Pop music in the 1960's produced several top recording duos dotting the music charts and influencing future songwriters and groups to this day. Let’s explore a few successful duos from the 60's that also recorded as lesser known names before they hit it big as the names they are known as today.
An early release by the duo that called themselves Tom & Jerry in 1957 did not fare well, although the duo did manage to crack the top 100 on the music charts. But subsequent releases proved to be very substantial, not only for pop rock but for folk-rock as well. After minimal success as Tom & Jerry and reuniting together in the mid 60's as Simon and Garfunkel, the duo forged a path through pop and folk music that is iconic.
With a barrage of finely crafted pop and folk arrangements, Simon and Garfunkel amassed many pop hits such as “Homeward Bound, ““Sound’s Of Silence,” “I Am A Rock,” “Mrs. Robinson” (from the movie “The Graduate”), “The Boxer” and the Garfunkel-led ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” among others. After they split up, Garfunkel went on to record several well-received albums, but Paul Simon became known as one of the most prolific and vital songwriters of the pop music era.
After the split from Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon scored top ten pop hits with “Mother And Child Reunion,” “Kodachrome,” “Loves Me Like A Rock” as well as “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” But Simon broke new ground musically and personally in 1986 with the album “Graceland,” which he adeptly mixed a collage of musical genres and political statements into one of the most remarkable solo albums of all time. Somewhat controversial, it remains the benchmark for all solo artists who want to experiment with their musical background and add a mix of different cultures to the album to capture not only their already existing fan base but create a new one as well.
Although popular for their 1959 hit “Baby Talk,” Jan Berry and Dean Torrence rode the waves of the Beach Boys-led surf music sound in the early 1960's. Previously known as Jan and Arnie, their infectious hit “Surf City,” (the duo’s only number one hit) was co-written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who also provided backup vocals. Jan Berry returned the favor in1966 by singing lead on the Beach Boy’s hit “Barbara Ann.” Jan and Dean had other chart hits such as “Drag City,” the prophetic “Dead Man’s Curve” and the whimsical “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.” The duo’s success was cut short in April of 1966 when Jan was critically injured in an automobile accident.
The husband and wife team of Caesar and Cleo did not secure fame until they changed their name to Sonny and Cher and went on to pop mega-stardom, not only in music but in television as well. Their breakthrough hit “I Got You Babe” reached number one status and held that position for three weeks in 1965. While still together as Sonny and Cher, each scored hits recording separately, Sonny with “Laugh At Me” and Cher with “All I Really Want To Do” and “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Their magical musical combination and wisecracking repartee spawned a highly successful CBS-TV variety series that ran from1971 through 1974. As a duo, Sonny and Cher secured top ten hits such as “Baby Don’t Go,” “ The Beat Goes On,” “All I Ever Need Is You” and “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done.” Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce in 1973, but the story of Sonny and Cher does not.
They were briefly reunited in 1975 and Cher continued on to a brilliant solo career and Sonny entered politics. Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California and then elected to Congress in 1994 until his tragic death from a skiing accident in 1998. Cher continued in music and also added a first-rate acting career to her repertoire.
As a solo artist in the 1970's, Cher scored hits with songs like “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” “The Way Of Love,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady” among others. Cher was also an accomplished actress, with starring roles in the acclaimed motion pictures “Silkwood” and “The Witches Of Eastwick.” In 1987, Cher won an Oscar for her role in the movie “Moonstruck.” She revived her musical career in 1989 scoring a top ten hit called “After All,” a duet with Peter Cetera from the motion picture “Chances Are” and the intense reflective “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Remarkably, ten years later Cher was again in the Top 40 with her number one hit “Believe,” which spent four weeks as the top pop song and remained on the charts for twenty-five weeks. To this day Cher remains peerless and is one of the most celebrated female singers and her trademark voice will be heard for decades to come.