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In Rock Band Brother Acts, Are the Younger Brothers More Talented?
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iSteve commenter Hapalong Cassidy writes:

I’ve always been fascinated by the role birth order plays in the music world. In any music act with siblings, it usually is the younger sibling who is more talented. Examples: Eddie Van Halen vs Alex VH (the drummer), John Fogerty vs Tom Fogerty, Michael & Janet Jackson (the 7th & 9th out of 9 kids, being vastly more talented than their older siblings).

I immediately ginned up a theory for HC’s observation, assuming it’s true:

For boys, younger brothers are slightly more likely to be homosexual than older brothers, perhaps for biochemical reasons: It’s not an easy feat for a woman to give birth to a baby with the opposite sex’s hormones, and multiple renditions of this effort might take their toll.

Maybe less masculinity correlates somewhat with more musical talent? The English, I am told have the euphemism “musical” for gay. Certainly, dance talent correlates with less masculinity.

Rock stars tend to be highly heterosexual. As I pointed out in my review of Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury is the only major rock star to have died of AIDS. Here’s Wikipedia’s list of HIV-positive musicians and it’s the least rock and roll list of musicians you ever saw in your life (with the exception of Freddie and Tom Fogerty of Creedence, whose family insisted he got it from a transfusion during back surgery. And Tom was so much less musically talented than his brother John that that seems plausible.)

On the other hand, rock stars are not all that masculine, more artsy. For example, I recently read an interview with Bruce Springsteen in which he admitted that his popular on-stage persona is modeled on his macho blue collar dad and that’s not the real Bruce up on stage. He’s more the sissy momma’s boy. Tom Petty’s relationship with his dad was pretty similar. Joe Strummer’s friends said he wasn’t as macho as he acted on stage, but also never leave your girlfriend alone with Joe for more than 90 seconds.

But does Hapalong’s asserted pattern hold up?

Beach Boys: Brian Wilson is the oldest of the 3 brothers, so they are a definite No.

I looked up the Kinks: Sir Ray is the older brother, so no disrespect to Dave Davies, but I’ll score that one against your observation.

Allman Brothers: “Duane Allman (founder, slide guitar and lead guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboards, songwriting).” Duane was older than Gregg, but I’m not willing to judge between them in talent. I’ll call that a toss-up.

AC-DC: Malcolm was older than Angus Young. I’ll let somebody else judge between them in talent.

Bee-Gees: Sir Barry Gibb, the oldest, seems like the alpha male of the band. Robin and Maurice were twins (fraternal?). Their younger brother Andy Gibb was a solo star for awhile.

Devo: Mark Mothersbaugh, the eldest of the two brothers, has gone on to have a career scoring TV shows, rather like Danny Elfman of Oingo-Boingo.

Osmonds: Like their rivals the Jackson 5, the youngest (Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond) were sensational child prodigy rock stars. Here’s the Osmond’s first hit “One Bad Apple.” The songwriter wanted the Jackson 5 to do it for their second single after “I Want You Back,” but they chose “ABC” instead. Donny doesn’t sing lead, but he takes over at 0:33:

By the way, Donny Osmond welcomed his 9th and 10th grandchildren in 2017.

Anyway, I’m kind of stumped on whether this pattern holds up or not.

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  1. I remember assuming Donny Osmond was about 8 years old when his cover of Puppy Love was getting airplay circa 1972 when I was in 9th grade. Back then, hard rock was more my thing and I paid no attention to the Osmonds. I remember being startled, then, to learn from a girl in my grade that he was actually a few months older than I was. I’m equally startled, now, to hear that he has 10 grandkids.

  2. Younger siblings/second generations of artistic families tend to be better protected, better trained, and better promoted in the industry. Elders get in, stumble around a bit, and maybe have a bit of success. But by the time they realize what would sell the best, the elders have passed their prime or lost their opportunity. But if the elders have a young child around they can groom for a role, they have a second chance. The stage parent/sibling as living their failed career through their child, and all that.

    For examples from past eras, George Cohan and Paul Muni were both the youngest scions of vaudeville families whose families’ experience in the industry promoted them from a young age to lifetime stardom.

    Separately, in the music industry, there’s a lot of money selling waifish teen boys with girlish voices to girls and gays. Teen girls go bonkers over this and always have, and older women and gays like them too, so a wiser older relative who knows the industry will take a younger boy and groom him to fill such a role. Plus that audience doesn’t really care about “authenticity” or grittiness; they want a flashy, cute character with dancy, poppy music (with the occasional “serious” song) whom they can make their pretend boyfriend.

    Donny and Michael were products of their stage families figuring out through trial, error, and observation that they needed such a teeny bopper, and luckily for them each had a younger male in the family they could push into the role.

    • Agree: Endgame Napoleon
  3. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    This thread will be as enlightening as one of those contrived “GOAT” debates on ESPN. Lots of embedded music videos that will go largely unwatched, and guys sharing personal anecdotes about meeting celebrity entertainers or repeating apocryphal stories about sex, drugs, etc.

    • Replies: @Desiderius
  4. Oasis. Liam and Noel are both pretty straight.

    • Replies: @Wilbur Hassenfus
    , @Bugg
  5. The oldest sibling is more accomplished, but the youngest more rebellious. Either of these traits could help make you a rock star.

  6. wren says:

    Don’t forget the Mael brothers of Sparks who are still going strong today 50 years after they started.

    As ever, their sexuality is mysterious and out front.

    Here’s one from a year or two ago.

    Classic Sparks sexuality:

  7. According to the Adult Swim documentary series Black Dynamite, Michael Jackson was half alien.

  8. In the Shangri-La’s, older sister Betty Weiss sang lead on the first single, but it was the unique, plaintive vocals of younger sister Mary that gave them their sound. It’s Mary you hear on all the hits. If you want to draw more parallels to Creedence, Betty was also better looking, was Tom.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  9. Hodag says:

    Of The Replacements, Bob Stinson (the elder) was a pretty crappy musician and very macho who wanted the band to do Black Sabbath covers. His younger brother Tommy was roped into joining the band at 13 but is actually a good musician, joining other bands such as Soul Asylum and Guns and Roses over the years. Not gay.

    • Replies: @Anon
  10. Enkidu says:

    Oasis was Britain’s biggest band in the 90s and Noel Gallagher the songwriter for the band and sometimes singer born 1967 was always far more talented than his younger brother and lead singer Liam born 1972.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  11. @Days of Broken Arrows

    Musically I’ve always preferred Kate McGarrigle to Anna (elder), and Lal Waterson to Norma (elder) . Maybe it works with sisters too.

    Perhaps someone else can chip in on Ann Wilson vs Nancy.

  12. Brn says:

    I’ve often wondered if younger brothers aren’t more successful athletes too, because they grow up competing against someone bigger, stronger and faster. In most of the cases of brothers both playing pro sports, it seems like the younger brother is more successful. For example, Joe DiMaggio, George Brett, Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar and Gaylord Perry all had less successful older brothers in baseball.

    • Replies: @prosa123
    , @ScarletNumber
  13. Anonymous[354] • Disclaimer says:

    Since the discussion involves gay rock stars…

    JOHN: London has become a murder capital recently.

    MORRISSEY: London is debased. The Mayor of London tells us about ”Neighborhood policin’” — what is “policin’”? He tells us London is an “amazin’” city. What is “amazin’”? This is the Mayor of London! And he cannot talk properly! I saw an interview where he was discussing mental health, and he repeatedly said “men’el” . . . he could not say the words “mental health”. The Mayor of London! Civilisation is over!


  14. Anonymous[354] • Disclaimer says:

    Since the discussion involves gay rock stars …

    JOHN: London has become a murder capital recently.

    MORRISSEY: London is debased. The Mayor of London tells us about ”Neighborhood policin’” — what is “policin’”? He tells us London is an “amazin’” city. What is “amazin’”? This is the Mayor of London! And he cannot talk properly! I saw an interview where he was discussing mental health, and he repeatedly said “men’el” . . . he could not say the words “mental health”. The Mayor of London! Civilisation is over!

    On Twitter, users dragged the musician for his shady politics but also blasted Fallon for having another ‘right-wing’ fanatic on his show. Many compared the moment to when the host tussled Donald Trump’s hair during the 2016 presidential campaign.


    • Replies: @Bugg
    , @vinteuil
    , @Cowboy Shaw
  15. Nathan says:

    There might be something to this. Stevie Ray Vaughn has an older brother Jimmie that plays guitar, but isn’t quite as good.

  16. @Jimbo in OPKS

    Also regarding Oasis, Noel, very arguably the more talented one, is older. Same with the Kinks.

  17. dearieme says:

    If you go back to the Golden Age of American music, the jazz years, what then? Johnny Dodds was an excellent New Orleans clarinetist, his brother “Baby” Dodds whacked drums. So there’s one case contra the hypothesis.

    How about the Teagardens? Jack was a genius of the jazz trombone, younger brother Charlie a decent trumpeter. A second case against.

    The Dorsey brothers were , I suppose, about equally distinguished. The older Crosby, Bing, was much more celebrated than the younger, Bob.

    There must have been other brothers in jazz. Anyone?

  18. Thirdtwin says:

    Black Crowes–Chris Robinson (older) Rich Robinson (younger), yep, the rule holds.

  19. Tank says:

    As to the Allmans, Duane was definitely more talented. He was really a superstar just coming into his prime, while Gregg was a good and servicable singer/organist perfectly suited to The Allman Brothers Band. Clapton asked Duane to join his band, he didn’t ask Gregg.

  20. Bugg says:
    @Jimbo in OPKS

    Both are very talented but bad businessmen. Did see where Liam is the opening act for the Who at some of their upcoming shows. Would love to see that. Simon Townsend is basically the 2nd guitarist for Pete’s band going on 3 decades.

    Angus and Malcolm had an older brother George who had some earlier pop success and then became their producer/manager early in their careers before Mutt Lange and “Back in Black”.

  21. Ragno says:

    By the way, Ray Gillen (a metal/hard rock guy who logged time with Black Sabbath among others) died of AIDS back in ’93.

    But perhaps this confirms your rock stars are mainly hetero theory, as he was (rightly) accused of infecting two women with the Big Kaposi after knowing he had what our Latin brothers and sisters call “la SIDA”. As a result, Atlantic Records has kept the two albums he cut with his band Badlands permanently out of print, despite steady requests from metal fans to reissue both. (I assume the thinking is it’s out of respect for the women’s families, since a reissue of either or both wouldn’t generate enough in royalties to accomplish anything besides stirring up bad memories, bad publicity and/or bad litigation.)

    Also: come to think of it, Klaus Nomi – perhaps the gayest of all clearly-gay rock stars – died of Tha Virus in ’83, almost the prototype of the canary in the coalmine (“coalmine” in this case being an eerily-apt metaphor for the male rectum). So that makes three, though of course when you add in lesser-known musicians from more-obscure bands the total will be considerably higher.

    • Replies: @Desiderius
  22. Bugg says:

    Respect Morrissey for refusing to be put in any box. A sharia London is a bad thing. Islam kills culture.

    • Replies: @Jimbo in OPKS
  23. I have another theory as to why it might be true. The oldest son in most families is supposed to follow a “respectable” career path, and pressured and groomed as such. His younger siblings don’t get the same kind of pressure, and are thus more free to explore their artistic side. But I guess that doesn’t explain why the older sibling ended up in a rock band in the first place.

  24. J James says:

    Older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young (AC/DC) was actually George Young
    I would rate him the most talented. Would prefer “She’s so fine” to anything AC/DC, all their songs sound the same to me. Your mileage may vary.

  25. Ricky Wilson of the B-52s died of AIDS in 1985, six years before Freddy Mercury, and arguably a better musician. Ricky was so good with drop tuning they didn’t even need a bass player.

  26. Here’s Wikipedia’s list of HIV-positive musicians

    No link?

  27. Iw says:

    Brian Wilson has got to be a severe case of Aspergers which could explain away the exception to the Older Sibling Rule

  28. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    Harry Goodman (brass and string bass) was older than his brother Benny.

    Connie was the second of the three Boswell Sisters.

    Ray Sims (trombone) was older than his brother Zoot. (The Four Brothers were adopted.)

    I don’t whether any of these people was left-handed.

  29. I don’t have enough knowledge or listening experience to come to a conclusive evaluation, but in the Carter family, June was the middle child I believe, and, while I cannot evaluate if she was the most talented, she was probably the most famous after linking up with Johnny Cash. I know she could certainly sing.

  30. @dearieme

    The Jones brothers: Hank, Elvin and Thad. I watched the first two; Thad checked out relatively young at 63, of cancer. Each one was talented and had a fine career, and they were more than traditionally manly enough. Elvin played with younger men into his mid-seventies, as if drumming were an Olympic event, sweating like a longshoreman, two shows a night for six days and one on Sundays. Hank lived to 91.

  31. Regarding the Young brothers of AC/DC, they had five older brothers, most of whom were involved in the music business in one form or another. One brother, George, produced several of AC/DC’s early albums. Another older brother had a son that is currently touring with AC/DC as Malcolm’s replacement (and he’s only a few years younger than Angus). I think all those older brothers, along with Malcolm, are all deceased.

    Posthumously, it has come out that Malcolm was the more talented of the two brothers in AC/DC. Angus has said that Malcolm could play everything that he could, but the reverse wasn’t true. Malcolm was apparently introverted and preferred to stay in the background as the rhythm guitarist, letting his younger brother handle the flashy solos and onstage acrobatics for which he is famous for. But Malcolm was the primary songwriter and the unofficial leader of the band. According to some sources, he was often a strict taskmaster.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  32. Anon[345] • Disclaimer says:

    You forgot Mark Knopfler, talented guitarist and songwriter, he of the “Boom, Like That” mini-Ray Kroc biography. Here is “Romeo and Juliet,” recounting his ill-fated relationship with minor Los Angeles predatory fake punker Holly Beth Vincent of Holly and the Italians:

    Knopfler uncermoniously kicked his less talented younger brother David out of Dire Straits during the recording of their third album. Amazingly this mediocre talent has never quit the music industry, and releases albums and tours to this day. He married an art professor, who probably supports him.

  33. @dearieme

    The Marsalis family – Brandon and Wynton are both accomplished (1st and 2nd of 6 brothers), although Wynton probably gets more recognition because of his work as a bandleader, Brandon might be the more talented.

    On the other hand, JS Bach was the cadet of his family.

    I wonder if, with these cases, it depends somewhat on whether the parents are active musicians as well, or if there is a musical family business. In this case, the success of the younger members helps the older ones, and there is an incentive to mentor, and to start mentoring younger, which would really boost the learning curve. But if there’s no incentive, I can’t imagine any older brother really being a great mentor, so much that his younger brother can surpass him (as he has a physical, mental, and time used permanent advantage), especially when the younger brother grows out of imitating and seeks independence.

    Between my brother and I, I may be the more musically inclined, but as there was less push for me, I didn’t put in the hours he did, and so he remains at a much higher level than I ever attained. Older wins again!

    • Replies: @Desiderius
  34. prosa123 says:

    For example, Joe DiMaggio, George Brett, Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar and Gaylord Perry all had less successful older brothers in baseball.

    While the moderately successful Vince DiMaggio was older than Joe, Dom was younger, and despite being overshadowed by his sibling Dom was a very good player in his own right with multiple All Star appearances. One could say that Dom had a less successful older brother and a far more successful older brother.

    Gaylord Perry may have been the more successful of the two, but Jim was a top player as well.

  35. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    “rock stars are not all that masculine, more artsy. … Joe Strummer’s friends said he wasn’t as macho as he acted on stage, but also never leave your girlfriend alone with Joe for more than 90 seconds.”

    So, musicians aren’t very “masculine” but have no problem getting chicks, even ones already taken. I guess “masculine” has some special meaning among the HBD cultists.

  36. Allman Brothers

    Strongly disagree. No knock against Greg to say he was the lesser brother. Duane Allman was an incredibly gifted guitar player. Like Hendrix and Clapton. You might never ever heard of Greg Allman without his brother.

  37. MBlanc46 says:

    Can’t see rating Gregg and Duane Allman even. Duane was a master, Gregg a journeyman. With Richard Betts, world-historical.

    • Agree: Dieter Kief
  38. The second of the three Manning brothers was the most successful, but the youngest did well for himself.

    I can’t find if Aaron Rodgers is the oldest or the second of the three Rodgers brothers. None of the articles ever mentioned Luke’s age.

    I think this is a case of regression to the norm. There are often families in which everyone is talented, but one of them hit the genetic jackpot while the others did not.

  39. @Brn

    With the Boones, Bret (older) was the more successful athlete*, but Aaron had a better head on his shoulders, so he was able to have a better post-playing career.

    With the Mannings, the oldest brother Cooper was sidelined by injury in high school, but had a very successful business career. Most would say Peyton (middle) is more successful than Eli (youngest). Of course their father was a great player in college and on lousy NFL teams.


    According to Jose Canseco this was chemically enhanced.

  40. Chalkie says: • Website

    Steve Winwood was more talented than his big brother Muff, but they’ve both had successful careers, and neither appears to be gay.

  41. KL says:

    You forgot the youngest brothers Randy Jackson and Jimmy Osmond. 🙂

    But seriously, it is the same explanation for why you find something in the last place you look … because you stop looking! Once you find a rare talent like Michael Jackson, you leave baby Randy at home.

  42. nebulafox says:

    Angus always thought Malcolm was the superior guitarist and listed him as a major influence. He also tacitly acknowledged him, like everybody else, as the real directing force behind the band.

    I could do with a little Powerage with my beer right now…

    • Replies: @darinernie
  43. Anon[295] • Disclaimer says:

    Bob Stinson was a good lead guitarist. Just listen to their records to prove it.

  44. vinteuil says:

    For boys, younger brothers are slightly more likely to be homosexual than older brothers, perhaps for biochemical reasons: It’s not an easy feat for a woman to give birth to a baby with the opposite sex’s hormones, and multiple renditions of this effort might take their toll.

    [Emphasis added]

    Interesting – have you written on this at greater length somewhere? I guess the idea is that for a woman to gestate & give birth to high-testosterone boys might affect her system in ways that make her more likely to give birth to less masculine children in further go-rounds?

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  45. vinteuil says:

    Morrisey has a lot to make up for – but he’s making up for it fast.

  46. I don’t keep up with popular music enough to know whether Britney Spears is the first or second child, but I worked in an art-related industry where I waited on people involved in training her as a kid. They had lots of pictures of it, not just of her but of other celebrities tagged as potential stars as young kids and trained in some kind of musical camps. Some of the talent development in that industry does not seem to fall under family control.

  47. @nebulafox

    Yeah, but… it wasn’t true. Angus was being nice to his second-fiddle (guitar) big brother. I’m not aware that Malcolm ever played a solo, for example. Or showed up on many lists of “greatest rock guitarists,” at least before his illness.

    My working hypothesis is that this is related to the mechanism by which older siblings are more successful on average. Being first, the oldest gets to pick the field that best corresponds to his genes, which of course is more likely than average to be the one that corresponds to the younger siblings’ genes, too. However, the younger ones are more likely to pick a different — sub-optimal — direction in order to differentiate themselves (another known effect, especially during youth). Music is a crap-shoot career with a low expected value. So the oldest chooses something else.

    One problem is that we’re comparing siblings where both were musicians, in which case you’d expect the older one to be better on average. However, it we looked at all musicians, including those whose siblings are architects and accountants, I suspect the correlation would be strengthened.

  48. Ann and Nancy Wilson–Ann is older, but their talents are different. Nancy is often ranked as one of the greatest female rock guitarists, but that’s a small group. I’d argue that Ann’s voice is more essential to their success than Nancy’s playing, but that’s no indication of who’s more talented.

    BeeGees–in their first round of fame, Robin was the famous singer. He tried to go out on his own and failed, and that version of the band failed once the 60s was over. When they switched over to Barry as lead with the falsetto during the disco era, they were much bigger and, I’d argue, their music in this form has lasted longer, even with more disdain for disco. Now, that could be because Barry’s much better looking than the twins, but I think his falsetto is more unique than Robin’s voice. Either way, sad that Barry, the oldest, is the only survivor from his family at such a relatively young age.

    John and Tom Fogerty–John, the younger, clearly was the greater talent. Also the more obnoxious guy.

    Alex van Halen is a hell of a drummer. Not sure I’d put Eddie’s greater talent as somehow eclipsing his. Certainly, Eddie didn’t learn anything from Alex–they created the band together.

    Birth order doesn’t play any particular role.

  49. vinteuil says:

    Maybe less masculinity correlates somewhat with more musical talent? The English, I am told have the euphemism “musical” for gay.

    Really? I never knew that. Benjamin Britten apart, the major English composers I can think of off the top of my head (Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Walton) held impeccable heterosexual credentials.

    In the U.S., on the other hand, the idea that music was for sissies seemed to rule the roost for many years – which drove the (aggressively macho) Charles Ives crazy. And it just got worse & worse as time wore on (Copland, Barber, Bernstein – to say nothing of many lesser lights).

  50. @MBlanc46

    I saw the Allman Brothers twice before Duane died in his bike accident, when the band was at the height of its powers. The band was so tight, that certain passages were “brass like” in the wall of sound they could create.

    “Journeyman” would apply to Greg’s keyboard playing, but not his singing. It was pretty mesmerizing. It was both silky and powerful. Not a lot of range, but within each key, perfectly pitched.

    But you’re right about Duane — his playing was otheworldly. He was arguably the best rock blues guitar player alive at that time. “Layla” is as much his song as Clapton’s.

    And listen to the raucous yet fluid slide solos on “One Way Out” on the Allman’s Live at Filmore record. Dickie Betts was, and still is, a very very good player, but he sounds like a piker compared to Duane.

    Duane’s is the playing of a guy who’s sold his soul to the devil for the chance to be greater than anybody…ever.

    • Replies: @cthulhu
    , @MBlanc46
  51. @anonymous

    Enlightenment is great and all, but medieval, renaissance, baroque, and romantic all have their own charms.

    • Replies: @Paul Jolliffe
  52. @Enkidu

    I’m not sure if the talent gap between the Gallaghers is as large as it used to be.

    I would cite the most recent two or three releases by Liam and Noel as evidence of this. Liam and his outfit sound nearly as sharp and self-assured as Noel.

    If there was an Oasis reunion, I wonder if Liam’s improved skills would lead to more classic songs or just more infighting and collapse?

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Cowboy Shaw
  53. Freddie Mercury is the only major rock star to have died of AIDS.

    There is Dan Hartman of the Edgar Winter Group. He was no “star”, but the leading talent of the group. He was quite closeted, and also comfortable taking third billing behind Edgar and Rick.

  54. black sea says:

    Stevie Ray Vaughan proved to be more talented than his older brother Jimmy.

  55. @The Wild Geese Howard

    For what it’s worth, the Social Security Administration informs us that Liam was the top name given to American boys in 2018, while Noel languishes at #405. Twenty-five Liams were born for every Noel.

    Noelle does a little better for girls, at #228, nearly twice as many as Noel.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  56. From Wikipedia: The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach.

  57. Duane Allman was far more talented than Greg.

    No comparison.

  58. @education realist

    Either way, sad that Barry, the oldest, is the only survivor from his family at such a relatively young age.

    The Gibbs are dying off in reverse order of age– Andy, Maurice, Robin. Barry and the oldest, a sister, are still around.

    I had the earliest Bee Gee albums, and later collected all the Cowsills’. The two were surprisingly similar– sensitive without being sissy, quirkily melodic, narrative, and the work of teenagers apparently wise beyond their years. In the ’70s, their career trajectories were about as opposite as imaginable.

    One difference– the one girl was the oldest Gibb, who didn’t perform, and the youngest Cowsill, who did. Susan carries on in New Orleans to this day. It’s hilarious to watch her admit, in the documentary Family Band, that the addition of mom and little sis to the act ruined her brothers’ “wet dream” of a typical all-male rock band.

    That decision was made by their dictatorial stage father, something they had in common with the Gibbs, Wilsons, and Jacksons. As far as masculinity goes, the manliest were easily fraternal twins Bob and Dick. Dick was thrown out of the band for being too much like his dad, who hated himself, according to Dick.

    Bob is the stablest of the clan. He served as emcee in their performing days, then went into the tech business. Music is just an avocation, or side hustle, now. He also narrated the documentary. He and eldest Bill, the sensitive one, wrote the songs, and complemented each other.

    Barry and John were fun-loving clowns. I say “were”, because Barry made the error of joining Susan in New Orleans, and drowned in Hurricane Katrina. John drums for what’s left of the Beach Boys today.

    Let’s see… The Wilsons have no sister, the Gibbs, Cowsills, and Osmonds one each, and the Jacksons two. How do other brother bands do on this metric?

    Is it better to come from a balanced family, or one skewed to one sex or the other?

  59. anon[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @education realist

    Ann and Nancy were obviously the gimmick that got them through, but having heard an overabundance of Heart in recent years on classic rock stations while at work, I feel confident saying that the basically anonymous non-Wilson sister band members may have been the real talents.

    They came up with a pretty solid, yet somewhat idiosyncratic 70’s hard rock sound. Ann had pretty decent pipes but came off as hippy-goofy at times (so coin flip I think if a random decent singing local replacement would have been an improvement or detriment) and Nancy played acoustic I think (so don’t know how central she was to their best songs, which were usually electric guitar hard rock).

  60. @Ragno

    There’s Rob Halford of course.

  61. Robin and Maurice were twins (fraternal?).

    Do you even have to ask? You could tell from the nosebleed seats:

  62. I looked up the Kinks: Sir Ray is the older brother, so no disrespect to Dave Davies

    Or to Michael McCartney or Chris Jagger.

    Mike McCartney: Being a Beatle brother or a Guinness heir, you relax and enjoy your heritage

  63. @Hapalong Cassidy

    Regarding the Young brothers of AC/DC, they had five older brothers, most of whom were involved in the music business in one form or another. One brother, George, produced several of AC/DC’s early albums


    George, along with Harry Vanda, were the heart of the Easybeats. They wrote and produced “Love Is In the Air” for John Paul Young (no relation).

    The eldest Young, Alexander, did not emigrate with his family. He performed as “George Alexander” in Grapefruit, which John Lennon called his favorite band. He was not, however, the George Alexander of the Flamin’ Groovies.

  64. @MBlanc46

    I own an Allman Brothers record-collection in swamp green and pawnshop gold and dead pig’s rosé*** and on it is a completely otherworldly stage announcement – I think it’s Duane, speaking, at about 4 in the morning, some festival somewhere in the South, and he talks on and on – with what part of his brain he is at it – you can’t decipher, really, – not the one, other people use – but as incoherent as it may be what he’s is talking about, he has your ear, and – – – seems to get it and – – – – he introduces Statesboro Blues and says something about – – – Lightnin’ Hopkins or Robert Johnson or somebody and – – then the band starts playing and all you wish for is: To have been there…

    ***= perfect design – but most likely very low numbers sold (hehe — that’s the hippie part of the whole thing)

  65. Kylie says:

    Franz Schubert was a considerably more gifted composer than his brother Ferdinand, his elder by three years.

  66. The Dorsey brothers broke up onstage. Younger Tommy stormed off. Paid off, for him and us.

    The Kinks couldn’t perform in the US at the height of their fame. The musicians union blocked them from union venues, and no venues, no visas.

    Why? Because Ray and Dave got into fisticuffs onstage. (The union was also getting tired of this “British Invasion”, which they saw as an invasion, period.)

    The Bachmans of BTO were quite contentious. Tim quit early. Randy was estranged from the band for a long time. Rob preferred to write songs with C.F. Turner, the Al Jardine of the group.

    • Replies: @Cortes
  67. Cortes says:

    Drummer Mike Giles

    kept his place in the original lineup of King Crimson. Peter, his younger brother, got bumped in favour of Greg Lake.

    On a tangent: is the younger sister invariably better-looking?

  68. @The Wild Geese Howard

    They’re certainly very funny. Noel’s quip about Liam being a man with a fork in a world of soup is a classic.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  69. Mr. Blank says:

    There’s also the Carpenters, although I’m not sure how you’d judge them. Older brother Richard was apparently the behind-the-scenes wizard, but Karen was the star — without her, none of her brother’s talents would have found an outlet.

  70. something i never thought about, but i don’t think it’s an accurate pattern. since i’m a music historian, that probably would have stood out to me after 40 years of pouring over this stuff. but it didn’t.

    doesn’t mean there isn’t something to it. let’s check the data.

  71. @Anonymous

    That’s a really good article on Morrissey. An interesting digression in there on the conflict between Irish Catholic and Protestant Anglo-Saxon strains of British pop/rock.

    I’m pretty fortunate – I loved the Smiths as a teenager and my politics seem to have gone the same direction as his over the years, so I don’t have to go through a Stewart Lee moment with him.

    Lee is one of the best examples of the malignant hateful tumor pulsating at the heart of Britain’s remainer class. It’s hard to know what’s got into these people. It might be epigenetic blitz trauma or something. But they are deeply f*cked up.

  72. J.Ross says: • Website

    It seems to me that an internationally famous musical homosexual would be a worst case scenario for squeaky wheel distortion. Consider the Motown Players or the university faculty encompassing Parliament, Funkadelic, the Ohio Players, and players for James Brown who weren’t Ohio Players: how many of them would you bet money were gay? Jazz musicians are often held up as among the more technically proficient — they’re musician’s musicians — and how many of the greats were gay?

  73. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Reg Cæsar

    That’s due to a North Irish actor with a very specific set of genre boundaries rather than the Not-Beatles.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  74. J.Ross says: • Website

    There is the karmic Alpha Curse, where manly men reliably father daughters, but obviously that can’t be absolute.

  75. For example, I recently read an interview with Bruce Springsteen in which he admitted that his popular on-stage persona is modeled on his macho blue collar dad and that’s not the real Bruce up on stage. He’s more the sissy momma’s boy.

    The new Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City (formerly Trump’s Taj Mahal) has one of Springsteen’s stage-worn denim vests from the Born in the U.S.A. tour era.

    What struck me about it is how small it was – something akin to a 36 jacket. It is evident that Bruce was never a large man.

    My theory of popular male musicians is that they pursued music in order to garner the attention of girls, since the more direct route of athletic stud wasn’t readily available to them due to their physical statures. I can’t readily think of many popular male musicians who were also stand out athletes in any of the girl-attracting sports.

  76. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Alec Leamas

    A lot of people including many musicians have said exactly this; when Eddie Murphy was touring with the Bus Boys and had a bit discussing sexual market options by profession, the conclusion was that musicians have the best. Several years ago there was a game experiment where a scruffy looking but not fat guy approached high end white collar professional women on their lunch break, holding an empty guitar case, and reliably got phone numbers.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  77. @J.Ross

    Famous actresses often marry musicians.

    • Replies: @Kylie
  78. Cortes says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Ray Davies had “poor judgement” according to one US critic:

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  79. @J.Ross

    Of course. Oasis never sold over here.

    Our church had a priest named Liam about 50 years ago. We didn’t know how to pronounce the name. We’d never heard it before, and in those days, no one ever called a priest by his first name, to him or to anyone else.

    The “Father Joes” and “Father Bobs” and “Father Mikes” came along later.

  80. @Alec Leamas

    It’s a sad day when one realizes, “The Boss,” is actually a vegetarian, America-hating midget and his schtick is all a big put on.

  81. @Cortes

    Louisiana had “shall issue” concealed carry by then, but you had to be a resident until 2011. Ray wouldn’t have qualified. Perhaps his date?

    At least that was better than the 1813 law, which banned it outright until the mid-1990s.

  82. @education realist

    Didn’t Van Halen split up because Dave was tired of splitting songwriting credit with Alex and Michael who didn’t write anything?

    • Replies: @education realist
  83. Jacobian says:

    Probably some selection bias. Older siblings talented enough to make it do it on their own without little bro tagging along. When little bro is the talented one, older bro hangs around for women and good gigs.

  84. Not really sure how to quantify if a certain sib is actually a “better musician” than the other. In the case of the Van Halen brothers, both were taught to play classical piano as children, and both learned guitar. Eddie might be a better musician, but that perception seems mostly based on the fact that he plays guitar in their band, and Alex plays drums.

    In my anecdotal experience, the second daughter is almost always a better softball player than her older sister, and I attribute that to the younger sister having to try harder to keep up with the older sister from a younger age. Perhaps there is a parallel regarding sibling musicians.

    And how come no one wants to discuss the musical merits of Hanson and the Jonas Brothers?

    • Replies: @education realist
  85. @Cowboy Shaw

    Yes, Noel, and to a lesser extent Liam, are endlessly quotable.

  86. The Louvin Brothers were equal, although the eldest was the lead singer and perhaps the more flamboyant.

    The exact same description goes for the Everlys.

    Out goes your little “theory.”

  87. Anonymous[139] • Disclaimer says:

    There’s obvious bias when comparing brothers in the same act: Older brothers are used to being better in anything just because the age gap. Which older brother would collaborate with clearly more talented younger brother?

  88. @Redneck farmer

    Not in any version I’ve ever heard. The story of the first breakup is quite consistent–David Lee Roth wanted to do movies and have a solo career, Eddie didn’t want to write music for David’s movie. The second time they broke up, after Hagar was fired, Roth infuriated Eddie with his stupidity and Eddie was like jesus, this is all coming back, I can’t deal with this guy.

    It is true that they share songwriting credits equally, even though Eddie basically writes music, the lead singers write lyrics. But that had nothing to do with why Roth left. The person who bitched about that endlessly was Eddie.

    • Replies: @Hapalong Cassidy
  89. Smaller, younger, and less macho brothers have to attract the girls somehow.

    Being a good musician and a little on the feminine side can make it easier to connect with women, which is helpful for straight men.

    I speak from experience, having three older brothers and being the best musician in the family.

  90. @MikeatMikedotMike

    Well, no, it’s based on the fact that Eddie Van Halen utterly transformed guitar playing, particulalry riffs. Eddie might only be in the top ten guitar players of all time, but if you check out Rolling Stones ranking of best guitarists, he’s the only one of his generation in the top 30. And when it comes to influence, he’s ranked even higher.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
  91. Kylie says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Evelyn Keyes all married Artie Shaw.

    • Replies: @education realist
  92. @education realist

    Don’t forget that EVH also played on Michael Jacks0n’s “Beat It” which won Record of the Year.

    Sadly EVH didn’t play on Weird Al’s “Eat It”. Instead they had to get

    Rick Derringer

  93. @Bugg

    Here’s a video of England in the Sixties. Not a burqa to be found.

  94. @Kylie

    Lana Turner and Ava Gardner married him before they were famous. Evelyn Keyes never had much of a career; Artie Shaw was a big comedown from her previous husband, John Huston, and she quit acting the year before she married Shaw. Most of his wives were nobodies or second-tier starlets. The only woman he married at the top of her game was an author, Kathleen Winsor of Forever Amber fame.

    Shaw was an incredible asshole and control freak; any movie star with any level of fame wouldn’t ever tolerate his garbage, music or not.

  95. ” it usually is the younger sibling who is more talented” depends on the definition of talented, obviously, but I guess in the rock world that is defined by record sales, sold out stadium tours and the like.

    Tim Finn and Neil Finn meet that criteria, given that Neil fronted Crowded House which were internationally famous whereas Tim fronted Split Enz which were never an internationally recognised band though famous in Oz and NZ. That being said, both are very talented and it was Tim who introduced Neil into his band, Tim who led the way, and his younger brother benefiting, later to take over (returning the favour on the Crowded House album Woodface). Strike one for younger sibling.

    Bass guitarist for Crowded House was Nick Seymour, younger brother of the locally famous Mark Seymour of Hunters & Collectors fame – never an internationally recognised band but relatively successful in Oz. Mark was the more talented in that respect. Strike one for elder sibling.

    The two brothers of Mental as Anything, Reg Mombassa (Christopher “Chris” O’Doherty ) lead guitar & Peter O’Doherty (bass) come out evens, though maybe Reg edges ahead since he also made a profitable career for himself as an artist, especially with his Mambo shirt designs. Evens.

    (Though the younger Pete wrote the best tune of either of them – an Ozzie take on Led Zepppelin’s Immigrant Song)

    INXS Farriss brothers are in birth order: Tim Farriss guitar , Andrew Farriss Keyboards (main composer), drummer Jon Farriss. How do the forgotten middle children fare in HBD? Because in this instance Andrew Farriss comes out way on top.

    Others have noted the Young brothers George, Michael and Angus but neglect to note that George was 5th son, then Malcolm and Angus (followed by otherwise musically unknown John – the youngest sibling).

    As per Malcolm: “All the males in our family played, Stevie, the oldest played accordion, Alex and John were the first couple to play guitar, and being older it was sort of passed down to George, then myself, then Angus.”

    Something that should be given consideration is birth order in large, 10 plus, mid approx 5 and small, 3 or less families. In the larger ones the siblings tend to group (and form alliances). So George, Malcolm and Angus may have formed a particularly tight bond of three.

    One hitherto unnoticed aspect of the Young family is a what a great story they are for Oz immigration. Such a story would be great to promote the benefits of migration and refugees to this wide brown land. Yet, for reasons unknonw, this story has never made itself known in MSM – probably because they are all White.

    “Initially staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel (a site later developed as Villawood Immigration Detention Centre) in Nissen huts, George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Harry Vanda.”

    Now known as Villawood Detention Centre right across the road from where I grew up, next to Bankstown, formerly Irishtown, before being rededicated to the botanist of Cook’s expedition on Endeavour, Villawood Detention Centre is the notorious refugee gateway to the Golden Welfare Clad Sydney South-West. It’s odd that the place hasn’t been rededicated as the Vanda & Young Detention Centre to give it some greater cultural uplift.

    But in terms of HBD birth order, how to split that trio in terms of talent I don’t really think you can. Though I’d be edging towards George Young given his role in The Easybeats (great cover of Friday on My Mind on Bowies’ Pinups – itself a Hannagan Top 10 greatest cover albums of all time – another classification warranting examination: cover albums), Vanda & Young (an amazing list of record sales singles including Love is in the Air, a seminal Oz backyard musical classic), and producing all the early AC/DC albums that made their sound.

    Note the contrasting Dutch Vanda with Scots Young.

    In conclusion, from this small array of 1970s and 1980s Oz/NZ rock music, it’s quite clear the middle siblings come out on top.

    Btw, how the hell did you come up with this: “For boys, younger brothers are slightly more likely to be homosexual than older brothers”? I’m genuinely fascinated to read the citation for that one.

  96. PN says:

    Outside of rock music, the observation doesn’t really hold up in the musical world at large. Some examples:

    Wagner and Mozart were the youngest of their families, Debussy and Johann Strauss II were the oldest. Pyotr Tchaikovsky was vastly more talented than his younger brother Modest. Beethoven was the oldest of the brothers who survived and the only one with much talent.

    The enormously fecund (artistically and otherwise) J.S. Bach was himself the youngest child but his most talented offspring were the 2nd and 5th out of more than a dozen.

    Interestingly, I don’t recall many only children who achieved musical success.

  97. @Desiderius

    But not “postmodernism”.

    Please make sure that stays off your list.

    • Replies: @Desiderius
  98. Calendar says:

    Split Enz had hit their creative ceiling when Tim Finn added his kid brother, Neil, who subsequently wrote their biggest hit, “I Got You.”

    Neil is a member of Fleetwood Mac these days.

  99. cthulhu says:

    And listen to the raucous yet fluid slide solos on “One Way Out” on the Allman’s Live at Filmore record. Dickie Betts was, and still is, a very very good player, but he sounds like a piker compared to Duane.

    The main guitar solo on One Way Out is Dickie’s, and it’s pretty spectacular; I’m a decent guitarist, and I can play that solo note-for-note, but at only about 85% of the speed that Dickie does. The band is seriously cooking on that tune. The slide parts of that song are not that hard.

    That being said, I do think that, all in all, Duane was a slightly better guitarist than Dickie, but it’s a very thin line. Listen to Blue Sky, written by Dickie, off “Eat a Peach”, one of the last songs Duane played on before his untimely death: Duane plays the first half of the solo section, Dickie plays the second half, both are great.

    One thing to note about Gregg Allman is that he was a terrific songwriter and the chief songwriter in the band early on. Lots of people can sing, play guitar, play keyboards, but there are few good songwriters and fewer great songwriters.

    As far as the thesis of sibling relative age and talent/success, I think it is not proven by any means. Also, I recall hearing the “older brothers” male homosexual hypothesis (in a book by Matt Ridley) 10-15 years ago, but I thought more rigorous statistical analysis had ruled it out more recently…

    • Agree: Prodigal son
  100. @Paul Jolliffe

    Too soon. Modernism of course is right out.

  101. @education realist

    According to an interview with Sammy Hagar, Eddie’s songwriting ability has been vastly overrated. Eddie was good st writing riffs, but not good at arranging them into a coherent song. That job fell to Hagar, who also wrote the lyrics. Based on how different Hagar’s version of VH sounds from the Roth-led version, I’d say he’s telling the truth. I’d also say Roth did the arranging as well when he was with VH. Roth’s first solo album sounds more like a Roth VH album than 5150 does.

  102. MBlanc46 says:

    “One Way Out” was first recorded by Elmore James and a bit later by Sonny Boy Williamson II, but a bunch of white guys surpassed even those masters.

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