Unusual Rock Collaborations That Worked


Odd and unexpected pairings are not uncommon in the world of music, but they don’t always work out too well. Sometimes, however, musicians from different ends of the spectrum team up to produce special musical moments — or at least decent ones.

What are some of those moments that worked? Here’s a look at a few of them.

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Aerosmith & Run-DMC: Of course. This collaboration changed EVERYTHING. Suddenly, small town American kids went from listening to 80s MTV pop to trying to get their hands on Run-DMC’s Raising Hell album and wanting a pair of Adidas with the laces pulled out. “Walk This Way” was quite simply the gateway drug to rap music for the American youth. Even if you don’t like rap, you have to admit that this collaboration worked. Phenomenally.

Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballe: Maybe this isn’t too unusual considering the power of Mercury’s voice, but it’s still out of the ordinary to see a lead singer of a rock band team up with an operatic soprano, and to make an album no less. Mercury and Caballe teamed up to create “Barcelona,” the theme song for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, and decided to record an entire album. Here’s a sample of the two of them together:

Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, & Prince: This all-star collaboration happened at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The group came together to play The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in honor of the induction of George Harrison. There was some serious star power on the stage, but Prince wound up being the one to rock the house with his guitar playing. Prince takes over at around the 3:27 mark.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: This successful and well-documented duo won an Album of the Year Grammy for their collaboration Raising Sand. Plant, one of rock’s greatest frontmen, and the bluegrass-country singer Krauss turned their unlikely pairing into acclaim and success.

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Singer-songwriter, cellist and former Belle & Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell and former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan have been successful enough to turn their collaboration into three albums. Lanegan’s gravely voice and Campbell’s soft, dreamy voice are certainly on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they come together well.

Manic Street Preachers & Traci Lords: Former adult film star Traci Lords turned to music in the 1990s, putting out the electronica album 1000 Fires. She teamed up with the British band Manic Street Preachers for this track, “Little Baby Nothing”:

The Weird Sisters: Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp, Johnny Greenwood and Phil Selway of Radiohead, Steven Claydon of electronica group Add N to (X), and Jason Buckle of All Seeing I united to form a supergroup to play the school dance during the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. One of the results was the lovely “Magic Works,” which may be the prom theme to end all prom themes. Is it sappy? Maybe. Is it awesome? Absolutely. Cocker’s smooth singing and Greenwood’s soaring guitar made for a winning combination. You might come away wishing this group had made a full album.


James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti: This is cheating a bit because it’s not rock, but it’s being included anyway because it’s great. The two came together to sing “It’s a Man’s World” during the 2002 concert “Pavarotti & Friends” to benefit Angola. The result is pretty great. Their powerful voices blend together wonderfully, and it’s hard to decide which one shone brightest.

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2 comments to “Unusual Rock Collaborations That Worked”
  1. Robert Plant’s ability and inclination to collaborate with artists of so many different stripes proves to me what a brilliant musician he really is. It was the mixing of styles that created Rock in the first place, and it is the mixing of styles that will continue to let Rock grow…

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