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Top 10 Classic Duets

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. Two voices for the price of one: who doesn't love a bargain? Duets can be a fantastic musical treat: when your favorite artists team up to belt their hearts out, the match-ups can be magic. For example, you’d think that strong vocalists like Diana Ross and Lionel Richie would compete, but their harmonies are smooth-as-silk. A few of these vocal pairings have even given us some memorable movie moments. Paul McCartney, on the other hand, has paired up with some of the other biggest stars in history, like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, to great effect. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 classic duets.

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Top 10 Classic Duets

Two voices for the price of one: who doesn’t love a bargain? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 classic duets.

#10 – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: “Ebony and Ivory”

Some vocal duets turn into vocal duels. Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder prove that sometimes less is more. The effortless vocals of these assured superstars play in musical harmony to punch home the song’s message of racial harmony. Sure, the song’s a little saccharine – but the message and the performers have power to spare.

#9 – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John: “You’re the One That I Want”

“Grease” may be the word, but this song is the spark of that hit movie. This feisty, fiery duet shot to number one in a dozen countries, and Travolta’s explosive energy brings out an aggressive sexuality in Newton-John that was only hinted at before. It’s hard to rock and smolder at the same time, but these two do just that.

#8 – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Diana Ross’ version charted higher than the 1967 original, but the passage of time has designated this duet version as definitive. As with their later “You’re All I Need to Get By,” Gaye and Terrell’s voices weave, bounce and shimmer on “Mountain,” building to an eruption that is pure Motown magic.

#7 – Elton John and Kiki Dee: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

Elton John and Kiki Dee’s 1976 fashion sense might go over like a lead balloon today, but the song remains golden. The two produce pure pop fireworks that propelled the song straight to the top of the charts. It’s catchy, it’s cute, and it captures the era perfectly. Elton later performed the song with other leading ladies, including Miss Piggy and RuPaul, but he kicks the most with Kiki.

#6 – Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson: “Say Say Say”

The King of Pop had already had a Thriller-filled year in 1983 when this duet with Sir Paul rocketed up the charts around the world. The ninth biggest hit of the 1980s in the U.S., “Say Say Say” is pure sizzle. Yes, the two voices blend in oh-so-sweet harmonies, but it’s the electrifying tension underneath that gives the song its propulsive energy.

#5 – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers: “Islands in the Stream”

Nashville superstars Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing a song by disco kings the Bee Gees? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But with the Brothers Gibb in romance mode, the singers’ chemistry fits right in. Even with a line like “I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb,” they managed to have the number one U.S. country single of 1983. And that’s sayin’ somethin’.

#4 – Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole: “Unforgettable”

This classic duet could easily have been dead on arrival, considering that one of the singers, Nat King Cole, had been deceased for 26 years when it was released in 1991. Instead, adding daughter Natalie’s tender yet soulful vocals to her father’s gently wistful interpretation of “Unforgettable” results in a duet that is drop dead gorgeous. A top 15 hit, it sold tons of albums – seven million in the U.S. alone.

#3 – Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra: “Somethin’ Stupid”

A couple of the lyrics in “Unforgettable” may sound a little odd coming from a father and daughter. But that’s nothing. In “Somethin’ Stupid,” father Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy sing lines like “We drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two” and “The time is right, your perfume fills my head.” Can you say “incest?” But listeners in 1967 didn’t care: the song spent four weeks at number one in the U.S. and earned gold record status.

#2 – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”

This “Dirty Dancing” mega-hit reached number one in the U.S. and was the biggest single of 1988 in Australia and the Netherlands. Even the Best Song Oscar went to this searingly romantic duet. Not only do Bill Medley’s righteously robust vocals and Jennifer Warnes’ blazing sensuality help deliver a movie magic moment in the film, they also create a song that has been on the obligatory playlist of every wedding reception since.

#1 – Diana Ross and Lionel Richie: “Endless Love”

“Endless Love” the movie? Endless boredom. “Endless Love” the song? Endless enchantment. The tune’s unabashed romanticism is the perfect showcase for the tender, honey-drenched vocals of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Their smooth-as-silk harmonies certainly seduced music buyers; the song spent nine weeks at number one in the U.S. in 1981. Is it all a bit over the top? Sure, but it doesn’t matter: the public’s love for these two singers is pretty much…endless.

Do you agree with our list? Which if your classic duet? For more great top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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