The B List: 10 Oddball Musical Pairings

9. Bon Iver & Kanye West

When Kanye West released his superb album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy last year, the usual suspects, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Raekwon and Nick Minaj were among the guest artists on the hip-hop record. But so was Wisconsin native and indie darling Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon). West not only heavily sampled Vernon’s Woods but he also decorated several tracks on the album with Vernon’s signature falsetto backing vocals and has since brought Vernon out a few times to perform live.

8. Aerosmith & Run DMC

If Run DMC hadn’t collaborated with them on Walk this Way, it’s quite possible Aerosmith would have never survived the transition from ’70s to the ’80s. But it happened. Rev Run, Jam-Master Jay and D.M.C. couldn’t have known that their decision to participate in one of the first great genre cross-overs would have the ripple effect it did. As men of great taste and influence, we’d like to think Run D.M.C would have said “no” if they’d known we’d have to stare at Steven Tyler’s withered creepiness for the next 20-odd years.

7. Slash and Michael Jackson

In 1991, during the height of Guns ‘n Roses popularity with their Use Your Illusion double-EP, Michael Jackson called Slash to do session work on his next album Dangerous. Despite the seemingly odd pairing, “The King of Pop” with a hard drinking, smoking heavy metal star, Slash had this to say about Jackson’s invite “I was flattered and I was intimidated but the sessions came off great. We did two songs – the cooler one was Give In To Me, which was like a new take on his song Dirty Diana.” Slash would form a long lasting friendship with Jackson playing at various times over the years, including an iconic MTV VMA performance in 1995 and Michael’s 40th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden.

6. Jimmy Page and Puff Daddy

Rebooting a film franchise based on a story about a pseudo dinosaur coming back to life via atomic radiation seemed less far-fetched than a collaboration between an aging monolithic rocker and a hipster rap icon. Ironically, the weird wedding of Page and Puff almost worked, as they re-framed the Kashmir riff into a modern context for Godzilla’s Come with Me. Alas, the film did not, suffering from a similarity to another prehistoric beast, Jurassic Park in Manhattan.

5. Grateful Dead and Etta James

This one has Bill Graham’s fingerprints all over it, as he built a reputation on creating interesting and diverse lineups at both Fillmore’s. On New Year’s Eve 1982, the Grateful Dead welcomed Etta James and the Tower Of Power horns to join them on stage during their third set at the Oakland Auditorium Arena. The kings of cosmic America music turned themselves in “the baddest American Blues Band” according James that night, as they deftly play a slew of old school blues and soul covers, a couple of which hadn’t been performed since the Pigpen days.

4. Janis Joplin and Tom Jones

Back in 1969, two of America’s most soulful white folk, Tom Jones and Janis Joplin, teamed up for a blisteringly funky rendition of Janis’s Raise Your Hand. Rumor has these two actually had a fling at some point, which is totally unsubstantiated, but it doesn’t come as much of a surprise seeing how much fun they are having together in this performance. Sadly, as great as Janis looks and sounds here, she would pass away just one short year later.

3. David Bowie and Bing Crosby

The Thin White Duke teamed up with your grandparents’ favorite singer for Bing’s 1977 Christmas Special. Bowie accepted Crosby’s invitation to sing Little Drummer Boy with him leading to one of the more bizarrely awesome collaborations in music history. Sadly, Crosby passed away a month after the pair recorded the duet.

2. Disco Biscuits and Travis Tritt

Could there be two genres that are any further apart than untz-rock and country music? Yet the worlds of glowsticks and butterfly wings collided with cowboy hats and big belt buckles, during the 2005 Jammys when the Disco Biscuits where paired with Travis Tritt, for what may be considered one of the most unlikely combos in the jam-centric award show’s history. The Trittsco Biscuits sandwiched Tritt’s Honky Tonk History in between the Biscuits own House Dog Party Favor, for nearly a half hour of country-trance-fusion.

1. Elton John and Eminem

In 2001, with GLAAD protesting and accusations of homophobia being launched at Eminem, the 43rd annual Grammy Awards become site to one of the most unlikely musical pairings to date. The controversial rapper was joined on stage by openly bi-sexual Elton John, who sang the chorus on the song Stan from The Marshall Mathers LP. The stellar performance concluded with the duo embracing in a hug at center stage and Eminem taking home the award for Best Rap Album later that night.

Written by Kevin Smallwood, Andy Kahn, Eric Wyman, Randy Ray, Jeff Greenblatt, Scott Bernstein and Ryan Dembinsky

What are some of your favorite oddball musical pairings? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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