Brothers In Arms – Famous Siblings In Rock N Roll

Here a beady eye is cast over the fractious family ties that bind some of rock’s greatest bands together.


Eddie and Alex Van Halen

The world of rock and roll can be a very strange place indeed. Twenty four hour parties, thousands of adulating fans baying for blood at the sight of their fans and midgets carrying trays of cocaine merely for the convenience of their height. It stands as a good trait therefore to have somebody by your side during this rollercoaster ride of drugs, debauchery and general excess. Who else then would fit the bill than that of a loving sibling. Here the tenuous, tender and sometimes terrible sibling relationships in hard rock music are explored.


Siblings have a very special, cerebral connection with each other, that is a known biological fact. But, as most readers are aware, this volatile chemistry of shared genetics, backgrounds and other family members more often than not will result in violent, murderous rage between them. Add in the wonderfully out of control pastiche of rock and roll and the results tend to be very, very exciting.

Kicking off this list of genetically similar, musical mayhem is the Young brothers of AC/DC. Arguably two of the most successful, in terms of both musical ability and net gross income, Malcolm and Angus Young have been wowing fans with their balls to the wall, toe tapping, bar brawling, three chord riffs for almost forty years. With the honour of having sold over 200 million albums worldwide in a career that spans five decades, the Young brothers are responsible for such hits as “Back in Black”, “Hells Bells”, “You shook me all Night Long” and of course “Highway to Hell.” They are also notable for having remained in their original band with each other for their duration, a testimony to the harmony and musical vision the two siblings share.

Taking one for the girls next are Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. In the long and storied history of rock and roll there have been few, if any, sister teams who have created such a lasting legacy as the Wilsons. Starting their careers as folk oriented, post hippy lyricists, Ann and Nancy formed Heart and took a much harder, edgier direction in the late seventies that has carried on to this very day, their signature song “Barracuda” coming in 1977. With a whopping thirteen albums intermittently spaced from 1973 onwards, the latest being 2010’s Red Velvet Car, the Wilson sisters have remained a strong, iron willed backbone to the Seattle music scene since their inception. A little lesbacious controversy in the late 70s rumouring the two to be lovers also makes them cool.

Fast forwarding to a much more recent and altogether heavier sounding band are Pantera. Formed by brothers Vinnie Paul and “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, the heavy, thrash and groove metal pioneers and industry leaders are still considered major players from the early days of commercially recognized heavy metal music. Although the band split in 2003 after twenty two years and nine albums later, Pantera’s legacy can still be seen in the city and town centers all across the globe as generation after generation of young teenage blod lusters feed off of their organically grown metal mania. Their thrashing drums and blistering guitar shredding is no more apparent than on hits such as “Cowboys from Hell”, “Walk” and “I’m Broken.”

Last and by no means least are the Van Halens of, surprise surprise, Van Hagar… Halen rather. Along with the Youngs, the Van Halens are two of the most commericially successful sibling combos in all of music, not just harder rock and airwave metal. With Eddie on guitar and Alex on drums, the dutch ex patriot brothers skyrocketed to success off of the back of a string of hugely successful albums in the 1980s. Famed as much for their off stage antics as they were on, along with “Diamond” David Lee Roth their front man and all round hellraiser, the Van Halens scored with the excellent combination of genuine, classically trained musical ability and the love for the rock and roll lifestyle. Must listenable hits include “Runnin’ with the Devil”, “Panama”, “Women in Love” and “Drop Dead Legs”. In keeping with true rock and roll tradition, the band still tours with Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass.

Of course these are but a fraction of the sibling combos that have gone on to forge the embittered, bile spewing world of rock and roll. Honorable mentions go to John and Tome Fogherty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks and of course Duane and Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers band whom without we would never have “Jessica”. Or put another way, Top Gear would be even worse.

Jonathan Whitelaw


More info can be found at the bands’ official websites: http://www.acdc.com, http://www.heart-music.com, http://www.pantera.com and http://www.van-halen.com

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