Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spousal Support and Musical Matrimony: 14 Great Husband and Wife Acts for Valentine's Day

This year, in honor of Valentine's Day, instead of playing and paying tribute to music for couples, I'm giving props to married couples who made sweet music together -- before, during, and, in some cases, after marriage.

ABBA Björn loved Agnetha, and Benny loved Frida, and then they didn't. Though the other fab four was best known for delivering frothy Swedish pop in near-perfect harmony, often with a tinge of sadness, during the '70s, listen to their later work, recorded when both marriages were breaking up. The band's '80s singles like "The Winner Takes It All," "When All Is Said and Done," "One of Us" and "The Day Before You Came" wear their melancholy on their melodies, and the songs are all so much better for it.

Ashford & Simpson It's hard for me to say for what I'm more grateful to husband and wife singing and songwriting team Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, who died in 2011. For writing such pop standards as Ray Charles's "Let's Go Get Stoned," Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "You're All I Need to Get By" and Diana Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," or for recording the second LP I ever bought: 1984's Solid, whose title cut was a massive hit single in both the U.S. (No. 1 R&B, No. 12 pop) and the UK (No. 3) in 1985.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo Although Benatar was a solo star on the charts, her 34-years-and-counting partnership with Giraldo, her guitarist, sometime producer and husband (they'll celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary on April 20), is one of the most enduring in the history of rock.

Captain & Tennille When it came to '70s pop beautifully sung by one-half of a family act, nobody did it better than The Carpenters (the brother and sister who ruled the early part of the decade) and Captain & Tennille (the husband and wife who took over at the halfway mark).

The Creatures An offshoot duo of Siouxsie and the Banshees featuring members Siouxsie Sioux and drummer Budgie. When Siouxsie called me from their chateau in France in 1992 for a People magazine interview (the first of two I'd do with her) and talked about how happy they were making music together, I thought both the band (both bands) and their marriage would last forever. Sadly, none of the above did.

Everything But the Girl Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt made a similar impression together over the phone in 1996. Though they've been inactive as a musical duo since 2000, as far as I know, their marriage lives on.

The 5th Dimension For once, a marriage (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.'s) that survived the group, went on to spawn a No. 1 single performed by just the couple (1976's "You Don't Have to Be a Star [To Be in My Show]") and continues to this day. I recently had a dream that the 5th Dimension had reformed with McCoo and two of her daughters with Davis -- though I'm not even sure if they have kids). McCoo, now 69, looked even better in my dream than she did back when she was hosting Solid Gold in the '80s.

Fleetwood Mac The British-American version of ABBA, with only one married couple (John and Christine McVie), and the American Agnetha (Stevie Nicks) adding a tall, lanky drummer (Mick Fleetwood) to her (Lindsey) Buckingham-Nicks romantic mix.

George Jones and Tammy Wynette "If drinking don't kill me, Tammy's memory will." When Jones slightly altered the lyrics of his 1981 hit while performing it on an award show in the '80s, I probably wasn't the only one who thought he meant every word he sang. I interviewed the former husband and wife in 1995 when they were promoting their reunion duet album One, and I was struck by how much they still acted like a couple, finishing each other's sentences and building up each other's musical contributions. We'd lose Wynette three years later -- a loss from which I, if not Jones, still haven't fully recovered.

The Mama's and the Papa's If John and Michelle Phillips had never gotten together, the world never would have gotten Wilson Phillips (featuring their daughter Chynna). But we won't hold that against The Mama's and the Papa's.

Sonic Youth Husband and wife Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were like the American alternative-rock version of Siouxsie and Budgie. Sadly, as of 2011, both the marriage and the band had met the same sad fate.

Sonny & Cher Go ahead and mock Sonny all you want, but being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and getting to guest star in an episode of The Golden Girls were not the accomplishments of a man who needed Cher to get by.

The White Stripes Were they or were they not once married? That was the question, at one point, that dominated every discussion of Meg and Jack White. (They were). Although Jack is doing quite well on his own -- he recently scored his first No. 1 album and an Album of the Year Grammy nomination for last year's Blunderbuss -- I'm still hoping The White Stripes, whose last album was 2007's Icky Thump, will one day thump again.

Yarbrough and Peoples Though they were never really a match for Ashford & Simpson, Cavin Yarbrough and Alisa People's union (the married portion of which remains unbroken) produced two perfect R&B No. 1 hits, 1981's "Don't Stop the Music" and 1984's "Don't Waste Your Time."

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