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(Credit: Michael Stipe)


R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe once named his list of dream collaborations

Michael Stipe is no stranger to collaboration, and his CV has clocked up features with everyone from Mykki Blanco to The National’s Aaron Dessner. Working with fresh faces unlocks something inside Stipe and allows him to explore a new side of himself.

Collaboration is at the heart of Stipe’s approach to art, not just music. Outside of his recording career, he’s also an accomplished artist and graphic designer. Over the years, the musician has worked alongside Howard Finster and Ed Rogers, which helped shape the band’s identity from a visual standpoint. Stipe isn’t a creator who works best when he’s insularly locked away, he needs to be surrounded by like-minded creatives. 

In 2022, Stipe teamed up with Brian Eno, one of his great heroes, on ‘Future If Future’, raising money to fight the climate crisis. He previously worked closely with another of his idols, Patti Smith, who teamed up with R.E.M. on ‘E-Bow The Letter’, but there are several more names he wants to tick off his bucket list.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2004, Stipe was asked about the artist he most wishes to collaborate with, and rather than just name one musician or band; he chose to name six. “It seems like everybody is always busy. But my wish list is Radiohead, U2, Björk, Grant Lee Phillips, Bright Eyes and PJ Harvey,” he revealed.

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Stipe has previously shared the stage with Radiohead to perform ‘Lucky’ in 1998 and is close friends with singer Thom Yorke, but sadly, they’ve never recorded new material together.

The feeling between the pair is mutual, with Yorke once saying R.E.M. were instrumental in him chasing a career in the music business. He once said: “Through his songs, Stipe spoke to me, ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.’ Shortly after that, I signed up for art school and started to take making music seriously.” He added: “They were the link for me between the art student part of me and the musician part of me.”

Moreover, while he hasn’t had the opportunity to get into the studio alongside U2, he was in a short-lived band with Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. In 1993, Stipe and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills teamed up with the U2 duo as Automatic Baby to perform ‘One’ at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

The R.E.M. and U2 supergroup decided upon the name because their most recent albums were Automatic For The People and Achtung Baby, respectively. Unfortunately, they have refrained from reviving the group, but Stipe’s comments in 2004 suggest he’d like to.

Revisit their performance from the inauguration below.