Country music is full of beautiful, sometimes sad, always emotional duets, some dating back to more than 60 years. From Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, to Vince Gill and Reba McEntire, we narrowed down 11 of the best country duets of all time.
11. “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill recorded this song together, including it on McGraw’s 1997 Everywhere album. The song was released before the couple was even married a year, with the video featuring a very pregnant Hill, who was carrying their first child, Gracie. It was McGraw who found the song, thanks to Missy Gallimore, wife of his producer, Byron Gallimore, who introduced the song to McGraw.
“We were dating at the time, and we were in the middle of a tour together,” McGraw recalled (via Songfacts). “I remember I had a place out in Leiper’s Fork [outside of Nashville] and the bus was sitting there. Missy showed up with that song and we went to the back of the bus to listen. I instantly knew I was going to cut it. I played it for Faith and told her I wanted her to sing on it. We both really felt like we had something.”
10. “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani
Country music is by now very familiar with Gwen Stefani, the pop and ska singer who recently married Blake Shelton, after dating the country music superstar for almost five years. While she has appeared with him on two hit radio singles, “Nobody But You” and “Happy Anywhere,” it’s their first duet, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” that shows an early hint of the magic between them, both in music and in life.
“When we wrote the song, we never saw it going there. I don’t know that we ever really saw it going anywhere,” Shelton said of the song, written before they started officially dating (via One Country). “I only started the song to impress her, to be like, ‘Hey, I’m writing a song about you.’”
9. “Think of You,” Chris Young and Cassadee Pope
Chris Young and Cassadee Pope scored a Grammy nod for their “Think of You” collaboration, which appeared on Young’s 2015 I’m Comin’ Over record. Young invited Pope to sing on the song with him after hearing her perform, forming a lifelong friendship in the process.
“She’s somebody that I believe in so much,” Young told The Boot at the time. “She has such a great voice. She’s such a great person, as well as a great artist, so I’m definitely in her corner. I don’t think I’ve hidden that at all.”
8. “After the Fire is Gone,” Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty
Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty released ten records together, with more than a dozen singles that they shared. But our pick is their first one, “After the Fire is Gone,” from their debut album together, We Only Make Believe, released in 1971. The song spent two weeks at the top of the charts, sealing their future as a country music duo.
7. “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
Not all country duets have to be about love and loss. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson teamed up to record “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” which was on the two singers’ collaborative 1978 Waylon & Willie record. Their version of the song, which was also recorded by Ed Bruce and Chris LeDoux, was good enough to win the two men a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
6. “Whiskey Lullaby,” Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss
Music magic happened in “Whiskey Lullaby” when Alison Krauss seamlessly blended her voice with Brad Paisley for this tragic song. Written by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall, the song tells the story of a couple who both succumb to the affects of alcoholism, one to get over a breakup, the other to get over blaming herself for his death. Although the story is fiction, it was inspired by a tough time Jon was going through, after divorcing Lorrie Morgan.
“Jon Randall and I wrote the song together,” Paisley told The Boot. “Jon was going through some pretty rough times back then. He had gotten a divorce and lost his writing deal and his record deal all within just a day or two of each other. And he went over to a friend’s house and crashed for a couple of weeks. When he decided to sober up and come back and join the living again, he apologized to his friend. He said, ‘Man, I’m sorry for the way I’ve acted the last couple of weeks.’ And his friend said to him, ‘That’s alright Jon, I’ve put the bottle to my head and pulled the trigger a few times in my life.’ So when Jon came to the writing session, that was fresh on his mind.”
5. “In Another’s Eyes,” Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
“In “Another’s Eyes” was the first major collaboration by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and included on Yearwood’s 1997 (Songbook) A Collection of Hits album. Brooks co-wrote the song with Bobby Wood and John Peppard, singing about two people in love with each other, while married to someone else. Although both Brooks and Yearwood were indeed married to other people at the time, the song was an early hint of their chemistry on and off stage, with the two marrying each other in 2005.
“In Another’s Eyes” earned the pair a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
4. “Jackson,” Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash released “Jackson” in 1967, one year before they got married. The song appeared on the Man in Black’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 album, and peaked at No. 2 on the charts. It also earned the two a Grammy Award in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group. The song regained popularity after appearing in both the 2005 film, Walk the Line, based on Johnny’s life, as well as the 2011 Oscar-winning movie, The Help.
3. “The Heart Won’t Lie,” Reba McEntire and Vince Gill
Reba McEntire and Vince Gill have been friends for more than 40 years, and making music together for nearly that long. The two have sung together, both on stage and in the studio, but “The Heart Won’t Lie” proves just how well their voices blend together. Included on McEntire’s 1992 studio album, “It’s Your Call,” the song also stood out because of its cinematic video, which pushed Vince way out of his comfort zone.
“I’ve never said no to you, in all these years,” Gill told McEntire, while performing with her at the Grand Ole Opry. “When we were gonna do a duet, you called me, and said, ‘Hey will you do this?’ I hung up the phone and I said, ‘Oh no, she’s gonna want to make a movie.'”
2. “Islands in the Stream,” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
Few people have recorded as many duets — or done them as well — as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The two friends, close for decades until Rogers passed away in early 2020, recorded numerous duets over the years, including their 2013 duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” which was the title track of Rogers’ album. But it’s “Islands in the Stream” that was their biggest duet, becoming a hit on both country and pop charts. “Islands in the Stream” was written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, better known as the Bee Gees, even though it was originally written for Marvin Gaye.
1. “Golden Ring,” George Jones and Tammy Wynette
George Jones and Tammy Wynette were a match made in musical heaven. The two, who were married from 1969 to 1975, released “Golden Ring” in 1976, which was the title track of their seventh studio album together. The song became a No. 1 hit for the pair, which seems fitting since the song — about buying a ring at a pawn shop and later selling it at a pawn shop — came out one year after Jones and Wynette divorced. But even divorce couldn’t keep the two singers from collaborating together, and they recorded several more albums after their split. The two re-recorded the song for Jones’1994 The Bradley Barn Sessions record.