo” from any genre of music. They’ve had 20 of their singles reach number one on the country music charts and they’ve sold more than 22 million albums. From 1992 to 2006 (minus 2000) Brooks & Dunn won the Country Music Association Vocal Duo Of The Year award every year. In 1990, Arista Records chief Tim DuBois told his two hopefuls, who were both working solo, to either join forces or get out of his office. Needless to say Brooks & Dunn made the right choice.
    Seminal work: Brand New Man


  • Outkast – Andre “Andre 3000″ Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton,” generally known as Outkast, are one of hip-hop’s most successful groups. The Georgia natives have used elements of funk, soul, pop, rock, jazz, spoken word, and blues to sell 25 million albums and win six Grammy Awards. Andrew 300 and Big Boi have infused hip-hop music with a creativity and an artistry hitherto missing in the genre. They also wear snazzy outfits.
    Seminal work: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Morrissey and Marr

  • Morrissey and Marr – Morrissey was The Smiths’ front man while Johnny Marr was its lead guitarist. Together they were the band’s principal songwriters. Despite releasing just four studio albums and achieving little success away from the U.K., The Smiths are easily one of the most important bands of the 1980’s. Sure, Morrissey and Marr’s hatred for one another eventually lead to the band’s demise, and still keeps them from reuniting, but it doesn’t stop their music from getting better with age.
    Seminal work: The Queen Is Dead

Honorable Mentions
Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth
The Everly Brothers
Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Tice
Hall and Oates
Loggins and Messina
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell

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