Special Report

These Are the Most Iconic Musical Duos in History

Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons

Many of the music industry’s biggest stars make it on their own, thanks to their individual talents for music and showmanship. In some cases, however, two is better than one.

Musical duos come in many different forms. In some cases, already successful entertainers find that they work well with each other, and embark on partnerships that sometimes last years. Other duos are only ever popular as a team, and fall out of public favor when they separate. Some are simply flashes in the pan — one-off collaborations that can result in riches for all involved. These are the top musical collaborations that hit No. 1 on the charts.

The most iconic duos cover all different types of musical partnerships. Some are married couples whose music depicts their love. Others are friends who seem to simply like making music together. And some, we later find out, never really liked each other much at all.

24/7 Tempo has identified the most iconic musical duos of all time. Each of the twosomes included had at least one substantial hit song on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Click here to see the most iconic musical duos of all time

To determine the most iconic musical duos of all time, 24/7 Tempo looked at every artist who released a song that charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. We then identified those songs that were performed by duos — two musicians both performing as a primary artist. The duos were ranked by overall Billboard performance — rank of singles and length of time spent on the Hot 100 chart — before editorial discretion (and knowledge of specific artists) was brought into play, deleting certain musicians that didn’t seem sufficiently iconic and adding some that we deemed essential.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

25. Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood
> Biggest hit: Jackson
> Total songs on Hot 100: 4

Nancy Sinatra’s most successful single, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” was penned by mustachioed singer Lee Hazlewood. The collaboration was such a success that the pair recorded an entire album together, 1968’s “Nancy & Lee.” It included the hit singles “Summer Wine,” “Jackson,” and “Some Velvet Morning,” all of which charted on the Hot 100. The duo released two more collaborative albums: “Nancy & Lee Again” (1972) and “Nancy & Lee 3” (2004).

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Source: Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images

24. Big & Rich
> Biggest hit: Lost in This Moment
> Total songs on Hot 100: 8

The duo of Big Kenny and John Rich found success as country music showmen. Though both musicians have released solo material, they’ve found time to put out six studio albums as a duo. These albums have featured eight singles that have made their way to the mainstream singles chart, including “Lost in This Moment” and “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy).”

Source: Images Press / Getty Images

23. Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb
> Biggest hit: Guilty
> Total songs on Hot 100: 2

In 1980 Barbra Streisand released “Guilty,” an album written and produced by Bee Gee Barry Gibb. Selling more than 15 million copies worldwide, it became her best-selling album. It also features two Top 10 hits: “Guilty” and “What Kind of Fool.” The two would collaborate again 25 years later with the album “Guilty Pleasures.”

Source: Larry Busacca / Getty Images

22. Brandy & Monica
> Biggest hit: The Boy Is Mine
> Total songs on Hot 100: 1

Singers Brandy and Monica scored a massive hit in 1998 with the collaborative song “The Boy Is Mine,” which ascended to No. 1 on the Hot 100 and won a Grammy. The duo reunited in 2012 for the song “It All Belongs To Me.” And although rumors of a rivalry between the two entertainers have swirled for years, they performed a number of concert dates together in 2019 as part of the “Femme It Forward” concert series.

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

21. Sam and Dave
> Biggest hit: Soul Man
> Total songs on Hot 100: 13

The soul duo and Stax Records staple released a string of hits throughout the 1960s, including the No. 2 single “Soul Man.” Sam Moore and Dave Prater would later receive renewed interest thanks to their influence on John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers act. Sam and Dave were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

20. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
> Biggest hit: Your Precious Love
> Total songs on Hot 100: 10

Motown artists Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell combined forces to create numerous memorable love songs, including the hit “Your Precious Love,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100. Though Gaye had previously performed duets with singers such as Mary Wells and Kim Weston, his work with Terrell proved to be the most popular. The duo recorded three LPs together — “United,” “You’re All I Need,” and “Easy” — before Terrell succumbed to a brain tumor in 1970.

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Source: John Lamparski / Getty Images

19. Dan + Shay
> Biggest hit: 10,000 Hours
> Total songs on Hot 100: 8

Dan + Shay are Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, songwriters from Pennsylvania and Arkansas, who met in Nashville in 2012 and began a songwriting collaboration. They got the ear of the group Rascal Flatts and signed a record deal with Warner Nashville. The pair have produced eight Top 10 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart, with three peaking at No. 1. Their chart-topper “Tequila” went multiplatinum and earned the duo a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2018.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

18. Loggins & Messina
> Biggest hit: Your Mama Don’t Dance
> Total songs on Hot 100: 10

The soft rockers from California created catchy, danceable tunes and became one of the most famous duos in the 1970s. Kenny Loggins was a songwriter who worked with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Jim Messina was a record producer and former member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco when they teamed up in the early 1970s. Their collaboration produced the boogie-woogie “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” which rose to No. 4. Three albums cracked the Billboard 200 Top 10 in 1974 alone, with “On Stage” rising the highest, to No. 5, and five of their albums went platinum.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

17. Seals & Crofts
> Biggest hit: Get Closer
> Total songs on Hot 100: 12

Jim Seals and Dash Crofts met in the late 1950s while backing up singer Dean Beard. The soft-rock pair tapped into the mellow rock zeitgeist of the early 1970s, playing a variety of instruments, including the fiddle, mandolin, saxophone, drums, and guitar. From 1972 to 1976, Seals & Crofts rang up four gold albums and their greatest hits record went double platinum. Three of their breezy singles — “Diamond Girl,” “Summer Breeze,” and “Get Closer” all climbed to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

16. Peaches & Herb
> Biggest hit: Reunited
> Total songs on Hot 100: 16

The R&B pairing of Peaches & Herb (there were four different “Peaches” twinned with Herb Fame over the years) occupied the radio waves in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The act’s first success was in March of 1967 when the single “”Let’s Fall in Love” reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. A bigger hit for the tandem that year was “Close Your Eyes,” which climbed to No. 8. Greater success would follow in 1979, when Peaches & Herb scored a chart-topper with the platinum hit “Reunited,” and “Shake Your Groove Thing” reached No. 5

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

15. Captain & Tennille
> Biggest hit: Do That to Me One More Time
> Total songs on Hot 100: 14

The Captain (Daryl Dragon) and Tennille (Toni Tennille) were a light-spirited, soft-rock husband and wife team from California and Alabama who had a medley of hits in the mid 1970s. Dragon played keyboard to back up the Beach Boys, who nicknamed him Captain Keyboard because he wore a yachting hat. The image stuck. The duo self-financed their first single “The Way I Want to Touch You” and it got airplay in Los Angeles. Their next single was a cover of Neil Sedaka’s “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which became their signature song and helped revive the career of Sedaka. Seven singles broke into the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 between 1975 and 1980.

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Source: Stefan Zaklin / Getty Images

14. K-Ci & JoJo
> Biggest hit: All My Life
> Total songs on Hot 100: 8

K-Ci & JoJo are brothers Cedric and Joel Hailey who grew up singing in church choirs in North Carolina. They were one of two pairs of brothers who formed the hitmaking act Jodeci in the 1990s. The Haileys broke off from Jodeci temporarily in 1997 to do their debut R&B album as K-Ci & JoJo titled “Love Always.” It became a 3x platinum hit, and its lead single, “You Bring Me Up,” went to No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. K-Ci & JoJo has had three albums certified platinum, and two chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

Source: Michael Putland / Getty Images

13. Waylon & Willie
> Biggest hit: Good Hearted Woman
> Total songs on Hot 100: 3

Texas country musicians Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson helped coin the term “outlaw music” with the 1976 release of their album “Wanted! The Outlaws” — which also featured music by Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter. It was the first country album to surpass 1 million sales. Though both artists had thriving solo careers, they reunited for the albums “Waylon & Willie” — which features the hit “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” — and “Take It to the Limit.”

Source: David Redfern / Getty Images

12. Ike & Tina Turner
> Biggest hit: Proud Mary
> Total songs on Hot 100: 20

The team of then-married couple Ike and Tina Turner sent 20 songs to the Hot 100 throughout the 1960s and 70s, including the No. 4 hit “Proud Mary,” which had been originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1971. Following years of abuse from Ike, the couple divorced in 1976 and ceased performing as a duo. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

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Source: Afro Newspaper/Gado / Getty Images

11. Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
> Biggest hit: Say Say Say
> Total songs on Hot 100: 2

Paul McCartney, modern music’s most prolific and famous songwriter, has collaborated with many artists, including Stevie Wonder, Rihanna, and Kanye West. However, his most famous pairing was with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The multi-Grammy winners recorded the songs “Say, Say, Say,” “The Girl is Mine,” “The Man,” and “Girlfriend.” “Say, Say, Say” topped the Billboard 100 in 1983 and “The Girl is Mine” soared to No. 2 the same year.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

10. Hall & Oates
> Biggest hit: Kiss on My List
> Total songs on Hot 100: 34

Darryl Hall and John Oates met as Temple University students in the late 1960s performing in separate blue-eyed soul groups. They parted ways but were reunited in the early 1970s and began writing pop-folk songs. Atlantic Records executive Tommy Mottola recognized their talent and signed them. Their smooth harmonies produced six chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot 100, starting with “Rich Girl” in 1977. Hook-laden No. 1 hits “Maneater,” “Kiss on My List,” and “Private Eyes” plied the radio waves during the 1980s. Seven albums by Hall & Oates went platinum.

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

9. Johnny Cash & June Carter
> Biggest hit: If I Were a Carpenter
> Total songs on Hot 100: 1

Johnny Cash and June Carter were both successful musicians before they married — Cash as a solo artist and Carter, a member of the famed Carter Family, performing with her sisters as the Carter Sisters. Carter co-wrote Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire,” and the two would go on to record numerous duets such as “Jackson,” “The Loving Gift,” and “No Need to Worry.” Only one of the duo’s songs managed to cross over from the country charts to the Hot 100: “If I Were A Carpenter,” which peaked at No. 36 and won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

8. Sonny & Cher
> Biggest hit: I Got You Babe
> Total songs on Hot 100: 18

Folk-rock duo Sonny & Cher scored five Top 10 hits on the Hot 100, including the chart-topper “I Got You Babe.” The two married in 1964 and began performing under the name Caesar & Cleo, before switching to the more popular “Sonny & Cher.” In addition to their music, the couple built their celebrity via television, appearing on shows such as “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Their career as a duo waned by the mid 1970s, though each was successful on their own — Cher in movies such as “Mask” and “Moonstruck” and Sonny Bono as a California politician.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

7. Jan & Dean
> Biggest hit: Surf City
> Total songs on Hot 100: 24

Besides the Beach Boys, no one is more closely associated with surf music than Jan & Dean. Jan Berry and Dean Torrence met at University High School in West Los Angeles in the late 1950s and began experimenting with different music styles such as doo wop. Influenced by the surf-guitar of the legendary Dick Dale, as well as the vocals of the Beach Boys, they latched on to the surf music sound. Beginning in 1959 with “Baby Talk,” they placed five songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. Their lone No. 1 hit “Surf City” was originally started by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and completed by Berry.

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Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

6. Brooks & Dunn
> Biggest hit: Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You
> Total songs on Hot 100: 27

The musical team of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are one of country music’s biggest acts, scoring 20 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country charts since the early 1990s. While they have not been quite as successful on the Hot 100, they have still had 27 songs make the chart, with “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You” and “Red Dirt Road” performing the best. According to Sony Music, Brooks & Dunn are the best-selling duo of all time. In 2019 they released a new album, “Reboot,” on which they collaborate with various other artists.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

5. The Righteous Brothers
> Biggest hit: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
> Total songs on Hot 100: 23

The Righteous Brothers weren’t brothers, but in fact were the pairing of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. The blue-eyed soul duo from California, with Medley providing the baritone and Hatfield the tenor side of the singing, are famous for the Phil Spector-produced classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” in 1962 that was one of their two chart-toppers; “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” was the other. Changing music tastes scuttled their career, though they did return to the Top 10 in 1974 with “Rock and Heaven,” a tribute to artists who died too soon. Hatfield would be one of them; he died in 2003.

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Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

4. Beyoncé & Jay-Z
> Biggest hit: Crazy in Love
> Total songs on Hot 100: 9

Beyoncé and Jay-Z are not only a popular married couple, they’re a successful musical duo, having sent nine collaborative songs to the Hot 100 chart. The most successful of these was the chart-topper “Crazy in Love.” Other songs include “Drunk in Love,” which hit No. 2, and “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” which peaked at No. 4. The two also released a full collaborative EP, “Everything Is Love,” under the name The Carters, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. While the pair is far from the only duo producing hip-hop and R&B duets, they are among the most consistent with regards to creating hits.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

3. Simon & Garfunkel
> Biggest hit: Bridge Over Troubled Water
> Total songs on Hot 100: 17

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel became childhood friends in Queens in New York City and formed an act called Tom and Jerry. They would eventually become two of the most consequential musicians of the 1960s. The folk-pop duo tapped into the nation’s consciousness with songs like “America” and “Homeward Bound.” The soundtrack of the 1968 counterculture classic “The Graduate” included the pair’s timeless classics “Scarborough Fair,” “The Sound of Silence,” and “Mrs. Robinson.” The latter two songs were two of three chart-toppers (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the third). Eleven of their albums went platinum.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

2. The Everly Brothers
> Biggest hit: Cathy’s Clown
> Total songs on Hot 100: 31

Kentuckian kin Don and Phil Everly were both exceptionally popular and highly influential. They had 12 Top 10 hits, including the No. 1 “Cathy’s Clown.” Other memorable songs by the brothers — remembered for their melodic harmonizing — include “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” though neither performed especially well on the singles chart. The group broke up in 1973, though reunited in the 1980s, during which time they recorded new music and continued touring. Phil died in 2014.

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Source: RB / Getty Images

1. Carpenters
> Biggest hit: Top of the World
> Total songs on Hot 100: 27

Americans looking to escape the political messaging in music of the divisive 1960s and 1970s found a safe place in the soothing soft-rock sound of brother and sister duo Karen and Richard Carpenter who generated a cavalcade of hits in the 1970s. After moving to California from Connecticut in the 1960s, the Carpenters won local music contests. Eventually A&M Records executive Herb Albert signed them. The Carpenters gained fame in 1970 with their version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” It was the first of three No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 for The Carpenters. Over the next five years, they would become one of the biggest acts in the world, win three Grammy Awards, and place 12 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. Eight of their albums would go platinum. Over the years their fame dimmed and their personal lives deteriorated. Richard Carpenter battled substance abuse while Karen struggled with anorexia nervosa. She died from complications related to the condition in 1983.

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