Timeline of All-Time Great Collaborations

This week, as Bonnaroo.com explores the collaborative performances that have defined the Festival, we couldn’t help but wonder what might be considered the best collaboration ever. With a little help from the WABAC Machine, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most dynamic, exciting, and historic live music collaborations of all time. Read through the timeline to see which performances have entered the pantheon. And if your favorite is missing, let us know in the comments – it’s all part of the collaborative experience!

December 11, 1968 – The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus

The Stones’ concert spectacular featuring The Who, Taj Mahal, and a host of other bands had its legendary performances. . .and its not-so-memorable ones. Standing head-and-shoulders above the rest has to be the appearance of supergroup The Dirty Mac. If John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards (playing bass) onstage together weren’t enough, throw Mitch Mitchell behind the drums and you have yourself a true demonstration of collaborative excellence.

November 25, 1976 – The Last Waltz

What do you get when you pair one of the greatest backing bands in history with a veritable who’s who of 1960s folk and rock, and then bring an Academy Award winning director to film it? Only one of the best concerts/concert movies/live albums ever. The Band’s Thanksgiving Day farewell to touring stands as a testament to their versatility, as they share the stage with Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, and an all-star cast.  The blocking and the setlists may not have been spontaneous, but it’s hard not to put this one on the Mount Rushmore of live collaborations.

October 20, 1994 – Bob Dylan at the Roseland Ballroom

“A Dylan show from the ‘90s?,” you ask. Well, not just any Dylan show from the ‘90s. At this one, the third encore – “Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35” and “Highway 61Revisited” – was one for the ages. It’s always great when a performer brings out a couple of friends for an encore.  When those “couple of friends” are Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, you have the encore to end all encores.

Years prior to the Roseland Ballroom, check out Bruce Springsteen inducting Bob Dylan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1988.

April 21-22, 1999 – S & M

That’s Symphony and Metallica, folks. OK, so we realize that this one loses points for spontaneity – you don’t compose a symphonic accompaniment to “Master of Puppets” on the back of a napkin between sets. But what this performance (there were also shows in New York and Berlin) lacked in improvisation, it more than made up for in terms of musical quality. The collaborators appear to have so little in common, but when you listen to the end product, it’s hard not to be glad that they got together.

2013 – Dave Grohl’s Sound City

It may be too recent and too amorphous to make it to the top of the heap, but ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Grohl’s traveling band of rockers seems to epitomize a lot of what makes a great collaboration. As a follow-up to Grohl’s documentary on Southern California’s Sound City Studio and the musicians who recorded there, he has been playing live with the “Sound City Players” – a wide assortment of musicians ranging from Stevie Nicks to Rick Nielsen. It may be too soon to say how this one will go down in history, but the Sound City project sure gets high marks for energy and creativity.