EQUALITY DUOS EPISODE II: 1970s "THE DECADE THAT MARKED THE FUTURE OF MUSIC"
Updated: Mar 14
Without the music of the 60s and 70s, it would be impossible to understand the music of later years. We begin the second episode with a trip to the decade of the 70s, for many nostalgic, the best time in the history of modern music, a decade that began with the death of two true icons of the music of the 60s like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The music of the 70s was notable for an expansion of musical genres: the hippie movement gave rise to another type of more complex rock such as symphonic rock, it was also the start of many heavy metal groups, and more than halfway through the decade, punk was positioned as one of the movements that made the most noise in musical culture worldwide. In today's episode, we review some, albums, formations, and above all songs starring male-female singing duos of the 1970s.
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
Origin: United States
Genres: R&B, soul, pop
Years active: 1972
If we talk about a defining musical statement of the 70s, no doubt their names are positioned as the first ones. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway met at Howard University where they were both studying music. Later, he positioned himself as one of the composers behind her successes. In 1969, Roberta released her debut album which included the song "Our Ages Or Our Hearts" written by Donny. The following year, her second album contained another song written by Donny, who had also played the piano on both albums. It wasn't until 1972, however, that Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, after attending a show at a Washington club where he heard Flack sing Carole King's "You Have Got A Friend", suggested that she and Donny (who was already an established musician at the time) should record that song, and possibly a full album, in an attempt to solidify their popularity.
The first single from the album was released simultaneously with the version of the same song by another famous artist.
On May 6 of the same year, through Atlantic Records, the first album of the duo was released called "Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway". There weren't many decisions to be made for "You have got a friend" to become the first single from the album, which was released simultaneously (within a few weeks) with the version of the same song by American singer James Taylor, which made the two versions compete for the American charts at the same time. "Where is the Love" was undoubtedly the biggest hit of the album, a soul track written by composers Ralph Macdonald and William Salter that was originally intended for the American group "The 5th Dimension". The track remained in the US charts for most of the year. It also reached the top 30 in the UK in 1972.
In late 1977 they met again in the studio to record the single "The Closer I Get To You" which was immediately another hit that became part of Roberta's sixth studio album, entitled "Blue Lights in the Basement".
On January 13, 1979, Donny had been in the studio with Roberta recording a second duet LP as a follow-up to the 1972 album. They were working on a song called "You Are My Heaven" when he ran out of the studio and was found on the corner, making delusional claims, which led to producer Eric Mercury's decision to abort the session.
In 1979 they returned to the studio to record their second duet album.
At that time Donny Hathaway was 33 years old and had a mental illness diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. That same day late at night he was found dead in front of the Manhattan hotel, after falling from his room on the 15th floor. His death was declared a suicide. Despite her friend's catastrophic end in the middle of the recording process, in March 1980, the famous performer of "Killing Me Softly with His Song" released as part of her catalog, her ninth album entitled "Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway" even though Hathaway as a guest had only recorded two songs with her.
Although Roberta Flack has sung with several other singers since then, nothing has come close to the magic they connected with and arrived at with their first album in 1972. To this day the album is still considered one of the best duet albums of all time.
Origin: United States
Years active: 1973
Over the past four decades, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have become household names, leading Fleetwood Mac, one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, yet their story began much earlier. Stevie and Lindsey met in 1966 when she (two years older than he), was a senior in high school that they both attended in South San Francisco, California. Their first "musical meeting" came at an after-school function where they performed "California Dreamin" by The Mamas and The Papas. Two years later Lindsey invited Stevie to sing in Fritz, a band he played bass for with some of his high school friends. Soon after, they were opening shows for great artists like Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin. However, it was not until 1973 that they formed "Buckingham Nicks.
The album was a commercial failure.
The duo debuted with an album of the same name released in September 1973 and produced by the renowned Keith Olsen (record producer and sound engineer, who worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Heart, Santana, Scorpions among many great artists). Despite the strong composition, voice, and musicality, the album was a commercial failure, despite the promotional efforts of their record company, Polydor Records considered them too folkloric for the label, and since the album was not a commercial success, they soon eliminated it from the catalog, however over the years, after Stevie and Lindsey became famous musicians, the LP "Buckingham Nicks" acquired became a cult object for all music lovers.
Three years later, in 1975, their producer Keith Olsen began working with Fleetwood Mac. It was thanks to this contact that after the departure of the band's main composer, the duo joined the group.
The song was intended to be a parody similar to the duets mentioned in the first episode of the equality duos.
Elton John and Kiki Dee
Years active: 1976
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" was originally written by Elton John and his writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and was intended to be an affectionate parody in the style of Motown Records, especially similar to the duets mentioned in the first episode of the equality duos such as those recorded by Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston.
The single was intended to be recorded with renowned and famous British star Dusty Springfield, who at the time was not only going through a great moment in her artistic career but also because at the beginning of that decade she became a symbol for lesbian culture after making her bisexuality public. However, Dusty withdrew the offer due to an illness, so Kiki Dee entered the scene, a singer who was relatively unknown until then, but who for the last three years, and despite not achieving fame, was part of "The Rocket Record Company", the label of Elton John. Immediately the single managed to position Elton for the first time at number one of all the charts in Great Britain (a feat he would not achieve again until fourteen years later).
The connection between the two artists went beyond the success of a single, so obviously that wasn't going to be their only collaboration:
In 1981, they got together again to record a cover of the song "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever", written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder for Kiki's album "Perfect Timing".
In 1983, she was a chorus girl for Elton John's album, Too Low for Zero.
In 1985, she performed on Live Aid, where she repeated "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Elton John, and chorus the other songs as a whole.
In 1992, she also contributed to Elton's choirs with the album "The One".
In 1993 history would repeat itself again but this time as part of "Duets" an album released by Elton John that reached number 25 on the Billboard 200 in the same year. On that occasion, they sang a version of the song by American singer Cole Porter "True Love", which once again reached the top of the charts reaching number 2 in the UK. In this same album, Elton reverted to "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with the great artist RuPaul, under the production of none other than the well-known producer Giorgio Moroder.
The single has 19 official releases.
At the time of its release, the song was not part of any album, it was only Elton's third independent single, after "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (1974) and "Philadelphia Freedom" (1975), it later appeared on Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II and subsequent compilations, most recently "Diamonds" of 2017. To date, the single has 19 official releases, including Demi Lovato.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
Origin: United States
Years active: 1978
The cinema knew from the beginning to stand out as much for the visual art, that for the sound, doing punctually reference in the music. Over the decades, soundtracks have made their way to the top of the charts around the world, either through the work of legendary composers such as John Williams or through the vocal work of the very same actors who star in the film.
A clear example of this is the case of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, who in 1978 starred in "Grease", a musical comedy set in the 1950s that was a box office and critical success. The film was based on a 1972 musical of the same name created by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, however ''You're the One That I Want'', the musical success for which the film became the leader of the charts, was not included in the original script of the musical on which the film was based. The song was written specifically for the film, and when released as a single it reached number 1 on the American charts, one week before its release in June 1978.
The single reached number 1 in the UK's Hot 100 for nine weeks.
The Song' was written and produced by Australian John Farrar, and it was he who cast Olivia Newton-John, however, the film's director, Randal Kleiser had Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in 'Star Wars') in mind. It took John Travolta to convince Kleiser of the potential of Newton-John's great voice. The single also managed to lead the UK's Hot 100 for nine weeks. Together with the other acting duo, "Summer Nights," the song helped the soundtrack of the hit movie go platinum eight times, according to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). In 2005 it was placed in the number six position of the most sold songs in the history of the country.
In December 2019, Olivia and John met at the Meet n' Grease Sing-Along event in West Palm Beach, Florida, recreating through their costumes, the 1978 film duo.
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
Origin: United States
Genres: Easy listening
Years active: 1978
"You Don't Bring Me Flowers" is a song that was written by American singer Neil Diamond with a married couple of lyricists and composers Alan and Marilyn Bergman and was intended as a theme for the daily TV comedy "All That Glitters". The song belongs to the album "I'm Glad You're Here with Me Tonight" released by Diamond in 1977. Only a few months later, in early 1978, the star Barbra Streisand recorded a version of this same song which was released on her album "Songbird".
The song was never intended to be a duet.
From the beginning the song was never intended to be a duet, however, it was not until an ingenious radio programmer created an unofficial mix of both versions (the famous mashup) which the public at the radio station WAKY (AM) and immediately got the approval and a great ovation from the public, which led both artists to get into a studio for an official recording duet, which was released on October 17, 1978, through Columbia Records. By December of the same year, the single had already achieved the third Hot 100 No. 1 for each. The song sold over a million copies, and eventually went platinum.
The track earned the couple two nominations at the 22nd Grammy Awards (1980) in the categories "Recording of the Year" and "Best Vocal Pop Performance by a Duo or Group". That same night Barbara and Neil took the stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles to sing for the first time on stage one of the classic television duets of all time.
Patti Smith & Bruce Springsteen
Origin: United States
Years active: 1978
In this case, it is not a record, nor a song is sung as a duo, nor a duo in "band" format. At that time (1977), it was something like a loan, a favor from one artist to another from the greatest of respect and admiration. It was about how Bruce Springsteen's confidence positioned Patti Smith at the top of her career.
It was a Sunday in Easter 1973, when Jimmy Iovine, who was then an apprentice in the music industry, (and having previously been sweeping the floors of several recording studios), was called by his then-boss to go answer the phones and assist him with some technical issues at The Record Plant, the studio where he worked in New York City. Immediately when he arrived and entered the studio, his life changed forever. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in a recording session: From that day on, Lennon put his trust in him which later led them to become great friends. Just a few years later, Jimmy started to develop as a producer and engineer of fundamental bands of the time, which surrounded him with countless great artists. In 1975 Jimmy worked as a sound engineer and mixer on the classic album "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, with whom from that moment on he forged a great relationship not only on a professional level but also personally.
Simultaneously Jimmy Iovine was Bruce Springsteen's recording engineer and Patti Smith's producer.
In 1977 while they were working as a sound engineer Springsteen's fourth album "Darkness on the Edge of Town" met Patti Smith, who immediately asked Jimmy to be the producer of her album, which immediately accepted so simultaneously was the recording engineer Springsteen, and producer Smith. During that same time, she had had an accident, so she was behind in preparing the album, and did not have many songs, much less a single to launch and that the public agreed to buy.
At the same time, The Boss (as Springsteen is known) was working on a song that he could not finish, as he was not convinced by the result. It was at this point that Iovine asked Springsteen, "Do you remember that song Because the Night? if you're not going to use it, I can give it to Patti Smith?" to which Springsteen answered without worrying that he did.
At first, Patti Smith refused completely, as she did not relish the idea of singing a song that was not composed by her.
When Jimmy took the song to Patti, she was angry, since she didn't like the idea of singing a song that wasn't composed by her, but she took the tape with the recording home. After weeks of refusing to listen to it, one night, while waiting for a call from her future husband (Fred Sonic Smith of the group MC5) she played the tape, and while waiting she began to write about it. It was at that moment that her life changed forever.
To this day, "Because The Night" remains the most popular song in Patti Smith's catalog. Over the years the song was performed with Springsteen on several occasions, one of them was with the Irish U2 who played a great version of the theme in the concert of the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1987, "Because the Night" was ranked number 116 on the list of "The 150 Songs of All Time" by the British music magazine NME. The song was also included with an official version of Bruce Springsteen as part of his album "The Promise" (2010).