What was your first job? For many, like myself, the first time going to work was with my father. I’d get up at zero dark thirty, stumble groggily to the car and go with him to work for part of the summer when I was 14. I’d do the grunt work, things like take inventory, clean up, basically all the stuff he didn’t want to do. All the full time employees were happy to have me around, because I would also do the stuff they didn’t want to do. I was the gofer, the low man on the totem pole. A lot of people get their start in the workforce this way. Now, let’s pretend my dad wasn’t running an auto parts warehouse. Let’s say he was a famous musician.
Would everyone be so accommodating, if I wanted to join that family business? It seems everyone has an opinion on the offspring of musicians that also want to do the same thing as mom or dad. Is this fair?
Genetics say, they should have a leg up on everyone else. The talent probably runs in the family. If you’re the son or daughter you’ve got a choice to make if you want to go into music. Do you go it alone or get assistance. More often than not, you don’t get the chance to make that choice. The record company would make it for you. The choice being do you want to try to make it on your own merits? You can do this by changing your name, or going into a completely different genre than your parent.
The other side of the coin is, you can use your name and get an instant fan base by trying to slingshot your career off your parents established name. Which is the better way to go? There are pros and cons either way you go.
Let’s say you use your family name. Now maybe the dad, take John Lennon, for example is a huge star. The expectations for Julian (or Sean) was way out of proportion. There was no way he could live up to what his father did. Sure people checked him out because of his name and the fact that he looked so much like him. People so wanted his music to equal that of his father but it just wasn’t at that level. MTV was all over having that SOB (SOB=Son of a Beatle) on their airwaves. And to be fair his music is not bad, not up to our expectations, but not bad.
Alternatively you could do it on your own merits. Another SOB is Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son. He did not use his father’s stage name and has had a more than 30 year career playing drums for bands like Oasis and The Who. He’s very well respected. This respect, of course, he earned, but being Ringo’s son couldn’t have hurt.
There are very few cases of the child’s career outshining the parents. Only a few come to mind. Miley Cyrus has definitely sold more records than her, once mulleted dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. Norah Jones has done it, more subtly, her dad being Ravi Shankar. I’m going to call it a tie between Julio and Enrique Iglesias.
Some musical parents are doing the same thing my dad did with me. Getting them up and taking them to work. Eddie Van Halen put his son Wolfgang in the band playing bass. Wolf probably had to do the same thing I did, all the stuff dad didn’t want to I can hear it now.
Eddie: “Wolf, will you go over there. It’s your turn to listen to that David Lee Roth story I’ve heard a million times.”
You don’t know, it could’ve happened that way.
I recently spoke with Robin Zander of Cheap Trick’s son. His name is coincidently also Robin. He goes by Robin Taylor. He’s a musician, plying his craft in Nashville. I asked him what his music sounds like. He thought about it of for a minute and then said. “Well, it’s a lot like my dad’s.”
What have we learned? The issue seems to be with us and our expectations more than with the person creating the music. We shouldn’t accept or dismiss someone just because of their name. Listen to their work, decide if it is up to your standards. But be honest and ask yourself if you aren’t judging them based on their parent. Let them pass or fail on their own talent.