If you know John Michael Stipe at all, then you probably know him as the lead singer of Athens, Georgia's favorite sons, R.E.M., but both during his time with the band as well as in the years since their dissolution, our man Michael has never been afraid to offer up his vocal services to other artists.
As often as not, it's been to provide either a backing vocal or a harmony vocal, as with Jason and the Scorchers' "Hot Night in Georgia" or Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians' "She Doesn't Exist," but occasionally he's been brought in to deliver a lead vocal, as was the case for a few songs on the Golden Palominos' Visions of Excess album. Sometimes he'll even do a proper duet, as he did on 10,000 Maniacs' cover of Lulu's "To Sir with Love" or Kristen Hersh's "Your Ghost." The point is, there are more than enough collaborations with Michael Stipe outside of R.E.M. to pull together a playlist devoted solely to those sorts of songs.
And, say, since today just happens to be Michael Stipe's birthday, wouldn't it be swell if Q put together just such a playlist? You're darned right! And so we've done just that...although we're less than thrilled to discover that one of our favorite such songs - "Future 40s (String of Pearls)," Stipe's duet with Syd Straw - has mysteriously vanished from Spotify. As such, we feel obligated to embed the video below, so that you can either enjoy it again or discover it for the first time...and iIf it's the latter, then what luck for you: it's Stipe's birthday, but you're the one getting the gift!
As you make your way through this playlist, you'll see that Mr. Stipe has worked with a wide variety of artists over the course of his career, including - but in no way limited to - Warren Zevon, the Blue Aeroplanes, Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls, Placebo, Neneh Cherry, Patti Smith, and Spacehog. You'll also get to enjoy the handful of solo tracks he's recorded up to this point, including covers of songs by Serge Gainsbourg and Mark Mulcahy as well as solo singles like "Your Capricious Soul" and "Drive to the Ocean."
Will this year be the year that Michael Stipe finally releases his first proper solo album? As he's assured Rolling Stone, it's still coming along, albeit at a less than speedy pace. Still, as Mike Myers' Middle-Aged Man once said, he's working on it, and that's the best we can hope for. In the meantime, at least we've still got the R.E.M. back catalog...and, of course, this playlist.