Musical Marriages That Made Music to Last … Even If They Didn’t

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Love is a powerful thing. It can be beautiful and hopeful, but love can also be ugly. It can be fickle and, at times, cruel. Good or bad, love changes us. It makes us vulnerable, crazy, passionate and inspired. And love makes damn good music. But what happens when that love is gone?

Here are 9 couples who made music to last, even if they didn’t.

1. Captain & Tennille

It came as a shock when soft rock power couple “Captain” Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille divorced in 2014, after 39 years of marriage. The separation took place well past the duo’s heyday, but still, if anyone could make it, you’d think it would be the artists behind “Muskrat Love.”

The couple’s 1975 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” now plays like a punch to the gut, but that doesn’t make the song any less enduring. The tune’s burping bass and tip-toeing keys are now just reminders of the love that built yacht rock.

2. Sonny and Cher

Sonny Bono was a legendary entertainer and, for decades, Cher has had an illustrious career. But together, the two made magic. Sonny and Cher juggled singing, comedy, hosting television shows, and being husband and wife. In the 1970s, they were the “it” couple.

However, with the beloved duo’s very public divorce in 1975, the entertainment empire they had built together crumbled. Their joint TV program, Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, came to a halt despite sky-high ratings and the two went their separate ways.

In the end, the love was still there and they remained friends until Sonny’s death in 1998. They meant it when they sang “I Got You Babe.”

3. Ike and Tina Turner

Legendary husband and wife duo, Ike and Tina Turner, were THE live performers from 1960 to 1976, gracing stages as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The “Proud Mary” sensations were known for slow, soulful acoustic arrangements that exploded into a rock and roll frenzy led by the electrifying frontwoman.

All the captivating performances and genre-altering songs in the world can’t make up for the abuse Tina faced in their marriage. After years of a union tainted by violence, drug abuse, and infidelity, Tina called it quits in 1976. The pair left behind R&B classics like “A Fool In Love”, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” and “River Deep – Mountain High.” In the aftermath, Tina would be crowned the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” with a successful solo career to this day.

4. Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus; Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad

Swedish supergroup ABBA was made up of two married couples: Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA ruled the worldwide charts from 1974 to 1982, delivering feel-good pop songs that will last forever.

However, with the group’s international success came personal woes and the couples’ married lives took a hit. Fältskog and Ulvaeus announced their divorce in 1979. Speculations of the band’s longevity stirred in the media and among fans, but ABBA assured the band would go on and the divorce would have no effect on them.

As the relationships changed among bandmates, it was reflected in their music. Their signature flair for upbeat, punchy disco-tinged pop began to dissolve into darker, more introspective compositions later on.

“Winner Takes It All” was one of the band’s first post-Fältskog-Ulvaeus-divorce songs. Many believed it was written about the couple’s marital troubles, but Ulvaeus insisted the lyrics were not about the separation.

Andersson and Lyngstad’s divorce followed in 1981. Chart toppers were still steadily being released, but the latest ABBA sound was far removed from “Dancing Queen.” Early ’80s successes, like “One Of Us” and “When All Is Said and Done,” very blatantly dealt with the pain of separating from a partner.

Even with Top 10 hit after hit, speculation increased about tension within the group and fans waited with bated breath for the end. There was never an official announcement declaring the last of ABBA. It just kind of happened after their final public performance together in 1982.

A band like ABBA, however, needs an encore. In 2018, the foursome made an announcement that they had recorded two new songs which appeared on their 2021 reunion album, Voyage. While all band members have made statements saying this project will likely be their last, ABBA will live on in songs like “Waterloo,” “Mamma Mia,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” and so many more.

5. Carly Simon and James Taylor

The golden couple of ’70s folk, Carly Simon and James Taylor’s marriage coincided with the peak of their individual fame. Their union made them a musical dream team, seemingly unstoppable when the pair recorded duets.

They would make cameos on each other’s albums, but full-blown duets like “Mockingbird” and “Devoted To You” were major successes, charting in the Top 10. However, behind the songs, their marriage wasn’t as harmonious.

“Our love became bipolar,” Simon wrote about their relationship in her 2015 memoir, Boys in the Trees, “switching from love to hate, lust to loathing, and back again, sometimes within a day.” Infidelity on both sides and Taylor’s drug addiction came between them and the two split after a decade together in 1983. While their relationship now is reportedly nonexistent, we’ll always have the raw, emotive song stylings of Simon-Taylor.

6. Jack and Meg White

For a while, husband-wife alt-rock duo, The White Stripes, performed under the guise of brother and sister. Looking at Jack and Meg White – both thin-framed, fair-skinned, and raven-haired – it made sense. News of their 1996 marriage emerged in 2001, along with evidence of the couple’s divorce in 2000. The “Seven Nation Army” artists, reportedly, kept up the charade for the music.

In a 2005 interview, Jack White explained to Rolling Stone “When you see a band that is two pieces, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, you think, ‘Oh, I see…’ When they’re brother and sister, you go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ You care more about the music, not the relationship—whether they’re trying to save their relationship by being in a band.”

The duo dissolved in 2011 after a long hiatus from performing and with no hard feelings. An announcement about the split stated it happened “to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.” The couple left behind numbers like “Icky Thump” and “We’re Going to Be Friends.”

7. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon

Bassist Kim Gordon and vocalist Thurston Moore formed the indie band Sonic Youth in 1981. Somewhere in between the band’s 30-year run, producing 16 studio albums and influencing an entire alt-culture, the two married. Their songs “Superstar,” “100%,” and “Kool Thing” filled an era with otherworldly dissonance.

In 2011, Sonic Youth disbanded and so did the couple after 27 years of marriage. It makes you think, would the band have gone on if the couple had and vice versa?

8. Christine McVie & John McVie

Fleetwood Mac is one incestuous can of worms that need not be opened here, but some great music sprang from one inter-band marriage (well, from one inter-band divorce), in particular.

Vocalist and keyboard player Christine McVie and bassist John McVie had one of Fleetwood Mac’s strongest songwriting partnerships while they were married. But its the post-divorce music they made together that will go down in history. The two leaned into the pain of separation, the infidelity, the substance abuse, all to create songs like “Don’t Stop,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Songbird.”

(Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)

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