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Music’s 30 Fiercest Feuds and Beefs

From classic-rock squabbles to hip-hop diss tracks and social media wars, here are the ridiculous, rancorous conflicts that have held us rapt

Creative differences, financial disputes, drug abuse, love triangles – in the music industry, the opportunities to butt heads are basically limitless. The bigger the star, the bigger the ego, and when two tangle, you get a supernova of spite and bile that holds the world in rapture, turning mature adults into spit-flecked children chanting “Fight, fight, fight!” in a circle at recess.

Many clashes are over in a flash, while others drag out for years and even decades. Some feuds are undoubtedly hilarious, birthing otherworldly insults like Liam Gallagher’s “Potato” and Mariah Carey’s beyond catty “I don’t know her,” both of which will live on until the end of the Internet. Others are tragic and have no possible upside as friendships, bands, families and even lives are destroyed in the process. Others still have inspired an entire sub-category of song that crosses all genre boundaries: the diss track. (See: “Bad Blood,” “Swish Swish,” about 25 percent of all rap songs.)

Read on for 30 of the most explosive beefs in music history. Pick a side, or simply spectate. No judgment.

Simon and Garfunkel Performing (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon

Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty

Paul Simon vs. Art Garfunkel

The childhood friends first recorded together as teenagers in 1957, but as Garfunkel began to focus on his academic career, Simon quietly inked a solo side deal. Garfunkel took it as a serious betrayal when he learned of his musical partner’s extracurricular endeavors, and the incident would be a sore point in the decades to come.

After the two scored global fame in the mid-Sixties, long-held resentments made the union a ticking time bomb. The detonation occurred in late 1968 when director Mike Nichols offered them both roles in his adaptation of the book Catch-22. Simon’s character was cut before production began, so Garfunkel flew solo to shoot in Mexico. Initially Simon had been supportive of the outing, even penning “The Only Living Boy in New York” as a tender good luck for his old friend. But as the three-month film shoot stretched into nearly a year, Simon grew frustrated by the delay.

Garfunkel’s eventual return failed to repair relations, and the two clashed over differing musical ideas. Simon had written a song called “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” which he presented as a potential 12th track on what would become Bridge Over Troubled Water. Garfunkel, turned off by its overt political commentary, suggested doing a Haitian Creole chorale called “Feuilles-O.” Neither side would budge. The album was released with only 11 songs, and the pair decided to go their separate ways.

It was during a professional nadir in 1981 that they agreed to reunite at a free concert in New York’s Central Park. The performance became of one of the biggest musical events in history, drawing an unparalleled 500,000 people to the Great Lawn. A world tour was planned for May 1982, but it wasn’t long before they fell into the same destructive patterns. Things weren’t any better in the studio as they worked on an all-new Simon & Garfunkel album to be called Think Too Much. In the end, Simon wiped Garfunkel’s vocal tracks and set about finishing the songs as a solo effort.

Eyebrows were raised during their somewhat frosty Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 1990. Garfunkel started off sincere, saying, “I want to thank most of all the person who has most enriched my life by putting these great songs through me: My friend Paul here.” It should have been a touching moment of reconciliation, save for Simon’s parting joke. “Arthur and I agree about almost nothing,” he said. “But it’s true, I have enriched his life quite a bit, now that I think about it.”

The men hit the road for high-profile reunion tours in 1993, 2003 and 2010, but it never stuck. The same unexplainable force that blends their voices together in celestial harmony also compels them to spend the majority of their time apart.

Rhythm guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. (Photo by Graham Wiltshire/Getty Images); British singer-songwriter and pianist Elton John at his home in Wentworth, Surrey, during a shoot for the cover of 'Elton John's Greatest Hits', 1974. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)

Keith RIchards and Elton John

Graham Wiltshire, Terry O'Neill/Getty

Keith Richards vs. Elton John

“Lovely bloke,” Richards said of John in a 1988 Rolling Stone interview, “but posing.” The venomous dig was prompted by John’s recent single, “I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That,” but some wondered if Keef harbored a grudge against John for outstaying his welcome during a guest appearance – which stretched to 10 songs – at a 1975 Rolling Stones concert in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Whatever the cause of the rift, Richards didn’t hold back when asked his thoughts on “Candle in the Wind 1997,” John’s musical elegy for friend Princess Diana. Though profits from the single were donated to charity, Richards said the rewrite of John’s 1973 tribute to Marilyn Monroe “did jar a bit” in an October 1997 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Songs for Dead Blondes,” he pronounced. “I’d find it difficult to ride on the back of something like that myself, but Reg [John’s birth name] is showbiz.” He echoed the sentiment a short time later and took aim at John’s theatrical stage style.

John fought back in an interview published by the Daily News that same month. “I’m glad I’ve given up drugs and alcohol. It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He’s pathetic, poor thing. It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go onstage and look young. I have great respect for the Stones but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago. … I just think he’s an asshole and I have for a long time.” He also refuted the accusations of Vegas-level theatrics. “Please, if the Rolling Stones aren’t show business, then what is? You know, with their inflatable naked women.”

John went on the offensive in 2011 when he criticized Richards’ recent autobiography, Life, which featured some unflattering details about Jagger’s anatomy. “I was a bit put off by hearing about the bit about Mick Jagger’s penis,” he said. “If I said that [songwriting partner] Bernie Taupin was a miserable twat and had a small penis, he’d probably never talk to me again. It’s like, why do that?”

Relations between the two rock icons thawed in September 2015, when fellow Stone Ronnie Wood was able to broker a truce long enough for Richards and John to pose for a photo at the GQ Awards in London.

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen at the US Festival on 5/29/83 in Ontario, CA. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen

Paul Natkin/WireImage

David Lee Roth vs. Eddie Van Halen

Tensions simmered during the 1983 sessions for 1984. David Lee Roth resented the decision to record at Eddie Van Halen’s newly constructed home studio, 5150, as he felt it gave the guitarist too much creative autonomy. Though Van Halen’s sole Number One, “Jump,” emerged from Eddie’s sonic laboratory, the singer remained unhappy; by 1985, he turned his attention to a solo EP, Crazy from the Heat, with the aim to star in a movie of the same name. “The band as you know it is over,” Eddie told Rolling Stone that August. “Dave left to be a movie star. He even had the balls to ask if I’d write the score for him.” (The movie never materialized.)

Roth reconnected with the band in 1996 as they assembled a Greatest Hits album, and relations improved enough for the original lineup to reunite in the studio to record two new tracks for the compilation. Given that replacement singer Sammy Hagar had recently departed the group, fans viewed this as a dry run for a full-fledged reunion. But that all came to a halt when Van Halen, plus Roth, made a painful appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Trouble began when Roth went off script, trumpeting the importance of the original band members standing together. Eddie steered his one-time bandmate away from the microphone long enough for Beck to accept his Moonman for “Where It’s At,” but Roth vied for attention by dancing in the background with a demented grin.

The annoyance of sharing a stage with Roth for even just a few minutes was enough to torpedo any hope of reconciliation. “His onstage antics were embarrassing and disrespectful to Beck,” Eddie later told MTV. Matters deteriorated further that night as Eddie denied reports of an upcoming reunion tour during a backstage press conference, citing his hip surgery scheduled later that year. “Tonight’s about me, man, and not your fucking hip,” Roth responded. A tour manager had to physically restrain Eddie, who spat back, “If you ever speak like that to me again you better be wearing a cup.'”

It took more than a decade for tempers to cool, but in February 2007 the band unveiled plans for a long-awaited tour with Roth. They followed it up in February 2012 with A Different Kind of Truth, their first full-length album with Roth since 1984, but the accompanying tour didn’t go well. Several legs were postponed, or cancelled altogether. “The conflict was immediate and sustained from day one,” Roth said in an interview on The Opie & Anthony Show at the time. “Not a note of this symphony has changed.” More cracks in the uneasy alliance showed while promoting their 2015 North American tour, with Eddie slamming Roth in a Billboard interview. “He does not want to be my friend.”

CHICAGO - JUNE 1988: Rapper Roxanne Shante performs at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in JUNE 1988. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images); CHICAGO - JANUARY 1989: Rapper Real Roxanne poses for photos on location in Chicago, Illinois in JANUARY 1989. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Roxanne Shante and Real Roxanne

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The “Roxanne” Wars

Lolita Shanté Gooden, a 14-year-old aspiring emcee, was walking through the Queensbridge housing project in 1984 when she overheard her neighbors, record producer Marley Marl and disc jockey Mr. Magic, complaining about the hip hop collective UTFO. The group had pulled out of an upcoming show they were promoting, leaving the two men in a lurch. Gooden offered to get back at the group by writing a diss track, and despite her tender age, the men agreed.

For a beat, they borrowed the instrumental track from UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” the B side to their recent single “Hanging Out.” The original song told the tale of the band having their romantic advances cruelly rebuffed by a woman named Roxanne, so Gooden assumed the identity of the titular heartbreaker to record a less-than-flattering answer track. Dubbed “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the young rapper reportedly freestyled her obscenity-laden verse in just one take, done in Marl’s apartment. To complete the ruse, the song was released under the name Roxanne Shanté.

It caught fire immediately, becoming a sizable radio hit and selling 5,000 copies almost overnight. The chastised UTFO did the only thing they could do – they shot back with a song of their own. Enlisting Elease Jack (later replaced by Adelaida Martinez), they created the character of “the Real Roxanne,” and together recorded a song of the same name. It wasn’t exactly an all-out verbal assault on Shanté – presumably going in on a teenage girl was frowned upon – but the challenge to her authenticity was just as effective.

Given the chart success of the Roxanne songs, many rappers recognized an opportunity for some easy airplay and jumped into the fray. Over the coming year, more than 30 (and some say as many as 100) tracks were released, with MCs portraying all manner of Roxanne associates telling their sides of the story. Her relatives weighed in with tracks like “The Parents of Roxanne” by Gigolo Tony and Lacey Lace, “Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)” by Crush Groove, and “Rappin’ Roxy: Roxanne’s Sister” by D.W. and the Party Crew featuring Roxy. After exhausting her family tree, even her physician got some play on “Roxanne’s Doctor – The Real Man” by Dr. Freshh.

Roxanne fatigue eventually set in, as evidenced by the East Coast Crew’s trend-killing “The Final Word – No More Roxanne (Please),” but UTFO and Shanté had some unfinished business. The group swung first with “Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her A Crab,” a downright dirty track, on which they called their rival an “ape” and offered her bananas to stop rapping. Shanté, meanwhile, asserted her status as rap feud royalty on “Queen of Rox.” From there, the inferno died away.  

BOSTON - DECEMBER 14: Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler with guitarist Joe Perry perform onstage at the Boston Garden on December 17, 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Ron Pownall/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler with guitarist Joe Perry perform onstage at the Boston Garden on December 17, 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ron Pownall/Corbis via Getty

Steven Tyler vs. Joe Perry

The Toxic Twins’ run of Aerosmith was derailed during the recording of Night in the Ruts in 1979, when addiction and infighting resulted in massive production delays. The costly sessions forced their label to send Aerosmith on tour to generate income, but the stresses of the road made a brawl inevitable. Even so, few suspected that the bandmates’ wives would throw the first punch.

The rumble occurred on July 28th, 1979, before Aerosmith were due to perform in Cleveland. Terry Hamilton, wife of bassist Tom Hamilton, had some choice words for Perry’s wife Elyssa, and things quickly escalated. “Terri and I didn’t get along at all,” Elyssa said in the book Walk This Way. “I remember asking her something – sarcastic – and she might have thrown some ice at me. I had a glass of milk in my hand because I drank milk exclusively, and …” Milk was the thrown, and it got ugly.

Tyler entered the backstage chaos mid-scene. Helpless to intervene, he took his anger out on Perry. “I got into it with Joe,” he admitted in his memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? “Man, can’t you come over here and control your woman?'” This sparked an even bigger screaming match between Tyler and Perry that continued after show time. “I remember clearly being on the steps of the trailer, walking down and yelling at Joe, ‘You’re fucking fired!'” Tyler wrote.

It would be almost five years before Perry rejoined the fold. Trips to rehab strengthened the band, but by 2009 they started to falter. Tyler pulled out of a planned South American tour, telling Ultimate Classic Rock that he was “working on the brand of myself – Brand Tyler.” The move troubled Perry, who stoked press rumors that his longtime partner had left for good, and revealed he was holding vocal auditions for his replacement. Tyler responded by firing off a “cease and desist” letter.

Tyler returned, but tempers spiked again in August 2010, when it was announced that he would serve as a judge on American Idol. Perry railed against his bandmate’s new side gig to a Calgary newspaper. “It’s a reality show designed to get people to watch that station and sell advertising. It’s one step above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. … It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with it.”

In 2017 the band embarked on their Aero-Vederici Baby! global trek, which Tyler had at one point dubbed a “farewell tour.” Perry himself walked back those claims, saying they intended to play “till we drop.” At present, the fate of Aerosmith remains murky.

Slash and Axl Rose (Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage)

Slash and Axl Rose

Ke.Mazur/WireImage

Slash vs. Axl Rose

While the pair had already begun butting heads over the musical direction of Guns N’ Roses, the relationship was dealt a serious blow in 1991, when Slash contributed a guitar solo to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” According to former manager Doug Goldstein, Rose – who claims to have been molested by his father as a boy – believed the child-abuse accusations leveled against the King of Pop, and took his bandmate’s collaboration as a betrayal. The singer got revenge that year when GN’R recorded a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” for the Interview With a Vampire soundtrack, replacing Slash’s playing with that of Paul Huge.

The partnership was strained to the breaking point when Rose obtained legal ownership of the group’s name, effectively demoting his bandmates to the level of hired hands. By 1996, Slash decided to part ways with Guns for good. Of course, there was acrimony. As the news broke, Rose sent a fax to MTV saying that he had fired the guitarist because he had lost his “dive in and find the monkey’ attitude.”

The pair wouldn’t speak for decades, but they exchanged words in the press. Rose publically slammed Velvet Revolver, Slash’s new project with Scott Weiland and fellow GN’R vets Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, and got even nastier in a 2009 interview with Spinner. “Personally I consider Slash a cancer and better removed, avoided – and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better.” The fact that Slash’s mother had recently died after a breast-cancer battle gave the barb extra sting.

Over the years, Rose repeatedly made it clear that reconciliation with Slash was not in the realm of possibility, telling Billboard in 2009, “One of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is.” He pointedly refused to attend Guns N’ Roses’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014. When asked why, Slash told Rolling Stone that the frontman “hates my guts.”

But one of the most unlikely truces in rock was declared in 2016, when it was announced that Slash would rejoin Guns N’ Roses to perform alongside Rose for a series of tour dates. “It was probably way overdue,” Slash told Sweden’s Aftonbladet television show as the news made headlines across the globe.

LONDON - 1995: Oasis lead singer Liam Gallagher and brother Noal Gallagher at the opening night of Steve Coogan's comedy show in the West End, London. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images); Blur group shot at photo studio in Tokyo, November 1994. (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Oasis and Blur

Dave Hogan/Getty, Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty

Oasis vs. Blur

Oasis and Blur started out sharing a healthy mutual respect, but the headstrong Gallagher brothers began to resent being lumped together with the figureheads of Britpop. The beef began when Blur’s Damon Albarn attended a gathering thrown in honor of Oasis’ first Number One single in the U.K., “Some Might Say” in the spring of 1995. “I went to their celebration party, y’know, just to say ‘Well done,'” he said at the time. “And Liam came over and, like he is, he goes, ‘Number fookin’ one!’ right in my face. So I thought, ‘OK we’ll see …'”

To ensure a charts showdown, Albarn conspired to schedule Blur’s next single, “Country House” the same day Oasis was due to release their latest song, “Roll With It.” The so-called “Battle of Britpop” became a cultural event, with Blur taking on the role of elitist, middle-class Londoners, while Oasis personified rough-necked working class northern Englanders.

Blur emerged victorious when “Country House” sold 274,000 copies to 216,000 for Oasis’ “Roll With It,” charting at Number One and Two respectively. They proved courteous winners. “The thing that most people don’t understand when they read the papers is that this rivalry is all made up,” Alex James insisted when the dust settled. “There’s few people I’d rather drink with than Oasis.”

But the Gallaghers weren’t ready to play nice. “I cared, ’cause I want number ones,” Liam told NME at the time. “I met Alex in the pub and said, ‘Congratulations on number one – it’s about fucking time, mate,’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah. But both our songs were shit anyway.’ And I went, ‘No, this is where you’re wrong. And this is why I fuckin’ hate your band, and you. I thought our song was top.'” Noel was even more direct. “I hate that Alex and Damon,” he spat to The Observer. “I hope they catch AIDS and die.” Six months later, Oasis performed a brief cover of Blur’s “Parklife” at the Brit Awards under a new title: “Shitelife.”

Relations between Noel and Albarn improved in 2011, mediated by booze. “I literally haven’t seen the guy for 15 fucking years and I bump into him in some club,” he revealed during an interview with Shortlist. “We both went, ‘Hey! Fucking hell!’ and then he said, ‘Come on, let’s go for a beer.’ So, we’re sitting there, having a beer, just going, ‘What the fuck was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental.’ … Like I said to him, you can say that you respect someone as an artist a thousand times and it will never get reported. But you call someone a cunt once … you know?”

MILWAUKEE - 1994: Rapper and actor 2 Pac performs at the Mecca Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1994. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images); UNITED STATES - JUNE 29: Photo of NOTORIOUS BIG; Notorious B.I.G. performing at Meadowlands, New Jersey on 6-29-1995 (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls

Raymond Boyd/Getty; David Corio/Redferns

Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.

The two New York City-born MCs were initially close after they met on the set of John Singleton’s film Poetic Justice in 1993. “I always thought it to be like a Gemini thing,” Biggie later told Vibe. “We just clicked off the top and were cool ever since.” But that would change on November 30th, 1994, when Tupac was robbed at gunpoint outside of New York’s Quad Recording Studios and shot five times.

Badly injured, he harbored suspicions that his supposed friend had advance knowledge of the attack. The fears were reinforced months later when Biggie released “Who Shot Ya?” which appeared to mock the incident. Despite Biggie’s assertion that he “wrote that muthafuckin’ song way before Tupac got shot,” ‘Pac took the track as an admission of guilt. While in prison for an unrelated sexual assault charge, he gave an interview with Vibe in which he publicly pointed the finger at Biggie and his Bad Boy Records label chief, Sean “Puffy” Combs. “Even if that song ain’t about me, you should be, like, ‘I’m not putting it out, ’cause he might think it’s about him.'”

In October 1995, Tupac signed with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records in exchange for payment of his $1.4 million bail. The move put him on a collision course with Knight’s rivals at Bad Boy Records – especially Puffy and Biggie – and stoked the flames of an East Coast–West Coast hip-hop war. Tupac brought out the big guns with “Hit ‘Em Up,” a blazing response to “Who Shot Ya?” that opened with the inflammatory cry, “I ain’t got no motherfucking friends/That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.”

Tupac continued to take aim at his former friend in interviews and on tracks like “Against All Odds” and “Bomb First (My Second Reply),” but Biggie didn’t release an official response on record. In fact, he seemed genuinely hurt in a 1996 interview with Vibe: “This shit’s just got to be talk, that’s all I kept saying to myself. I can’t believe he would think that I would shit on him like that.”

The men failed to repair their relationship before Tupac was gunned down in Las Vegas in September 1996. Suspicions immediately fell on Biggie, but he strenuously denied any involvement. “Even though we were going through our drama, I’d never wish death on nobody,” he said soon after. “Ain’t no coming back from that.”

Biggie himself would be the victim of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles the following March. Both murders remain unsolved.

Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock during 2003 CMT Flameworthy Awards - Arrivals at The Gaylord Center in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage); Tommy Lee of Motley Crue poses for a studio portrait session backstage at the Download Festival, Donington Park, Leicestershire on June 12th, 2009. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee

KMazur/WireImage; Mick Hutson/Redferns

Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee

The saga of Rock and the rocker is a Southern-fried fairy tale with no happy ending. The role of the princess is played by Baywatch siren Pamela Anderson, swept off her feet by the Mötley Crüe drummer in 1995. They quickly married, despite only knowing each other for 96 hours, and eventually had two children. The marriage was over by 1998, and soon after she began a hot-and-cold relationship with “American Bad Ass” Kid Rock. The couple endured a broken engagement in 2003 – during which time she reportedly had brief liaisons with Lee – before they patched things up and wed on a yacht near Saint-Tropez, France, in July 2006. But the pair was unable to make it work, and Anderson filed for divorce that November, citing irreconcilable differences.

While Anderson and Lee were reasonably friendly exes, Rock later claimed that Lee was openly hostile to him. “We had just gotten divorced, and [Lee] was at a birthday with their oldest son,” he explained while testifying in connection with an unrelated brawl at a Georgia Waffle House in 2010. “He took Pam’s cell phone, called me, and started harassing me, saying, ‘You’re a piece of this, you’re a piece of that.’ I texted him back on that phone and said, ‘When I see you, I’m messing you up.'” The animosity bubbled over into an all-out battle royale during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. In Rock’s version of events, he returned from the bathroom to find Lee sitting in his seat. The fuse thus lit, things got physical during the broadcast.

“This was unavoidable,” Rock explained during an appearance on a L.A. radio program at the time. “I had to do what I had to do because this was a long time coming.”

Lee shared his side of the story on his website, TommyLee.tv, calling him “Kid Pebble” and a “jealous no career havin country bumpkin” with an “ugly ass mug.”

Anderson was not exactly won over by the brawl. “As soon as I left … meow!” she later said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.