What Is the Greatest Collaboration of All Time?

A big question

Graham Roumieu

Lynn Yaeger, contributing editor, Vogue

“In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous,” the designer Elsa Schiaparelli reportedly said. So her sartorial collaborations with Salvador Dalí couldn’t be more relevant today. Who wouldn’t want to counter the darkness in a gown brandishing a lobster, or a dress with trapunto stitches meant to evoke a skeleton, or a suit that morphs into a chest of drawers? Let us rage against the dying of the light in a hat shaped like a lamb cutlet.

Ben Cohen, co-founder, Ben & Jerry’s, and president, Stamp Stampede

Unfortunately, the greatest collaboration in history has been money and politics, which helps only the rich.

Jerrod Carmichael, actor and co-creator, The Carmichael Show

Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones joining forces to create Thriller. Jackson recorded demos at home, which Jones translated into sounds that were both soulful and ethereal. I’ve never been happier that two people met each other, aside from my parents.

Graham Roumieu

Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus, Brookings Institution

Quite literally, the greatest collaboration must be conjoined twins, of which my knowledge goes no deeper than the Broadway musical Side Show, about Daisy and Violet Hilton. I vividly recall a moving number in which the sisters sing, “I will never leave you.”

Rita McGrath, management professor, Columbia Business School

Before the middle seat, the baggage fees, and Coffee, Tea or Me? came the collaboration between Wilbur and Orville Wright, which made fixed-wing-aircraft flight possible. Who knew that what began in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, would eventually lead to hand-to-hand combat for overhead-compartment space?

Jay Winik, author, 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History and April 1865

However tempting it is to say the Founding Fathers, the eloquent, often rancorous group that bequeathed to history the United States, I’m going to go with the most improbable of collaborations: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democrat; Winston Churchill, the keeper of the British empire; and Joseph Stalin, the dictator. Together, the three ended Hitler’s monstrous reign of terror and saved the Western world.

Alton Brown, author and television host

Louis and Marie Pasteur. Not only did the pair break open the world of bacteriology, they also set new standards for professional collaboration by spouses. Both of them probably would have achieved greatness on their own, but together they changed history.

Reader Responses

Gerald Bazer, Toledo, Ohio

Lyman Hall, George Read, William Ellery, and 53 others—a few more notable than the rest—signed, in 1776, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”

Alessandro Columbu, Edinburgh, Scotland

Graham Roumieu

The Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney dyad irreversibly changed popular music.

John Sanlorenzo, Cincinnati, Ohio

Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet, which helped save our nation.

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