The best duet in the world
Back when Blog On The Tracks was in its infancy (now it's juvenile) we looked at duets - discussing our favourites and some atrocities. It was nearly three years ago. The post was called It Takes Two and we had all sorts of things named - the grand and the hideous. More than one reader mentioned the act of violence that is Mick Jagger and David Bowie's Dancing In The Street. The video for that song is, apparently, some sort of camp-classic. Hmmm...
Anyway, we are revisiting the duet topic, which, 600 odd posts (many of them very odd) after the last duet post seems fair enough to me.
And I bring the news there in the title - I have found The Best Duet In The World.
It is a clip that features Etta James and Dr. John. In it they are singing - to each other and at each other - the song I'd Rather Go Blind.
It is like a mating call, it is primordial. It is nearly carnal. It is quite possibly disgusting. But it is the best duet in the world.
In the clip of this song Etta James does not look like some booty-shaking Beyonce. She looks more likely to come waddling out of The Warehouse with a stack of DVDs she got for $4.99 and a 12-pack of that horrid nuclear-reactive fizzy drink under one wing, an oversized key-ring with a fuzzy lion on it dangling from some part of the other wing.
And Dr John seems to be there purely to answer that question that was on everyone's lips back in 1979 - specifically just what would it look like to squeeze Tom Waits and Dom DeLuise in to the same body? (Either that or he's proof that someone, other than my uncle, wears that kind of hat).
They are, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, ugly; but they have the music!
Now, now - hold all the you're no oil painting yourself calls (something my wife said to me last night when I was choosing pictures of Diana Krall for yesterday's interview blog and, baffled by the allure she seems to hold for some people, I referred to her as a bit of a spade-face).
The reason this duet works is because she is not Beyonce and he is not John Mayer (though if you read Mayer's press he seems reluctant to work with the likes of Beyonce; well parts of him, anyway...)
And I mean that they (Dr John and Etta James) neither look nor sound like whatever plastic modern singer you care to think of. And that is why this works. That is why this is the best duet in the world. That is why this says something and Kanye West and Estelle singing American Boy does not!
James starts the song (a tune she recorded many years earlier, by herself) with a deep moan. It's like a bison at the watering hole; sending out a warning blast.
And then she spies the good doctor, behind the keys. She gives him a cheeky wink. It is revolting. He loves it. He moves towards her - they sway together, singing only to one another.
Sure they're vaguely aware that there is a live audience and there will be a TV audience but all they really care about is each other. And the song. They care about the song.
They know to play to the audience on some level. But they are working with and for the song.
At one point, taken in so deeply by the song's message - and by the roles they are living out, method acting on the stage - Dr John and Etta James resemble Lori and Dori (now Lori and George) the famous conjoined twins. So close are their heads.
This performance is one part music concert, one part wildlife documentary. And it is amazing. About a million miles from the plasticity and pointlessness of so many celebrity-duets and redundant cameos that now plague pop music.
The performance features on a TV concert B.B. King recorded in 1987 - released as B.B. King & Friends.
You can watch the clip here
So - that is the best duet in the world. But if you disagree - and, well, what are the chances there? - please list your preferred duet below.
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