For decades there’s been debate about whether we inherit our skills or learn them, nature versus nurture. One argument for the latter is musical families. You find them everywhere, often crowded around a piano, or jamming together. Some families, though, not only play amazingly, they change musical history. Here’s six who’ve done just that.
Pop – The Jacksons
Just a single generation of the Jackson family produced nine stars (two more than the Osmonds!). Brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine started in the 60s as the Jackson Brothers, later adding Marlon and Michael to become the Jackson 5. On the female side of the family all three sisters (La Toya, Rebbie and Janet) had chart hits, with Janet being the most successful of them (right up until her wardrobe malfunction at the 2008 superbowl). At the height of their popularity The Jacksons even had a TV show featuring eight of the nine siblings.
Film – The Newmans
In the world of film scoring we need look no further than the astonishing Newman family. Alfred Newman, one of the originators of film music, winner of 9 academy awards (more than any other composer) and eventually music director for 20th Century Fox, had two composer brothers, Lionel and Emil (also academy nominated, with Lionel winning in 1969). Alfred’s sons David (Ice Age, Serenity) and Thomas Newman (Skyfall, Wall-E, American Beauty) and nephew Randy Newman (Toy Story, Cars, Meet the Parents) are all prolific composers too.
Rock – The Followils
Brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared, together with their cousin Matthew, are better known as Kings of Leon. Hailing from Talihina, Oklahoma and named for their grandfather they released their first album 10 years ago (Youth and Young Manhood) and have steadily risen in popularity since. Their biggest hit to date was the frankly dangerous sounding 2008’s “Sex on Fire”.
Classical – The Bachs
Johann Sebastian Bach has long been considered the grandfather of baroque and one of the greatest classical composers of all time, but he wasn’t the only Bach to make his mark. His father and uncles were all established musicians and his brother Johann Christoph was also a noted composer of the time. Spring forward a generation and you have his sons Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel taking over the reigns. Pieces from all four are still in the classical repertoire today with J.S. being one of the most performed composers of them all. This is the legendary Glenn Gould’s interpretation of the aria from Goldberg Variations (if you listen carefully you can hear him humming too).
Jazz – The Marsalis Family
Patriach Ellis Marsalis is a noted jazz performer (piano) and teacher in his native New Orleans, and his four of his sons Branford (sax), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums) have followed him into the trade. The family often contribute to each other’s recordings and have recorded together under the name “The Marsalis Family”. This clip is from a concert supporting their 2002 album “A Jazz Celebration”. Apparently, the bassist is unrelated.
Folk – The Wainwrights
Ok, maybe it is a little stretch filing the whole family under folk but when songwriter and humorist Louden Wainwright III married Kate McGarrigle (of Kate and Anna McGarrigle fame), their musical union brought forth both Rufus and Martha Wainwright. Louden wrote songs for both children, including the now ironically entitled “Rufus is a Tit Man”. Not to be outdone, Louden’s daughter from his 2nd wife, Lucy Wainwright Roche is also in the business and continues the folk tradition. This clip features Louden and his offspring.
And as a closing pop fact for the musical family theme, did you know that the 50 million album selling recording artist Norah Jones is the daughter of the late Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar maestro? Thought not. Ok, what which mega talented families have we missed here?