There are a lot of metaphors you can use to describe a rock band and its members: they’re an artistic collective, a corporation, a street gang. But one of the most enduring is this: a rock group is a family. And so it’s no accident that rock & roll has plenty of musicians who are actually related by blood. It can be hard to swallow taking orders from your brother, even if he’s a genius – that’s why the most contentious rock bands are those with two brothers locking horns. As famous rock critic Leo Tolstoy observed, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
With their intertwined country harmonies, no brothers could have sounded closer. But as their career faded in the Sixties, the tension between Don and Phil Everly steadily grew. It didn't help, of course, that they both got addicted to speed. The Everly Brothers finally parted ways during a 1973 show at the Knott's Berry Farm amusement park in Buena Park, California. Phil destroyed his guitar and stormed off the stage; Don told the flabbergasted crowd that the duo had broken up and finished the show by himself. In the following ten years, the two brothers spoke only once – at their father's funeral. (Phil died in January 2014.)
The battles of Dave Davies (the Kinks' founder and lead guitarist) and Ray Davies (the principal singer and songwriter) are legendary: onstage, offstage, in the studio, in the backs of cars. Ray throws curry at Dave to emphasize a point; Dave gets into a heated argument with Ray and then ends up with a black eye when he tells off the drummer for not taking his side. "Nothing good ever happened without a fight of some kind," Dave said. "As the years wore on, the struggles became greater, the battles more brutal, the mind games more intense, weirder, and the lows much lower." Whether or not the two can put aside their differences for a reunion tour has been the subject of dozens of news stories over the past few years.
The Bee Gees were one of the longest-running family bands ever, with a career that lasted from 1958 to 2003. "Robin was really competitive with me," said the band's frontman (and eldest brother) Barry. In the early years of the group, the two competed for the role of lead vocalist; when Barry won that battle, Robin left the group for a solo career. He ended up releasing six solo albums before his death in 2012, but achieved his greatest success singing backup to Barry. What bonded the brothers after years of dissension: the death of Maurice Gibb (Robin's twin). "When we lost Mau, Robin and I gravitated back towards each other a little bit," Barry said.
Tom Fogerty was the band's original lead singer. But by the time it was called Creedence Clearwater Revival, his little brother John was the sole singer and songwriter. The fact that John was vastly more talented than Tom didn't stop the demotion from rankling. "It's an unnatural situation having your younger brother lead the group you're in," Tom said. In an angry letter to John, he wrote, "You have never given me (or Doug or Stu) credit in public." The bitterness only grew after Tom quit the band –decades later, friends had to plead with John to visit Tom's deathbed.
For decades, Gregg Allman played in the Allman Brothers Band as the singular Allman brother: his older sibling Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971. But when they were both still alive, Duane never let his little brother forget who was boss. As kids with a lemonade stand, he made Gregg do the work; when Gregg was about to get drafted, Duane convinced him to take a bullet in his foot instead. And when Gregg was reluctant to join a band with him, Duane knew how to push his buttons: "You can snivel on out of here," Duane told him. "If you don't try, don't call yourself my brother."
Jermaine Jackson always felt like the superstardom achieved by his little brother Michael could and should have been his. The culmination of that resentment: Jermaine's 1991 single "Word to the Badd!!" where he attacked Michael for his extensive plastic surgery. "Michael and I have never feuded," Jermaine claimed. "The only reason I wrote this song – and it came from the bottom of my heart – was to help my little brother get a grip on reality." For his part, Michael apparently sabotaged Jermaine's solo career. According to record executive Clive Davis, when Michael found out Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds was going to produce a Jermaine album, Michael deliberately kept Babyface too busy to do it.
The noise-pop Scottish band, longtime cult favorites, were fueled by alcohol and conflict. "We do fight, and there's no getting around it," Jim Reid said. On their 1998 U.S. tour, a Los Angeles gig that lasted just 15 minutes featured Jim knocking over microphone stands and the brothers arguing with each other – "Play anything but that," Jim said – and ended with William quitting the tour. Reportedly, the band's tour manager considered calling the Reids' mother back in the United Kingdom to see if she could get them to settle down.
Brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher didn't just pay tribute to their favorite Sixties bands by swiping their sound and melodies wholesale: they also re-enacted the primal brotherly conflict of groups like the Kinks with constant insults and punch-ups. (They stopped doing joint interviews because they got into fistfights in front of reporters.) Call it a cover version of sibling rivalry – one of their in-studio arguments was even released as a single in England, entitled "Wibbling Rivalry." Noel on Liam, in 2000: "If I wasn't related to him, I'd have sacked him fucking four years ago."
Singer Chris Robinson bought hundreds of records growing up; guitarist Rich Robinson says he never had to, because he could just steal Chris'. The Black Crowes' two brothers wrote dozens of songs together, but sometimes they had to ride on separate tour buses. "We could sit in the same room, but all you'd get out of Rich would be 'fuck you,'" Chris once told Rolling Stone. "Brotherly love, you know?" (And then he took another hit off the bong. Really.) Rich's take: "Chris and I have one unwritten rule – we can't hit each other in the face."
It might be inevitable for a band with two pairs of brothers in it (Scott and Bryan Devendorf and identical twins Aaron and Bryce Desner) to be a hotbed of sibling rivalry. The 2013 documentary Mistaken for Strangers, however, was a portrait of a different axis of fraternal tension: the National's lead singer Matt Berninger invited his brother Tom to come on tour with the band to work as a roadie and to make a movie. Tom proved hapless as a roadie and got kicked off the tour after he forgot to get on the bus. But as a filmmaker, he got great footage of his brother, like the time a frustrated Matt asked him, "Do you have any kind of organization and plan for this film?"
The three Followill brothers in Kings of Leon – Nathan, Caleb, and Jared – spent their childhood on the road. Dad was a Pentecostal preacher; the Followill role models were, apparently, Cain and Abel. After singer Caleb left the stage halfway through a Kings of Leon concert in July 2011, bassist Jared said fans should "hate Caleb, not us." Nathan (the band's drummer) and Caleb can get into a fight over a game of pool or shuffleboard; one drunken night in 2007 climaxed with Nathan dislocating Caleb's shoulder, breaking a $7,000 mirror, and stabbing Caleb's bed with a kitchen knife. Brotherly love as captured in the documentary Talihina Sky: "You get drunk and you talk shit," Nathan screamed at Caleb. "Your band cannot stand you!"
Sure, they weren't biologically related (Joey was born Jeffrey Hyman, Johnny was born John Cummings). But they took on the same last name in the mid-Seventies, and then had a legendary feud (over a woman, Linda Daniele, who had dated Joey and ultimately married Johnny) that was so bitter it basically proved that they really were brothers. In most families would have meant loud arguments every Thanksgiving, but for the Ramones it meant decades of high-octane gigs where the band's two main members weren't speaking to each other.