The deaths of
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Classic songs: “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song”
Elton John gets most of the credit, but it’s the singer/songwriter’s longstanding collaboration with songwriter Bernie Taupin that yielded the pair more than 20 Top 10 hits, including six Number One songs. Over the course of 30 albums, John and Taupin created a body of work that balanced Beatles-styled pop with moving, elegiac ballads that remain standards today.
Joe Strummer & Mick Jones
Classic songs: “London Calling,” “Rock the Casbah,” “Lost in the Supermarket”
The Clash weren’t the first punk band, but they were the most important. Aligned with, yet worlds away from, Sex Pistols’ and Malcolm McLaren’s image of mohawks and safety pins, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones augmented the three-chord assault of punk with the duo’s love of reggae, dub and rockabilly. With songs like “Tommy Gun,” “Spanish Bombs” and “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” the pair injected the genre with fierce political lyrics, eschewing nihilism for idealism while avoiding overwrought preachiness.
Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Classic songs: “Immigrant Song,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Stairway to Heaven”
At the risk of diminishing bassist John Paul Jones’ and drummer John Bonham’s incalculable contributions, Led Zeppelin’s main songwriting duo of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant established a bluesy, hard rock framework that would make them the 1970s’ most popular band. Page and Plant would go on to supplement their early love of blues rock with acoustic folk and nods to fantasy literature and the occult, becoming a FM radio staple and landing every one of their nine original studio albums in Billboard’s Top 10.
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Classic songs: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Paint It, Black,” “Honky Tonk Women”
The Glimmer Twins. 2/5th of Nanker Phelge. Whatever you want to call them, the partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards has resulted in more than 100 singles and nearly 25 Top 10 songs, many of which have transcended generations and entered rock and roll’s canon. Originally the flip side to The Beatles’ besuited, squeaky-clean image, The Rolling Stones went gold with their 1965 U.S. debut album and have remained, periodic droughts notwithstanding, the most popular rock and roll band in history.
Carole King & Gerry Goffin
Classic songs: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Loco-Motion,” “One Fine Day”
The Brill Building sound that defined rock and roll in the late 1950s and early ’60s gave rise to such legendary duos as Leiber & Stoller and Burt Bacharach & Hal David. With more than 120 songs written or co-written on the Billboard Hot 100, though, Carole King remains one of the most prolific and successful. With co-writer Gerry Goffin, the duo penned a diverse variety of classics, ranging from the upbeat bounce of The Chiffons’ “One Fine Day” to the poignant domestic abuse track “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).”
John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Classic songs: “Yesterday,” “A Hard Day’s Night” “A Day in the Life”
By any measure, no one comes close to matching the success of The Beatles’ primary songwriters. The dichotomy between Paul McCartney’s optimism and John Lennon’s realism always pushed each songwriter to best the other, resulting in an unprecedented collaboration that yielded 180 songs, the most albums sold by any artist and a still-unbroken record of 20 number ones on the Billboard Hot 100. Lennon said he wished he could write a pop song like McCartney; McCartney said he always wanted Lennon’s steely, skeptical look at sacred institutions. The combination remains the best there ever was.