The French poet Jean Baptiste Legouve once wrote: "A brother is a friend given by Nature."
While those of us with brothers may occasionally disagree with Legouve's assessment, the bonds of brotherhood have proven to be a powerful force in the world of rock n roll music.
Throughout rock history, bands have put family ties to the test. Fame, fortune, egos, and pride have always threatened to pull bands apart, but does "brotherly love" hasten or hinder this process?
There's a nearly undeniable musical chemistry that brothers bring to a band, but does that always translate into success and longevity?
Let's find out.
Bands like Pantera, Van Halen, and AC/DC show that brothers can pump out some really great music for a long period of time without wanting to stab each other in the face. The Abbot brothers of Pantera and the Van Halen brothers formed unstoppable drummer - lead guitarist teams that created some truly killer grooves in their primes, while the Young brothers of AC/DC led a dual guitar attack that has become synonymous with classic hard rock. The Abbot brothers refused to let quarrels with vocalist Phil Anselmo to divide them in 2003, opting instead to leave Pantera and form Damageplan together, and were it not for an insane fan climbing onstage in 2004, I imagine the two of them would still be making music together today. The Van Halen brothers and Young brothers are founding members of their respective bands, and are the only perpetually active members of those bands to this day - 39 and 38 years later, respectively. Working with anyone for 40 straight years would put most peoples' sanity to the test, but these brothers clearly have a very special relationship that has helped them endure to this point, and make great music while doing so.
A younger Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC
On the flipside of this are the brother bands that haven't gotten along so well. These are the bands that have produced great music and gained all of the fame and fortune that the music world has to offer, but have allowed sibling rivalries to drive a wedge between them. The most obvious example would have to be Oasis, whose infamous public feud between brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher has provided fuel for the tabloids since the early 1990s. In 1994 Liam assaulted Noel with a tambourine in the middle of a show; in '95 Liam backed out of playing on an MTV Unplugged episode, only to sit in the balcony with a beer and berate Noel's singing between songs; in 2009 the brothers fought backstage before a show and Liam broke Noel's guitar, resulting in Noel finally quitting the band. Liam has been quoted as saying: "He doesn't like me and I don't like him. That's it."
Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis
Creedence Clearwater Revival is another famous victim of what we'll call the sibling rivalry effect. Brothers Tom and John Fogerty helped the band rise to fame incredibly quickly in the late 1960s, with Tom serving as the band's frontman. In 1971, Tom quit the band when John, swiftly taking on the role of frontman and lead vocalist, began to disregard Tom's songs, leaving him out of the writing process. A deep rift formed between the two, with jealousy, egos, and legal trouble with CCR's former label pushing the brothers further apart. The brothers were still estranged when Tom died in 1990 of AIDS complications.
There is hope for the future, however. There are quite a few modern bands with sibling pairings, and many seem to be headed in the right direction. Indie rockers Arcade Fire recently won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and count brothers Win and Will Butler as members. Up-and-coming indie rockers The National count two pairs of brothers among their ranks, and have shown no signs of internal conflict. Radiohead features brothers Colin and Jonny Greenwood. Hard rockers Chevelle are made up of brothers Pete and Sam Loeffler and their brother-in-law Dean Bernardini. These bands all promise a fairly bright future for brother bands, but it's hard to believe it will work out for all of them, considering the historical precedent set by Oasis, CCR, and others.
What have we learned from all this? Well, from the history here, it seems clear that no amount of shared genetics can make up for severe personality differences. Liam and Noel Gallagher could be conjoined at the hip and still not get along with one another. Some families just don't get along - that's what makes holiday gatherings so amusing. Yet, at the same time, some brothers have obviously made it work. Perhaps it's innate personality characteristics that help them thrive together. Perhaps it's a wealth of shared experiences. Maybe it's just good parenting. If there's a secret to raising kids that get along their whole lives, it's clear that no one has discovered it. If one wanted to find it, however, a good first step might include studying up on AC/DC and Van Halen.
By Alex Larsen