Musical groups featuring family members date back as long as there has been music and/or families. So as both blood relations and close-quarters song crafting provide fertile ground for hot tempers and impassioned outbursts that spawn long-held grudges, in-fighting among musical siblings is likely an ancient tradition.
Jumping ahead through the centuries to when rock-and-roll upped the intensity of music overall, such familial donnybrooks also grew in volume and viciousness. In particular, brawls between brothers in the same band have been a staple of rock since the very beginning.
Let’s look back at seven of the most vitriolic and vituperative bro-against-bro(s) throw-downs in rock history.
Robin Gibb vs. Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees
The most enduring image of the Brothers Gibb is that of the three white-suited dance-floor stud-lords of Saturday Night Fever. Leonine eldest hunk Barry stands out in the middle, flanked by twins Maurice and Robin. Together, they look like a united, ecstatically smiling fraternal front.
Such was not always so. The Bee Gees first scored as an Australian phenomenon that conquered the music world just after the mid-1960s British Invasion with dramatic songs sung in lush three part harmonies. By the end of the decade, the Gibbs produced their (first) masterpiece, the two-disc concept album Odessa. As frequently happens during such processes, the strain of aiming for perfection coupled with the ascent of young egos tore the family dynamic asunder.
Robin Gibb, then just 19, very publicly parted ways with his siblings, citing Barry’s “very, very big persecution complex.” Insults were hurled via newspapers and other media, with poor Maurice trying to play peacemaker. Alas, Barry responded by announcing that, “If Robin walks back into the group, I walk out.”
For a year-and-a-half in the early ‘70s, the Bee Gees, suddenly a duo, and Robin, now solo, each enjoyed some success, particularly in the UK (one example was not the bizarre TV film, Cucumber Castle).
Eventually, hard hearts melted. In hindsight, Robin said, “It wasn’t the same going solo. It was horrible, a sham. I was miserable. I could never envisage composing with anyone but Barry. He brings out the best in me.” Not long after that, “Jive Talkin’” happened, and disco’s defining brother act hit their ultimate stride.
Brian Wilson vs. Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson (but really Mike Love) of the Beach Boys
As even the most casual observer of the Beach Boys knows, the truly volcanic bad blood in the group flows between chief songwriter Brian Wilson and his first cousin, Mike Love.
Of course, even before that ongoing, seemingly endless conflict, the Beach Boys’ original familial infighting occurred between Brian and his jealous, despotic father, Murry Wilson.
All this is to say that the Beach Boys’ idyllic imagery and heavenly harmonies have always arisen from bad blood and even full-on hatred. None of it, though, is more poignant than those times that Brian found himself at odds with his brothers in the group, Carl and Dennis Wilson.
The most celebrated of their splits came over Smile, Brian Wilson’s unfinished (with the Beach Boys) masterwork, “a teenage symphony to God” that drove the composer literally to madness, prompting him to destroy the work before taking it up again decades later.
Growing out from the psychedelic smash “Good Vibrations” and the landmark Pet Sounds album, Smile baffled Mike Love. He believed the Beach Boys had a great thing going with their surf songs about cars and girls, and he didn’t trust Brian’s muse to lead the group anywhere but to ruin.
Carl and Dennis, however passively, suspected Mike was right. Still, Love and the other Wilsons went along for the Smile ride, only to witness Brian leading his own crash and burn.
The Wilson brothers never raged against one another in public as other rock siblings have—let along Mike and Brian. Still, Carl and Dennis kept playing with Mike after Brian faded in and out of the group, each battling their own demons and meeting unhappy ends.
Dennis Wilson, who notoriously paled around with the Manson Family for a spell, drowned at 39 in 1983. Carl Wilson, at 51, succumbed to lung cancer in 1998. Brian Wilson and Mike Love continue, in one form or another, to do battle.
Chris Robinson vs. Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes emerged in the early 1990s just as hair metal was fading and grunge commenced its surge toward dominance of the Alterna-Decade.
Fronted by archetypal rock star Chris Robinson and powered by his guitar-slinging kid brother Rich Robinson, the Black Crowes echoed back to the high classic rock era with their bluesy, jammy, southern-fried soulful sound. They also brought revivified the enduring rock trope of sibling rivalry that flares up into all-out warfare.
A 1999 episode of VH1 Behind the Music uses the brothers’ relentless conflicts as it’s the thrust narrative, with Chris and Rich going at it on stage and off, often over music, but just as often over… anything and everything.
The main topic over which the Robinsons clashed was Chris’s partying. The guitarist’s nasty habits and resulting bad behavior got the Crowes booted from tours with Aerosmith and ZZ Top and, according to some observers, may well have torpedoed the band from being one of the top rock acts of all time. Rich, meanwhile, remained sober throughout the band’s rise.
At one point, Rich decreed that the Crowes organization would immediately fire anyone who gave drugs to Chris. In turn, Chris proclaimed that he’d personally fire anybody who didn’t hook him up with drugs. Such defines the Robinsons’ relationship.
Money, too, has also riled up the Robinsons.
In the quarter-century since they first hit, the Black Crowes have made noise about calling it quits repeatedly. Their most recent demise occurred in January 2015, with Rich Robinson announcing, “It is with great disappointment and regret that after having the privilege of writing and performing the music of The Black Crowes over the last 24 years, I find myself in the position of saying that the band has broken up. I love my brother and respect his talent but his present demand that I must give up my equal share of the band and that our drummer for 28 years and original partner, Steve Gorman, relinquish 100 percent of his share, reducing him to a salaried employee, is not something I could agree to.”
And so the Crowes fly. For now.
Don Everly vs. Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers
Rock’s first huge sibling act and arguably still its most influential, the Everly Brothers massively impacted not only the sound but also style of music for decades to come.
The Beatles cited the Everlys as one a profound inspiration and that sentiment was echoed by every major singer of the classic rock era. Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis even named his son Everly.
Don Everly and Phil Everly also established early on the template for family members who achieve angelic harmony on stage while despising each other like hell whenever they’re not playing together. Even among their first fans in the 1950s, the Don and Phil Everly were nicknamed, “The Hatred Brothers.”
Phil Everly himself put it best in 1970 by noting, “We’ve only ever had one argument, and we’ve been having it for 25 years.”
That always simmering, sometimes flaring up conflict erupted in full during a Knott’s Berry Farm show in 1973 when Phil showed up drunk for a concert and repeatedly forgot his lyrics. Don, who had previously battled addiction and mental health issues, slammed his guitar down on the stage and announced to the crowd, “I’m through with being an Everly Brother.” Poor, soused Phil attempted to soldier on as the audience booed, finally just saying, “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.”
It would be another ten years before Don and Phil got back together and even then, while recording for rock star producer Dave Edmunds, they wouldn’t sing in the studio at the same time. Nor would they do interviews together.
Following that first reunion, the Everly Brothers performed and recorded sporadically. In 2003 and 2004, Don and Phil notably played with Simon and Garfunkel, who had a hit with their cover of the Everlys’ “Wake Up Little Susie” and who very much followed in the brothers’ footsteps as a feuding duo.
Sadly, Phil Everly died from cancer in 2014. So, one way or another, that feud has been laid to rest.
Liam Gallagher vs. Noel Gallagher of Oasis
Oasis led the 1990s Britpop movement fueled by the singing and personal dynamism of Liam Gallagher along with the guitar playing, songwriting, and backing vocals by his older brother, Noel Gallagher. At the time, much was made in the UK press about Oasis’s feud with rival group Blur but, truly, that was a mere squeak when compared to the thunderous roar of blowouts between the Brothers Gallagher.
Brothers fight, of course, but few brothers have fought with such consistency as the Gallaghers did from the beginning of Oasis in 1991 up to the band’s post-concert collapse in 2009. Notably, Liam smashed Noel in the skull with a tambourine during a 1994 Los Angeles performance. Six years later, while getting drunk, Liam joked about Noel’s daughter being the product of his ex-wife’s infidelity, prompting the older Gallagher to pummel the hell out of the younger. They didn’t speak to one another for the next five years.
Finally, in 2009, a backstage Gallagher throw-down in Paris forced Oasis to cancel their show just moments before it was scheduled to start. Immediately afterward, Noel stated: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
The Gallagher brothers reportedly remained estranged, although they took shots at one another in the press. Not long ago, Noel labeled Liam “crazy”, to which Liam replied, ““Everyone knows my feelings, I’m not shy with that. I love our kid – as in the Noel that’s not in a band. But the geezer that’s in the band? I f—ing, absolutely f—ing, despise him.”
Then, in March 2015, when the UK press reported the Liam and Noel might have made peace at a family wedding. Each brother also recently tweeted semi-cryptic but overall positive support for the other’s present musical projects.
John Fogerty vs. Tom Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival began their incandescent rock-and-roll journey first as the Blue Velvets and later as the Golliwogs before coming up with their unique, instantly indelible moniker. One other major change the band made was switching frontman Tom Fogerty to rhythm guitar, and letting his kid brother, John Fogerty, step out front. “I could sing,” Tom once said, “but John had a sound.”
John also became CCR’s leader and chief songwriter, piloting the group through the 1960s to become on of the true giants of the classic rock era. The formula worked until 1970, when Tom felt his sibling had turned into a dictator, prompting the elder Fogerty to quit the band. Creedence limped along for two more years before all involved threw in their trademark flannel shirts.
Aesthetics and personal style aside, money destroyed whatever personal relationship was left between John, Tom, and the other CCR members later in the ’70s when it when a disastrous deal with Fantasy Records impresario Saul Zaentz came to light. Zaentz made a fortune and built a Hollywood empire from his CCR earnings. The group, meanwhile, was broke, and they viewed it as John’s fault.
Tragically, in 1990, Tom died after contracting AIDS from a surgical mishap. The brothers never made peace. John eulogized his older brother at his funeral, acknowledging his regret for what happened to their relationship by saying, “We wanted to grow up and be musicians. I guess we achieved half of that, becoming rock-and-roll stars. We didn’t necessarily grow up.”
Ray Davies vs. Dave Davies of The Kinks
Ray and Dave Davies, the respective frontman and lead guitarist of the British visionaries the Kinks, continue to keep the hellfire alight in the longest-burning family feud in rock-and-roll history.
The Davies brothers first launched the Kinks in 1963. As pioneers of hard rock (making particular future impact on punk and heavy metal) combative combustibility drove the Kinks from the get go.
The fuel that kept that angry engine charging forward, though, was most often the animosity between Ray and younger sibling Dave. More than a half-century later, remarkably, they continue to go at it.
“I think Ray has been happy for only three years in his life,” Dave Davies once said, “and those were the three years before I was born.”
Ray and Dave tangled on stage and off, punching one another out before audiences of thousands and tearing one another apart in the press. They, of course, made unique, fantastically great music along the way—including the 1993 duet “Hatred” in which the Davies send up their own warring image—but the personal toll prompted the brothers to officially retire the Kinks in 1996.
Continuous calls for a Kinks reunion, since then, have gone unheralded. In fact, frequently when one Davies or another responds to such rumblings in public, it cracks open a new rift and the prospects grow dimmer each time.
After Ray announced in 2010 that Dave was “coming around” to the notion of getting the Kinks back together, the guitarist responded, “You don’t need to see silly old men in wheelchairs singing, ‘You Really Got Me.’” He also added, pithily, “Ray’s an a—hole” before elaborating that his big brother was “toxic” and “a vampire.”
In more recent years the Davies brothers were each said to be slowly moving toward the idea of a reunion. Ray has said that what’s stopping them is Dave’s issue with drummer Mick Avory (Dave and Mick also brawled on stage in the ’60s). In June 2015, Dave insisted that’s not true.
Thus, the legend of the brotherly Kinks feud continues on, deep into the 21st century. The really got us.