CDN’s 2021 list of Top 10 best interracial music performances
LOS ANGELES — Despite calls for unity, America remains a sharply divided nation. Politics by its very nature divides. But one way to truly bring people together is through music. Beautiful music can take people of all stripes and unite them in song and dance. When Stevie Wonder sang “Ebony and Ivory,” he meant it. Over the years, the music industry has brought us many beautiful collaborations where racial strife took a back seat to harmony, melody and rhythm. That’s what provided a timely spark leading to CDN’s 2021 list of the Top 10 best interracial music performances. So in the spirit of real unity, here is CDN’s
Top 10 Best Interracial Music Performances: 2021 Edition
10.) Rod Stewart and the Isley Brothers: “This old heart of mine”
This selection would have ranked even higher, except that the Isley Brothers did the original version on their own. This remake added Stewart’s vocals to an already existing song. Nevertheless, it is a happy, uplifting number, something 2021 could use.
9.) Nate Dogg and Eminem: “Shake that ass”
Yes, the lyrics are vulgar. This not-uncommon phenomenon should not detract from a tune that showcases two overwhelmingly talented rappers coming together. Dr. Dre helped turn Eminem into a star. In an industry seen as black, the white Eminem had enough credibility to become the best selling rapper of all time. Interestingly, given all Eminem’s lyrical gifts, Nate Dogg took the lead on most of the vocals on this song. The video is hysterically funny, as Nate Dogg tries and fails to keep Eminem from getting in trouble at a strip club. Laughter is the best medicine, and that’s one great reason for including this one in our Top 10 list of best interracial music performances.
8.) Mark Wahlberg and Loleatta Holloway: “Good Vibrations”
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch did more than sample the powerful voice of Loleatta Holloway on their biggest dance hit. They gave Holloway full credit, legally. Once, talented singers, many of them black, had to go to court to receive royalties for being sampled. Martha Wash was the most prominent black singer who was sampled without permission. But in this case, Holloway actually got paid, paving the way for other sampled stars to get their due. Marky Mark had Holloway join him on chorus lead vocals for this song, notably expanding her profile. With “Donnie D. (Mark’s brother and ‘New Kids on the Block’ star Donnie Wahlberg) on the backup,” the Funky Bunch and Holloway combined to bring the best of vibrations to dance lovers everywhere.
7.) Mick Jagger and Lisa Fischer: “Gimme Shelter”
Those who discount recognize Lisa Fischer as only a backup singer find themselves sadly mistaken if they ever chance to hear this unusual. She has been far more than the backup singer to many of the the most talented musicians around. She’s one of them. In fact, Fischer toured with the Rolling Stones for 26 years. Her voice was so powerful that the band had her perform lead vocals with Jagger on more than one song. The best version ever of this song features her prominently as the lead. This selection would rank higher except that the Rolling Stones created and performed this song for many years without her.
6.) Bono and BB King: “When love comes to town”
Lucille, his guitar, was so special to B.B. King that people assumed he wrote this song for her. But it was actually U2 lead vocalist Bono who wrote this song for King. And by extension, for Lucille. While Bono sings most of the vocals, King gives the song its raw power. “Baby I was wrong to ever let you down, but I did what I did before love came to town.” It was the only song on the live U2 album “Rattle and Hum” that featured King, but it was definitely one of the best. Which is a big reason why it landed on our 2021 list of top 10 interracial music performances.
5.) Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray: “Sweet Home Chicago”
None of these performers wrote this song. But they make it onto our list of top 10 interracial music performances because this cut may very well be the best jam session ever. Other versions of the song have included everyone from Steven Tyler to Mick Jagger. Yet every major iteration of this Windy City blues classic features Clapton and Guy. The song is notable for having very few vocals. And what vocals it has are often made up on the spot. Clapton gets the jam session going. But Guy belts out the best vocals. Referencing Clapton, Guy laments, “No, she don’t love me, Eric.”
This beloved song is also steeped in tragedy. On August 26, 1990 in Wisconsin, these musicians sang, “Baby don’tcha wanna go, to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago” one final time together. A few hours after this performance, Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of Clapton’s entourage. By sheer luck and fate, Cray and Clapton were on different planes.
4.) Bryan Adams and Tina Turner: “It’s only love”
Each of these two singers proved overwhelmingly successful in their own right. Turner wore black miniskirts better than any woman alive while belting out hits such as “What’s love got to do with it?” and “You better be good to me.” Adams had many hits, including “Run to you” and “Summer of ’69.” When he and Turner shared lead vocals on this song, the collaboration worked perfectly. “When your world has been shattered, and nothing else matters, take it easy, it’s only love, that’s all.”
Clearly, both Adams and Turner had fun with each other on stage during the live performance. Turner recalls a prank Adams pulled on her. He painted a couple of his teeth black so that when he opened his mouth, it looked like he was singing with missing teeth. This song itself also crosses geographical lines. Adams is Canadian and Turner, while American- born and -raised, is now a citizen of Switzerland.
3.) Jason Derulo and Luke Bryan: “Want you to want me, Thats my kinda night, Shake it for me”
This collaboration spans more than two races. It also spans several songs. It ranks high on our top 10 list of best interracial music performances because it crosses two entirely different musical genres. Derulo sings dance songs. Bryan is a country rocker, with beats that are also danceable.
The two teamed up online for a duet of Derulo’s biggest hit “Want you to want me.” The two men were in separate studios trading lyrics. Then at various country music award shows, Derulo joined Bryan onstage for his hits “Country girl (shake it for me)” and “That’s my kinda night.” Derulo is proof that a black man can be onstage singing about his “big, black, jacked up (pickup) truck” and be overwhelmingly embraced by the largely white country music crowd. The same is true regarding the many black fans who sung along with Bryan when he teamed up on Derulo’s hit song. This pairing works. That’s why it’s one of our top 10 best.
2.) Steve Winwood and Chaka Khan: “Higher Love”
Two of the greatest individual singers of an era came together for one of the world’s best ever duets. Winwood had other hits on his “Back in the High Life” album including the title track and “The Finer Things.” Yet his biggest hit was definitely “Higher Love.” As for Chaka, she had dazzled audiences with her hits including “Tell me something good.” This song is beautiful because of its message. Without higher love, “Life is wasted time. Look inside your heart and I’ll look inside mine.” These two got it as right as right can be. The world definitely needs more of that higher love. At least in the music world, these two stars brought it to us in this song.
1.) Aerosmith and Run DMC: “Walk this way”
In this performance, the top selection in our 2021 list of top 10 interracial music performances, two phenomenal bands who dominated two completely different music styles came triumphantly together. This began as an Aerosmith song written and performed by Aerosmith long before people ever heard of Run DMC. Steven Tyler was a lyrical genius and Joe Perry was one of the great guitarists. As for the three members of Run DMC, they proved more than just longtime leaders of the rap music movement. They were the dividing line. Critics considered all rap music before them old school, while they rated rappers after them as new school. This song deserves the top spot because of its cultural significance.
For his part, Tyler grew up in segregated Boston. He had no idea that his rock song was a rap song. Run DMC approached him and convinced him that it was. The resulting music video became one of the all time great videos, with meaningful symbols aplenty.
For example, the Run DMC cast knocked down the wall separating their room from Aerosmith’s room. (See video clip below, via YouTube.) This was a metaphor for breaking down barriers. The men all look at each other strangely. Yet by the end of the song all are singing and dancing bizarrely. But harmoniously. Tyler also showed us that there really is an actual walk dance to “Walk this way.” It involves moving the right leg backward and the left leg forward. On so many levels, this song is a perfect synthesis. Which is why it’s at the top of our top 10 list of interracial music performances. Enjoy the unity. It can still happen here.
— Headline image: Run DMC about to break in on Aerosmith’s set. Screen grab from YouTube video.