Top Songwriting Partnerships in Rock History

From Left: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Have any of you guys out there ever heard of the old saying, it takes two? How about the song? Anyways, while that may not always be true, it sure was for a few of our following artists, proving that a collaborative effort can take you farther than you might have ever gotten on your own. We’re not talking Sonny and Cher or any sort of singing duo here; we’re talking about true symbiotic partnerships and in the world of rock, and there have truly been many. Read on music fans and check out some of the most successful partnerships that rock ‘n roll has to offer!





Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

Known as the greatest rock ‘n roll band ever – and for good reason – Keith and Mick met during early childhood while attending the same school and eventually bumped into each other in their late teens; the rest is rock ‘n roll history. Sure, their first three singles were written by Chuck Berry, Lennon-McCartney and Buddy Holly, respectively, but once they got the stone rolling, there was no stopping this dynamic duo. They were first encouraged to write their own songs by their band manager Andrew Long Oldham due to the significant amount of writing royalties they weren’t earning by opting to use songs written by others. Their first songs were admittedly not of the best caliber and their first album contained mostly covers but by 1965, they had penned their first hit single, “The Last Time,” which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the states. Only a few months later they would release their seminal and worldwide hit, “Satisfaction,” cementing them as forceful and productive rock writing duo.



Lennon McCartney

From Top: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

How can we make a list about partnerships without mentioning these guys? Sure, by the time Pepper rolled around, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were pretty much crafting songs by themselves about 99 percent of the time, but their dually-penned masterpieces during their early years are enough to topple any of today’s artists in terms of collaborative success, and that’s not even mentioning the timeless aspect of their co-created music which very few modern songs can claim. No one can tell me the any Nicki Minaj/Drake (not sure why these two come to mind, I'm sure there are MUCH better choices, but point still there) song will EVER be remembered longer or more highly regarded than “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” trust me, I’d bet the farm on it.

All Beatle-geekiness aside, Lennon and McCartney pretty much created the modern concept of what it means to be a self-contained band by writing and performing their own original songs while most bands of the day simply chose from a studio's music catalog. Aside from a few of the greats such as Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison (who were in fact Lennon and McCartney’s inspiration for writing their own songs), most early rock ‘n roll stars kept the writing duties to songwriters, something that is pretty much unheard of from today’s modern rock bands which are in essence expected to write their own material. 



Elton John and Bernie Taupin

While most aware people of earth will recognize at least one half of this writing duo, Elton John and Bernie Taupin are THE quintessential collaborative team that undoubtedly prove the what can happen when you take two people with separate strengths and join them together. In 1967, both Taupin and Elton separately answered an ad placed by liberty Records A&R man Ray Williams who was searching for new talent. Elton John could sing and perform wonderfully but wasn’t the best at lyrics; Bernie Taupin was an alright singer but was much, MUCH better at writing lyrics. Although neither passed their audition, Williams saw their individual talents and suggested they team up. Together, the two have collaborated on over 30 albums which have sold in excess of over 250 million worldwide, making the duo among the most successful in music history.



Joe Strummer and Mick Jones

From Left: Mick Jones, Joe Strummer

Known as “the only band that matters,” The Clash is arguably the most important and highly regarded band in all of punk rock (the original form of it anyway, although nowadays most kids will confuse it for classic rock). The duo began writing songs since the official formation of the band in 1976. According to Jones, “Joe would give me the words and I would make a song out of them" and Strummer himself noted that manager Bernard Rhodes had instructed them to write about “an issue. Don't write about love, write about what's affecting you, what's important." By 1977, they had signed with CBS Records for about $200,000, or £100,000, which at the time was unheard of for a band that at the time had never headlined and played about 30 shows. Although popular punk periodical Sniffin’ Glue founder Mark Perry had said of the deal that “punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS,” those more familiar with the logistics of the music business will tell you that The Clash's deal is now used as a classic example of a contract no band should ever sign as the group had to pay for their own tours, recordings, remixes, artwork as well as several other expenses.

They wrote and released their first single “White Riot” in 1977 and soon after began penning more classic Clash tunes such as “Remote Control” and “Tommy Gun.” By 1979, they released their seminal and most lauded album to date, London Calling, mixing aspects from punk, reggae, rockabilly, ska and traditional rock and roll, garnering them huge success in their home country as well as breaking into the U.S. market. The album itself spawned several of the groups most famous self-written songs to date such as “Train in Vain,” “Should I Stay of Should I Go,” “Clampdown,” “Spanish Bombs,” “Lost in the Supermarket” as well as the album’s iconic title track, “London Calling.”



Roger Waters and David Gilmour

From Left: David Gilmour, Roger Waters

Pink Floyd started off as a much different band than the one most of us remember them by. During their early years with Syd Barrett, the band had a much more traditional rock sound due to the fact that Barrett was effectively the principle songwriter and frontman. By 1967, Barrett was regularly taking LSD which exacerbated his declining mental condition. Several shows had to be cancelled as Barrett got progressively worse. By 1968, Barrett was replaced with David Gilmour. Seeing as how their principle songwriter and guitarist was no longer a member, the writing duties fell to both Waters and Gilmour, taking the early spacey feel of early Pink Floyd that Barrett had initially created and turning it into the signature sound we know today. During the Waters and Gilmour phase, Pink Floyd released what is arguably their best records with Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, both being regarded among the best in rock.



There you have it, just a few of some of the best writing partnerships rock and roll has to offer. There are certainly a lot more that we failed to mention such as Jimmy Page/Robert Plant and even Kirk Hammett/James Hetfield, but for all those that we have already mentioned, there will be plenty more where that came from because rock and roll is definitely not going anywhere!

Leave a Reply