From its very beginnings, rock-and-roll has largely been the domain of upstart youngsters bucking against authority and musically sticking it “The Man.”
Yes, him. “The Man.”
There’s a reason that the gender of the all-scowling, all-buzz-killing ruling figure that’s keeping the rebel spirits down is what it is, and perhaps it’s the same reason why the affectionate term “mama” turns up so frequently in rock music, whereas references to any sort of the male equivalent remain largely relegated to the likes of the psychotic “papa-ooh-mow-mow” outburst at the end of the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird.”
For most of us, that first symbol of authority that we bump up against is dear old Dad. For a lot of rockers, father-child horn-locking can be extra intense, often producing some pretty cool songs. In time, though, the overwhelming majority of us who survive adolescence make peace with the old man and come to realize that he (almost) always had our best interests at heart. Then again, there are fathers like the ones listed here.
So be extra cool and groovy to your own Dad this Father’s Day, and bear in mind that, however much he drove you crazy when you were a kid, he’s not one of the eight worst dads in rock-and-roll history.
Alf “Freddie” Lennon/John Lennon (tie)
Father of: John Lennon/Julian Lennon
Sins of the Father: Abandoned his son at age 5. Both dads did this.
Alfred Lennon returned home from World War II in 1945, discovered his wife got knocked up by someone else while he was away, and then forced their five-year-old son, future Beatle John Lennon, to choose: her or me. Young John clung to his mum, and Alf stormed out, never speaking to John again until he showed up on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, looking to cash in on Beatlemania. And cash in, he did.
Under the name Freddie Lennon, John’s musician father released a series of records, including the 1965 single “That’s My Life,” which, musically, sounds unmistakably like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which followed six full years later. In 1966, when he was 56, Freddie married Pauline Jones, a 19-year-old Beatles fanatic who was then hired to babysit John’s own young son, Julian.
Speaking of Julian: John Lennon wailed and moaned, both in and out of his primal scream therapy sessions, about the pain of having been rejected by his father. In 1970, when Julian was five, John repeated that trauma by abandoning his own son and keeping him at a distance for the rest of his life. John cruelly even said Julian was an unwanted child who’d been conceived “out of a whiskey bottle.” Compounding Julian’s pain was the way John fawned over Sean Lennon, his son with Yoko Ono. Thus far, both Julian and Sean have not chosen to follow that same path. Whew!
Orvis Wesley Aday
Father of: Meat Loaf
Sins of the Father: Nicknamed his overweight boy Meat; attempted to carve college-age Meat up with a knife
Marvin Lee Aday grew up overweight, mocked, and pushed around in Dallas, Texas—almost entirely by his alcoholic cop dad Orvis Wesley Aday, a name that sounds like it could only belong to an alcoholic cop from Texas. Tensions between father and son grew so heated through the years that when Meat was 20, Orvis showed up to his college campus with a knife and came at his son like a mad slasher. Everybody walked away intact—physically, at least.
Orvis disappeared on benders for days on end, tormented his son for being fat to and driving young Marvin to stay for long periods with his grandmother. The upside of that is that Marvin learned to sing with his grandma both in and out of church. Orvis also has to be given a smidgen of credit for nicknaming his boy “Meat” in the first place.
Still, it’s not hard to guess who Meat Loaf was channeling while tearing up the part of the rock-hating a-hole dad of young Jack Black in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.
Father of: Katy Perry
Sins of the Father: Preaches that his pop star daughter is going to Hell; specifically markets himself as the father that preaches that his pop star daughter is going to Hell.
Katy Perry didn’t just start out of nowhere kissing girls and liking it, shooting whipped cream out of her boobs, and waking up in Vegas. The always provocative pop chanteuse grew up under the strict Christian tutelage of Keith Hudson, an ex-hippie acid freak who claims he talked to God in 1972 and who’s been a professional Bible babbler ever since.
During that time, Keith forbade his daughter from reading any book but the Bible, listening to any music that wasn’t Jesus-bolstering, and saying the word “devil,” even when referring to a style of eggs or a certain brand of vacuum cleaners.
Keith remains involved and affectionate with Katy, even though, you know, he’s aware that she’s going to burn in a pit of eternal hellfire and every so often he’s compelled to remind her and, more importantly, to point this out to his followers who are content to pay him to keep preaching the good word of bad fathering.
Father of: Mickey Hart
Sins of the Father: Managed the Grateful Dead’s finances; stole the Grateful Dead’s finances
Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart comes from percussive blood: his father, Lenny Hart, was also a drummer and the proprietor of the drum shop Hart Music in San Carlos, California.
Fortunately, Mickey inherited his old man’s skills at beat-keeping skills rather than book-keeping, as Lenny Hart had been managing the Dead’s finances through their spectacularly successful late-’60s period only to pocket $155,000 of the band’s money and then hightail it out of town.
A private eye tracked down Lenny a year later in San Francisco where he billed himself as a Reverend and baptized a flock of the foolish. A judge convicted Lenny of criminal embezzlement and sentenced him to six months in the slammer.
Poor Mickey Hart went into his own exile after his dad’s dirty deed, departing the Dead until 1974. The group did manage to create a cool tune about the incident, the pointedly titled, “He’s Gone.”
Father of Courtney Love
Sins of the Father: Supplied teenage Courtney with LSD and MDMA; claims he can prove his daughter had Kurt Cobain murdered; still hasn’t “proven it”
Longtime rock-and-roll burnout Hank Harrison once managed the Grateful Dead and, at various points, contributed to the rearing and shaping of his daughter Michelle Love Harrison, better known as Courtney Love.
In an extreme case of “cool dad goes too far,” Hank shipped hallucinogenic drugs to Courtney when she was an underage rock hanger-on in England, scoping out the music scene and/or potential future ex-husbands.
More recently, in 2014, Hank announced that he believed Courtney had her husband Kurt Cobain murdered in 1994 and that he could “prove her involvement with a high degree of certainty.” To date, he has kept any such “proof” to himself.
Father of: Michael Jackson, the rest of the Jackson 5, La Toya, Rebbie
Sins of the Father: Beat his children with a belt into show business, savaged Michael Jackson into becoming “Michael Jackson”
Joe Jackson is a frightening force with which to be reckoned. Looking and carrying himself like a cold-blooded Depression-era Cotton Club gangster, the steely-eyed patriarch of the musical Jackson dynasty has been reported—by his own children—to have pressured, badgered, bullied, and even severely beaten his brood into singing and dancing their way into global superstardom and, of course, his own personal fortune.
Really, just look at what became of Michael Jackson. According to brother Marlon Jackson, on at least one occasion, Joe held his young superstar son upside-down by one leg and “pummeled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks.” Just imagine, then, that in 2002, Michael said Marlon got it worse from Joe than he did!
Father of: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson
Sins of the Father: Beat Brian Wilson with a 2×4 wooden beam, making him go deaf in one ear; forced Brian to defecate on newspapers in the kitchen; punished his sons by removing his glass eye and forcing them to look into the socket; sold the Beach Boys’ music publishing for $750,000 when it was worth more than a billion; created a rival surf group to “challenge” his sons
Murry Wilson’s sheer evil approach to child-rearing would be sickly hilarious in a pitch-black comedy but, as it played out in real life, it’s as tragic and heartbreaking as the lives, and deaths, of his own sons.
The rage-inflamed abuse Murry rained down on his children is harrowing and not to be dealt with lightly. What can be openly goofed on, however, is his bizarre and stupid 1967 attempt to one-up his genius offspring Brian by putting out his own album, The Many Moods of Murry Wilson.
As pure kitsch, Many Moods is a hoot: space-age bachelor pad music combining cocktail jazz with retro-futurist flourishes to create an unintentionally campy good time. Although even in creating that amusing instrumental nonsense, Murry hurt his sons. The flop financials of Many Moods, along with non-selling releases by the Sunrays, a high school group Murry assembled to “take down” his offspring, were deducted from the Beach Boys’ royalties.
The surliest Brian Wilson ever got in response was in penning and performing the tune, “I’m Bugged at My Old Man.”
Marvin Gay Sr.
Father of: Marvin Gaye
Sins of the Father: Beat, tormented, and ultimately murdered Marvin Gaye
It takes a true unholy beast of horrific parenting to outrank the likes of Joe Jackson and Murry Wilson in the bad dad department and—praise no one!—the Reverend Marvin Pentz Gay Sr. managed to pull it off.
Yet another churchman gone diabolical, Marvin Gay Sr. took the Biblical advise to not “spare the rod” when disciplining children to grotesque extremes with his own four kids, beating them over every infraction, including not properly reciting scripture passages on demand. He unleashed his most vicious anger on Marvin Jr.
The preached subjected his son relentlessly to “brutal whippings,” prompting his mother Alberta to state in 1979: “My husband never wanted Marvin, and he never liked him. He didn’t love Marvin, and what’s worse, he didn’t want me to love Marvin either. Marvin wasn’t very old before he understood that.”
At the height of his superstardom, Marvin Gaye Jr. said that, “if it wasn’t for Mother, who was always there to console me and praise me for my singing, I think I would have been one of those child suicides you read about in the papers.”
Instead Gaye became the 44-year-old murder victim of his father in 1983 after the Reverend Gay shot him twice, once in the shoulder and once in the heart. Adding insult to fatal injury, Gay Sr. was only sentenced to a suspended six-year sentence and one year of probation. He died peacefully in 1998, at age 84, in a nursing home.
Happy Father’s Day, everybody!