Affairs to Remember: Some of Music's Best Collaborations
Like No Other
Have you ever heard a song and think, what happened to...? Sometimes I do. Not necessarily because the artist was a one-hit wonder, but because they were wronged or wronged themselves by breaking up a great producer collaboration. As a result, the career of the artist takes a dramatic turn or in less than ideal circumstances, nosedive.To me, it's like breaking up a marriage that to the public seemed to work perfectly, or an actor/actress director collaboration that produced gold. But obviously behind the scenes, something goes wrong and not only does the collaboration end but the relationship that produced the musical magic we got to savor and enjoy. So in this hub, I'd like to talk about musical relationships that ended and how the artist and the public was affected.
Holland Dozier Holland and The Supremes
The Supremes would have never been The Supremes if it had not been for the musical styling of Holland Dozier Holland. Even though Holland Dozier Holland (HDH) helped other artists on the Motown roster, they seemed to work best with Diana, Florence, and Mary.
Holland Dozier Holland began working together when brothers Eddie and Brian Holland teamed up with Lamont Dozier to create hits for another Motown girl group, the Marvelettes. After writing some of Motown's early hits, they hit their stride in 1963 by saving The Supremes from becoming a no-hit wonder.
The Supremes were formed in 1959 when teens Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson met at a talent show and decided to form a female equivalent to popular male vocal group The Primes (later The Temptations). They called themselves The Primettes and along the way recruited Betty Travis, Barbara Martin and a young girl then named Diane Ross to the group. Travis and Martin later departed due to familial concerns and personal aspirations, but Florence, Mary, and the re-named Diana decided to continue on.
After hearing about a young local businessman named Berry Gordy through William 'Smokey' Robinson, they decided to sign to Gordy's Motown records. The only problem being was that Gordy wasn't too sure about signing them. However, through hard work and perseverance they prevailed.
By 1963, it seemed all but doomed for the three young women from Detroit's Brewster Projects until Gordy decidedly teamed them up with up and coming songwriting and producing team HDH. From there, some of the greatest hits in pop music graced our car radios, our television sets, and our memories.
HDH gave The Supremes such hits as "Stop! In the Name of Love!" "Baby Love" and "Where Did Our Love Go." Yet as the popularity of the group grew, there was a need to differentiate who was who, or at least in the mind of Diana Ross. So the group became Diana Ross and The Supremes and continued to produce hits like "Reflections" and "In and Out of Love." Yet the frictions behind the scenes wore thin and the magic was soon over.
HDH got into a huge dispute with the notoriously cheap Gordy over contracts and money. Berry Gordy didn't want to pony up the money, so in a huff Holland Dozier Holland left and started their own labels. However, a suit with Gordy prevented them from writing songs under that name in 1969.
HDH headed two labels, but could never duplicate the magic they had creating the "Sound of Young America." They produced a few hits for their label, but eventually dissolved. Diana Ross and The Supremes once again became the Supremes after Florence Ballard was fired in 1968 and Diana Ross pursued a solo career.
What this collaboration did yield was the sound that defined the perceived innocence of the early to mid 1960s in the midst of social change and political turmoil. Had they continued past 1967, it wouldn't have been as successful because music was becoming more socially charged to reflect the times. Sweet harmonies and love songs didn't really fit in with that change. However, it was great while it lasted.
Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones
What would have the 80s been like if Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson didn't meet on the set of the cult classic "The Wiz?" I think that is a question most of us don't want to even think of answering. Michael Jackson's enormous talent with Quincy Jones's ear for perfection have given us some of the best pop music ever.
In 1979, Michael Jackson officially declared his place in pop music with the release of "Off the Wall," a rare disco album with a timeless quality. Quincy Jones was executive producer of the project and showed his talent by assembling a great team, including former Heatwave member and ace songwriter, Rod Temperton. Michael's instincts and Quincy's insights yielded such hits as "Rock with You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."
A few years later, they were ready for more. Assembling much of the same team, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson aimed for bigger pop success. "Thriller" was just that and more. Under a tight schedule because of obligations to filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Quincy and Michael was trying to create an "ET" soundtrack single as well as finish "Thriller," however the schedule got jumbled and they were under pressure to finish "Thriller."
After a few revisions and some readjustments, "Thriller" was released and history was made. Not only did "Thriller" revitalize music, it revolutionized MTV by allowing black and pop artists to be played in heavy rotation with "Billie Jean" being the first video to do so. Of course they continued to work together following the creation of the biggest selling album in history.
"Bad" for any other artist/production duo would be considered a smash, but with thirty two million copies sold, it wasn't received as well commercially or critically. So at Quincy Jones's suggestion, Michael moved on to younger producers like Teddy Riley.
It was the end of the 1980s and the end of an era, because following their success each diverged on different paths. Michael Jackson did work with Teddy Riley and had some success but the same timelessness and appeal as the work that he had done with Quincy Jones wasn't there and it showed. That along with a growing number of personal and financial problems led to Michael's untimely death a few years ago.
Quincy Jones has not since worked with an artist of the same high profile since Michael and now at the tender age of seventy eight, continues to work and promote various artists and projects.
What Michael and Quincy produced lives on everyday on iPods, radio stations, and more. It reflects a timelessness and an innocence in music that has not since been duplicated. However, it was probably best for them to part because no matter how hard anyone tries, there's only one "Thriller."
Ginuwine and Timbaland
The 90s had several new innovations in music. There was Nirvana and grunge rock. There was Dr. Dre and west coast g-funk hip-hop and finally there was r&b and hip-hop and the futuristic stylings of Timbaland. While Timbaland helped launch the careers of Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and others, it was his collaboration with singer Ginuwine that was unique.
Ginuwine had the physique of an athlete and the voice of a gospel singer. Timbaland pioneered the futuristic big beats that kept the clubs and charts popping. Together, they were magic. Apart, Timbaland still had the magic and Ginuwine is still around. But to many, there is a certain beauty about the combination between Timbaland and Ginuwine.
Ginuwine burst onto the scene in 1996 after years of toiling in the infamous Swing Mob (helmed by former Jodeci member Devante Swing) alongside future hitmakers Missy Elliott and Timbaland. His debut single, "Pony" co-written by Static Major, Timbaland, and Ginuwine was a huge top ten Hot 100 single and a number one on the R&B/Hip-Hop singles chart.
They collaborated on Ginuwine's major label debut Ginuwine...The Bachelor as well as the follow up 100% Ginuwine and yielded hits like "So Anxious" and "Same Ol' G." But by 2001, a lot of things began to change. Ginuwine's third album, The Life was the first to not exclusively feature Timbaland's production and while the two did reunite on 2009's A Man's Thoughts, but after about 1999 things changed between the two.
In the early 2000s, Timbaland began to work outside the infamous crew that featured himself and Magoo, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and Ginuwine among some lesser known others. Timbaland primarily expanded to produce rappers and singers such as Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Beck. He also started a label and mentored up and coming rapper Bubba Sparxxx. But the real breaking point between these two seems to be after the tragic death of collaborator and friend Aaliyah.
In 2002, Timbaland began to do something most people never expected him to do, produces non-urban acts. The first and most notable being former *NSYNC frontman Justin Timberlake who's "Cry Me A River" co-produced and co-written by Timbaland, sent him into the stratosphere as pop artist. Timbaland followed that by working with artists like Nelly Furtado and Elton John.
A year or so ago, Ginuwine revealed that the two had a falling out after years of friendship and working together. He felt slighted that Timbaland failed to appear in the promotion of his last project while he was constantly seen alongside other artists such as Madonna and The Pussycat Dolls.
There hasn't been much talk from Timbaland about what happened, but it does seem like Ginuwine was right in some regard. The closeness that helped produce some of their most innovative and appealing records. Ginuwine was a pure crossover artist, he was honest in his music without explicitly courting a certain demographic. And in working with Timbaland that came across naturally.
Now Ginuwine is still in the public consciousness appearing and touring in various gospel plays as well as releasing new music. Unfortunately, his reach was not as big as his days with Timbaland. And of course, Timbaland has taken over contemporary pop working with various artists.
Timbaland's biggest collaborator for the past few years is Justin Timberlake. Ever since they joined forces nearly ten years ago, they've managed to remain close personally and professionally with Timberlake even bringing Timbaland along for his last tour. They've also worked together on other projects such as Timbaland's solo records, Madonna's Hard Candy and Duran Duran's Red Carpet Massacre.
But the combination of Ginuwine and Timbaland remains timeless and timely. If only they could remember that long enough to create one more great record.
Hugh Padgham and Genesis/Phil Collins: Pop's Invisible Touch
What would a football game be without "In the Air Tonight?" What would American Psycho be without Patrick Bateman's rants about Invisible Touch? Most importantly, what would either be without the musical imprint of British super-producer Hugh Padgham? Thankfully, we don't have to answer that question and neither do Genesis and Phil Collins.
Genesis was said to be out for the count in 1975 after lead singer Peter Gabriel decided to depart the group and then again after guitarist Steve Hackett cut out in the late 70s, but Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks had other plans in mind. After a couple of successful outings, they turned to producer Hugh Padgham in the early 1980s to redevelop their sound.
Around the same time Phil Collins was beginning to really develop a taste to go solo after some of his material seemed more appropriate for a single artist rather than a band. After his first marriage fell apart, Collins wrote many torch and heartbreak songs that would eventually become 1981's Face Value. However, the song from that album that stood out was the hauntingly infectious "In the Air Tonight."
Genesis in 1983 fully hit mainstream charts with their self-titled effort featuring singles such as "Mama" and "That's All." "Mama" achieved cult status because of Phil Collins' creepy laugh. Meanwhile, after 1982's Hello, I Must Be Going, Phil Collins was busy working with Padgham to create what many consider his masterwork as a solo artist.
No Jacket Required contained several hits such as "One More Night", "Sussudio", and "Take Me Home". It helped Collins and Padgham share the Album of the Year and Producer of the Year honors at the Grammys as well as be certified diamond.
In 1986, Genesis released their latest Padgham collaboration as well as the most successful commercial record of their career, Invisible Touch. Other than providing fuel for the protagonist of American Psycho, it gave 80's cop dramas a melodic boost by producing songs such as "The Brazilian" and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight." It would be the group's last collaboration with Padgham.
Collins continued to work with the producer on ...But Seriously which produced the socially conscious "Another Day in Paradise" as well as "I Wish It Would Rain Down." This would be his last collaboration with Padgham until 1996's Dance into the Light which remained largely unheard of in American markets. Padgham also returned for Love Songs: A Compilation which in many regards is one of Collins' last albums.
While all of these works are significant, it is mostly notable for the incorporation of the dramatic use of drum machines and synthesizers. It also provided a great deal of the soundtrack of the 1980s for anyone who remembers Miami Vice, Members Only jackets, and Ray Bans. Without these collaborations, Genesis nor Phil Collins would have been able to crossover into other genres as well as experiment successfully.
Hugh Padgham also was granted access to other British acts such as Sting and The Police and is also regarded as a musical icon. Thankfully, each party seems to remain grateful to the other for their respective input into some of the most memorable sounds of the 1980s.
Nothing Lasts Forever...Except Good Music
Good music is timeless. However, the situations, relationships, affairs, and circumstances that produce this music is not. If there's any notable collaboration you'd like me to discuss please let me know, so I can possibly incorporate it into a future hub.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments!
- The Supremes
- Quincy Jones on Michael Jackson: \'We made history together\' - latimes.com
Like the world, last week I was devastated by the news that Michael Jackson had suddenly left the room. This blessed artist commanded the stage with the grace of an antelope, shattered recording industry records and broke down cultural boundaries...
- Ginuwine 'Doesn't Like' Timbaland, Still Calls Him One Of 'Best Producers Ever' | VIBE
Any student of the 90s remembers the catchy hits that emerged from Timbalands early R&B work with the likes of Aaliyah, Missy Elliott and Ginuwine.
- Genesis (band) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Phil Collins - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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