Two Headed Monsters
Two heads are better than one?
There have been some undoubtedly magical songwriters throughout musical history. But there is something about a songwriting “team” that makes it, if not more magical, sometimes at least more interesting. With a team at least you have some checks and balances. There is somebody there to say “wow, that sucks”. Maybe that’s why they seem the most consistent in pop/ rock history.
These are the top songwriting teams/collaborations.
– Rodgers and Hammerstein
Okay. They had to be listed. They kind of started the “team” thing. Rogers did the music, Hammerstein the lyrics. For a lot of Broadway. Yeah, yeah, it was great.
– Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Not rock and roll, but as groovy as you can be without it: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, “This Guy’s in Love with You”, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”, “Walk On By”, “What the World Needs Now Is Love”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me”, “One Less Bell to Answer”, and “Anyone Who Had a Heart”. Timeless. Brilliant.
– Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Bernie sends him the lyrics and Elton puts ‘em to music and melody. Supposedly if he doesn’t get something in 10 minutes or so, he moves on to the next set of lyrics. In the early days there was a lot of inspired 10 minutes. “Levon”, “Burn Down the Mission”, Tiny Dancer”, “Daniel”, “Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters” and “Your Song” just to name a few.
– Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
With hits such as “Hound Dog”, “Stand By Me”, Poison Ivy, and “Jailhouse Rock”, Their hits are enduring and read like a who’s who of oldies radio or a really awesome punk set.
They are without a doubt among the most influential songwriters in history.
– Holland, Dozier, Holland
Okay, this isn’t fair because it’s three of them, but I had to include them. Holland-Dozier-Holland is a songwriting and production team made up of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr. The trio wrote and arranged many of the songs making up the Motown sound that dominated American popular music in the 1960s with hits such as “Heat Wave”, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, “You Can’t Hurry Love” and more. Many more. These guys cranked out songs the way most people breathe.
– Gerry Goffin & Carole King
One of the two most prolific husband and wife (okay, not the whole time, but during the middle part) songwriting team in history. With hits such as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Up on the Roof, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “The loco-motion”, “One Fine Day”, “I’m into Something Good”, and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” They more than made a mark. Then there is Carole’s solo career….
-Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
The other married couple, and with pop anthems such as You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, “Never Gonna Let You Go”, “Make Your Own Kind of Music”, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”, “Kicks” and many more. This team went on to create songs for numerous contemporary artists, winning a number of Grammy Awards and Academy Award nominations for their compositions for film.
– Jagger/ Richards
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards — a.k.a the Glimmer Twins — are not only one of the most contentious singer/guitarist partnerships in rock & roll history, they’re also one of the most productive. Prior to their original manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, suggesting that the duo write together, the Stones relied on covers to fill their albums. But their fourth studio album, “Aftermath” (1966), was finally made up of all originals. Like Lennon & McCartney, either Jagger or Richards would generally write the bulk, if not the entirety of a song, but would share the songwriting credit.
By the way, according to Keith Richards, the way Andrew Loog Oldham “suggested” they write together was to lock them in a kitchen and tell them not to come out without a song. They came out hours later with “As Tears Go By”.
The best-known and most successful musical collaborations in history. Between 1962 and 1969, they wrote and published approximately 180 jointly credited songs. The bulk of the early songs were written face to face, or as John Lennon put it “under each others noses”. But as time went on they began to compose separately, but almost always bringing it to the other for a bridge, lyric change, or just affirmation.
It became a bit of a non-verbal competition that spurred the other to better the last song written. While their solo careers were both successful, they absolutely shine a light on how much one depended on the other.