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.
A couple of weeks ago the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2020. T. Rex, The Doobie Brothers, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Whitney Houston and the Notorious B.I.G. Wow. Let’s sample some of that breadth.
Marc Bolan and T. Rex were credited with launching glam rock, and this video of their biggest hit “Bang a Gong” shows off some satin and glitter in a sea of other 1971 styles. And who’s that sitting in on keyboards? Someone who would set new standards for glam himself, Elton John!
Joan Jett covered T. Rex’s “Jeepster” for the tribute album AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. The album was released this past September, in time for the band’s Rock Hall induction, and Joan did a pandemic performance on The Late Late Show to show it off.
Depeche Mode got off the ground with their first U.K. top ten hit “Just Can’t Get Enough” in 1981. In 1984 they achieved their greatest single hit, “People Are People”, and 1989’s Violator was their masterpiece and top charting album. Here’s a video of “People Are People” and Johnny Cash’s cover of Violator’s “Personal Jesus”.
Whitney Houston scored three #1 singles from her eponymous 1984 debut album, including “How Will I Know” with a synth intro worthy of a Depeche Mode track.
One of the best selling singles of all time was Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” recorded for the movie The Bodyguard. The song was written and recorded by Dolly Parton nearly 20 years earlier. Since Whitney’s soaring chorus is burned into your memory, here’s Dolly’s original.