Without the black keys, the white keys on a piano would pretty much be stuck playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Do Re Mi.” If you want anything more interesting than that—if you want a song like “Yesterday,” for instance—you’re going to have to get the two sets of keys working together. From this little insight, Paul McCartney crafted the biggest hit record of his post-Beatles career: “Ebony And Ivory.” Recorded as a duet with the great Stevie Wonder, “Ebony And Ivory” took the top spot in the Billboard Hot 100 on May 15, 1982 and didn’t relinquish it until seven weeks later.
McCartney had been a fan of Stevie Wonder’s for many years before they first met. He even included a Braille message for Stevie—”We love you”—on the back of his 1973 Wings album Red Rose Speedway. Wonder spent the 1970s recording a string of incredible albums that often included songs expressing a strong social consciousness. It’s not surprising, then, that McCartney thought of Stevie Wonder as a duet partner for “Ebony And Ivory.”
Stevie Wonder agreed, and his duet with Paul McCartney not only yielded a smash-hit record that topped the charts on this day in 1982, but it also continued a trend toward pop music power-couplings that was particularly prevalent in the early 1980s. Following on the late 70s success of pairings like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” 1978), the period from 1981-1983 witnessed a significant boom in hits from such A-list power couples, including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, 1981), “Endless Love” (Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, 1981), “Islands In The Stream” (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, 1983) and “Say Say Say” (Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, 1983).