All in the Family

On Friday Wolfgang Van Halen, son of guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, released his first album, Mammoth. Wolfgang began playing alongside his dad, as bassist in the band Van Halen, in 2007 at age sixteen. Though the full album just came out, the song “Distance” was released in November 2020, a few weeks after Eddie’s death. The song and video are moving tributes to the close relationship between this father and son.

There have been, of course, many well known parent / child musicians. Think Natalie Cole, Mylie Cyrus, Arlo Guthrie and Nora Jones among the most famous, with Jakob Dylan, Dweezil Zappa, Sean Lennon, and the trio of Wilson Phillips all having solid careers as well. But it isn’t often that musicians get to play with their parents as Wolfgang and Eddie did.

Roseanne and Johnny Cash recorded “September When It Comes”, and released it in 2003, just a few months before Johnny died. Roseanne played it at his memorial service.

Nas is the son of jazz / American roots musician Olu Dara, and in 2004 they teamed up on “Bridging the Gap”. The song was featured on Nas’ album, Street’s Disciple. By the way, if you are not familiar with Olu Dara, check him out.

Unpacking Jack White’s Set on SNL

Jack White was the musical guest on last night’s Saturday Night Live, and in a possessed six-minute performance he threaded together a full century of music history of mixed genres, as only this musicologist can. The performance starts with lines from the “Don’t Hurt Yourself” collaboration he did with Beyoncé for her Lemonade album, shifted into “Ball and Biscuit” from the White Stripe’s Elephant album, and quoted lyrics from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus is Coming Soon”, a 1928 gospel song about the Spanish Flu epidemic.

So, here you go with the SNL performance, followed by Beyoncé’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, a live performance of “Ball and Biscuit”, and the original “Jesus is Coming”. The full lyrics to Johnson’s song are straight out of today’s headlines.

White’s second performance last night included a nod to Eddie Van Halen, who passed away on Tuesday. White played his own tune “Lazaretto” on an EVH brand guitar, and did some “tapping” at 2:40 – the stylistic touch Van Halen perfected if not invented.