Cover Story: Dad Rock

A look at some of music's great artists and their musically inclined sons

Jun 15, 2000 at 2:06 pm

John and Sean and Julian Lennon
Dad: John was behind some '60s band called The Beatles and forged a successful career afterwards with his timeless, soulful Pop magic.

Sons: Julian strove for a career mimicking his pop's old band (and David Bowie, for a short period) and had success with his debut album in the '80s; Sean has played bass with Cibo Matto (his girlfriend's band), with his mother Yoko Ono, and released his solo Into the Sun a couple of years ago on the super-hip Grand Royal label.

Ever performed together: Not publicly. John's relationship with Julian (spawned from his marriage to his first wife, Cynthia) was strained, while Sean (who shared John's birthday) was essentially raised by his father until his death.

Musical similarities: The Beatles influence can be heard in both sons' music but, while Julian's has its moments, he never gets out of pop's shadow. John's influence on Sean shows mostly in his desire to experiment in his approach.

Musical difference: Oddly, Julian's more recent work seems more like Paul McCartney's output (bitterness, perhaps?) than John's. Sean's solo album explores Tropicalia sounds and owes a bigger debt to Brian Wilson's orchestral quirks.

Proof of a musical gene: Yeah, from both of 'em.

Student surpasses teacher: We'll see ... but it's highly unlikely. Those are some big-ass shoes.

Bob and Ziggy Marley
Dad: The king of Reggae, Bob Marley helped bring the music to a worldwide audience for the first time.

Son: Led the Melody Makers with some other siblings and had a few hits, like "Tomorrow People."

Ever performed together: Ziggy, the oldest child in the Marley clan, sat in with the Wailers starting at age 10. He and a few sisters and brothers recorded "Children Playing in the Streets" with Bob (who died in 1981 when Ziggy was 13).

Musical similarities: Vocal tone and delivery-wise, Ziggy is a dead-ringer. And Ziggy's most recent concert outings have featured mostly Bob Marley songs.

Musical difference: Ziggy's solo work incorporated modern technological touches.

Proof of a musical gene: Bob has a ton of very talented kids, so yeah.

Student surpasses teacher: Never in a million years.

Woody and Arlo Guthrie

Dad: Woody Guthrie is the most influential Folk artist ever, and one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of the 20th century overall.

Son: Best known for the comical but still socially-conscious "Alice's Restaurant," Arlo remains a Folk festival staple.

Ever performed together: No. Woody was hospitalized for most of Arlo's youth, and Arlo never even heard him perform live.

Musical similarities: Arlo, who got to hang out with people like Leadbelly and Pete Seeger growing up, has a similar voice and his songs mix the political, romantic and humorous, just like Pops. But he, like Ziggy Marley, eventually turned to covering much of his elder's material in concert.

Musical difference: Arlo is perhaps more acclaimed for his acoustic guitar playing than daddy.

Proof of a musical gene: Yeah, somewhat, but passing genes through relatives is an unfortunately touchy subject: Woody died from the genetic Huntington's disease, as did his mother. Arlo hasn't been struck by it yet.

Student surpasses teacher: Again, that's just too big of a task for anybody.

Billy Joe and Eddy Shaver
Dad: Billy Joe Shaver is a legendary Country music songwriter, penning hits for Kris Kristofferson and even Elvis Presley. The first "Outlaw" Country album, Honky Tonk Heroes from 1973, by Waylon Jennings, featured all Shaver songs. Shaver then pursued a fairly successful solo career.

Son: Guitarist Eddy Shaver toured with Dwight Yoakam's band through the '80s and performed on several of dad's albums.

Ever performed together: In 1993, the two "officially" joined forces musically and began to record and perform under the name "Shaver."

Musical similarities: It's pretty obvious that growing up with Billy Joe and his dad gave Eddy an invaluable insight into true, pure and raw Country music.

Musical difference: Eddy seems to give Shaver's more recent work a more modern, "Roots Rock" edge (not that dad is a slouch in that department either).

Proof of a musical gene: Oh yeah.

Student surpasses teacher: It's apples and oranges, seeing how Eddy is mostly a guitarist, and Billy Joe is better known as a singer and a songwriter.

Loudon and Rufus Wainwright
Dad: Loudon Wainwright is a Folk/Rock singer/songwriter who had a hit with "Dead Skunk" in the early '70s. He's maintained a strong following with his often humorous songs about every day life.

Son: Rufus was nominated for Canadian awards for his work as a 14-year-old, but his true debut (a self-titled release on Dreamworks) in 1998 broke him around the world and was a regular on year-end Top 10 lists that year.

Ever performed together: Loudon divorced Rufus' mom, musician Kate McGarrigle, when he was very young, leading Rufus to live in Canada with his mother. Rufus performed with the McGarrigle Sisters and Family for years, and last August the whole clan (including Loudon) reunited for a Canadian Folk fest. Papa Wainwright also helped get Rufus signed by passing a demo tape to some high-profile friends.

Musical similarities: Both are really immersed in the craft of songwriting and have a similar keen, insightful style of writing.

Musical difference: Rufus is pretty far from Folk music; instead he carves out his own unique Baroque Pop niche.

Proof of a musical gene: The vocal similarities and songwriting gift they share would suggest "yes," as does the fact that Loudon's daughters have also enjoyed individual success in music.

Student surpasses teacher: Rufus shows a lot of promise, while, these days, Loudon seems to not be making a lot of forward progress creatively. Time will tell. ©