Everyone knows that the life of a rock star is one that sometimes comes with debauchery, booze, substance use, lavish parties, and just general excess. So what would it be like for the kids? Some children born to famous musicians have joined the so-called family business and forged their own successful careers in the music industry. Others were not so lucky and suffered at the hands of parents too busy battling their own demons to raise them properly. For an in-depth look at the good, the bad, and the tragic, here are 45 facts about the children of famous musicians.
1. Never Tear Us Apart
Tragedy has sadly haunted the children of Paula Yates. Although not a rock star, the Welsh TV presenter was involved with two big names in the world of music: Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats, and Michael Hutchence of the band INXS. She had three daughters with Geldof before they divorced. She gave birth to a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, with Hutchence in 1996, but in 1997, Hutchence took his own life.
The next few years of Yates' life were unsurprisingly hellish. She denied all claims that Hutchence's demise was intentional, and claimed that Geldof had previously threatened her and told her that he was above the law. She spent time in psychiatric treatment and lost custody of her daughters with Geldof after attempting to end her own life. While fighting for custody of her daughters, she discovered that the man she thought was her father actually was not, and that her biological father had passed on months prior. Sadly, things were about to get worse.
2. Tragedy Upon Tragedy
Paula Yates passed on from accidental overdose in 2001, leaving behind four children, and leaving her daughter Tiger Lily orphaned. Geldof stepped up and adopted Tiger Lily so that she could grow up with her sisters, but their nightmare wasn't over yet. In 2014, Yates and Geldof's daughter Peaches also succumbed to an overdose. Hopefully for the remaining members of the Geldof-Yates-Hutchence clan, that horrible chapter of their lives is closed.
English model Daisy Lowe, daughter to singer-songwriter Pearl Lowe, grew up thinking that her father was Bronner Handwerger. But when she was 15 years old, she questioned her parents about their difference in blood types, and her mother confessed that she'd had a one-night stand with Daisy's godfather: Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale. Rossdale was reluctant to take a paternity test, but when he finally did, it confirmed that he was Lowe's father.
4. Royal Coronation
History has taught us that if you are born into royalty, you marry into royalty. Okay, Lisa Marie Presley might not be royalty, but she’s the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. When it came to getting married, then, only a king would suffice: so she married the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
And then after they split, she married Nicolas Cage, who I would argue is the King of Camp.
After Elvis passed on in 1977, Lisa Marie Presley’s mother was looking for some answers. She apparently found them in Scientology, which she then indoctrinated her daughter into. Since that time, Lisa Marie has been a major spokesperson for groups linked to the Church of Scientology, even addressing the United States Congress in 2002 on behalf of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
She was making the case that children shouldn’t be medicated for ADHD, because according to Scientology, it’s a kind of mind-control.
6. Like Father, Like Son
Growing up with a famous dad must be hard enough, but Sean Lennon even had to share a birthday with his father John Lennon. Sean was born on October 9, 1975—his father’s 35th birthday. What a coincidence!
7. A Glimpse at the Future
Sometimes it pays to have famous parents, especially when those parents are known for their visionary and cutting-edge movies and music. It makes sense, then, that Sean Lennon would have an early encounter with Steve Jobs in 1984. While Jobs attended a party being hosted by Lennon’s mom, Yoko Ono, he gave young Sean a rather priceless gift: one of the first Macintosh computers to ever be built.
8. Starting Early
Although Sean Lennon’s musical career has certainly never hit the heights that his father achieved with the Beatles, he has had a decent solo career spurred from his early introduction into the music industry. His first credits on an album came when he was just 5 years old, when he provided a spoken word sample on his mother’s album Season of Glass.
He would go on to provide vocals for three more Yoko Ono projects throughout the 1980s.
9. Unfortunate Son
While Sean Lennon might have reaped the rewards of his famous parents, his half-brother Julian has a much gloomier view of his famous dad, John Lennon. Julian was born to John and his first wife Cynthia in the 1960s, and was quickly abandoned by the Beatle at just 5 years old. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Julian was even allowed access to some of the Beatles’ fortune!
10. Eerie Coincidence
A lot of mythology has come about surrounding the untimely murder of John Lennon. One of the weirder elements of it is the parallel between his two sons, Julian and Sean. John left Julian and his mother when his son was just 5 years old. And how old was Sean when John was slain outside a New York hotel in 1980? You guessed it, five.
11. Thanks for the Memories
Part of Julian Lennon’s suit against his father’s estate was about nostalgia and personal connections, rather than money. By being barred from the estate, Julian lost access to a whole host of mementos of his father. He soon found himself using the settlement money to buy back some of his father’s things, including one of his Afghan coats and a black velvet cape.
Some of the prices were astronomical!
12. Bohemian Lifestyle
When your father is perhaps the biggest rock star on the planet, you’re bound to have some interesting babysitters. Jade Jagger, the businesswoman and socialite, had just that experience when growing up in New York with Mick Jagger as her father. So none other than the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol would do for taking care of the young Jade when Mick and Bianca were out partying at Studio 54.
13. Rebel Without a Cause
When you grow up on the Upper East Side with Mick Jagger as your father, you might want to flaunt the rules every once and a while. This was what happened with Mick’s first daughter, Jade. By the time she was 15, she was sent to boarding school in England to learn better manners. It didn’t really work: she was expelled from Wiltshire within the year!
14. A Talented Cast
One benefit of being the child of a famous musician is that you get to grow up surrounded by immensely talented individuals. Natalie Cole, the daughter of celebrated jazz pianist Nat King Cole, remembers her childhood fondly for the amazing people she got to meet at the parties her parents hosted. By the time she was a teenager, she had already rubbed elbows with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
No wonder she grew up to be one of the most recognized voices in America!
15. Up in Flames
After scoring a number of hits on the charts, Natalie Cole’s life started to take a turn for the worse in late 1970s. She was apprehended in Toronto, Canada for possession of an illicit substance in 1975 and that only spurred a further descent into substance use. In her 2000 autobiography, Cole recounts the time that she refused to leave a burning building while on a binge.
She also remembers her son almost drowning in their family pool because she was so out of it. By 1983, Cole entered rehab and started to revive her life and her career.
16. Lasting Damage
Towards the end of her life, Natalie Cole suffered from a number of health complications due to her past substance use. The past, she told Larry King in an interview, was coming back to haunt her. A majority of the problems stemmed from the fact that for 25 years, Natalie Cole had been carrying hepatitis C. She recalls that she contracted it by sharing a needle with another user who was infected with the disease.
The daughter of Nat King Cole and soulful singer succumbed to health complications on New Years’ Eve 2015.
17. Sins of Our Fathers
The children of rock stars have a much different view of what goes on behind the scenes. Julian Lennon has been incredibly critical of his father, John Lennon, ever since the singer’s murder in 1980. Julian had a particularly hard time swallowing the constant praise the former Beatle received for his passivism and “peace and love” ideas about the world.
In Julian’s experiences, his father could be a cruel and mean-spirited person—this was the man, after all, who abandoned him when he was still a toddler.
18. Father of the Year
Sometimes being the son of a deified music legend like Bob Dylan doesn’t turn out so bad after all. Jakob Dylan has, for all intents and purposes, carved out a successful life both within the music industry and the outside world. In 2014 he was even awarded Father of the Year by the American Diabetes Association, thanks to his philanthropic work supporting diabetes awareness.
19. Brotherly Love
Bob Dylan’s sons, Jesse and Jakob, have both carved out unique and creative careers. Jakob gained success with his band The Wallflowers throughout the 90s, while Jesse had a good run as a film director—he helmed such hits as How High, American Wedding, and Kicking & Screaming. With American Wedding, the brothers Dylan even managed to work together: while Jesse directed, Jakob provided some of the soundtrack.
20. In the Family
Mackenzie Phillips’ story is one of the more harrowing accounts of life growing up in the shadow of a famous musician. While reading excerpts from her 2009 memoir on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Phillips stated that she had been in an incestuous relationship with her father, the rock musician John Phillips, beginning when she was just 19 years of age.
On the show she called it a “sort of Stockholm Syndrome” when she thinks back on those years.
21. Troubling Childhood
Looking back now, it is easy to see why Mackenzie Phillips began experiencing substance use issues. Her musician father helped her get access to illicit substances, and allegedly once injected her with them. According to Mackenzie, he was responsible for her very first experience with illicit substances—she was just 11 years old at the time.
With her rock star dad giving her access to some of the biggest names in show business, Mackenzie Phillips was a rising movie star in the 1970s. She appeared in hit films such as American Graffiti and television programs such as One Day at a Time. Things started to go south, and she developed a substance use problem and spent much of the 80s and 90s sporadically making guest appearances on a number of TV shows like Murder, She Wrote and Melrose Place.
23. A Way Back
Mackenzie Phillips has started to turn a corner in the past few years. After surviving an abusive childhood with her father John Phillips and hitting rock bottom when she was apprehended for drug possession in 2008, Mackenzie entered rehab and started to get clean. She even appeared on the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab in 2010.
She’s started acting in films again and was even nominated for a Behind the Voice Actors Award for her work on Milo Murphy’s Law in 2017.
Bijou Phillips, daughter of Mamas & Papas singer John Phillips, gained fame acting in several horror and drama films throughout the 2000s. But since then, things haven't gone so well. Bijou was accused by former co-stars of abusive and bullying behavior. Daniel Franzese, best known for Mean Girls, said that Phillips made fun of his weight and sexuality.
Heather Matarazzo alleged that he was physically assaulted by Phillips. Phillips has since apologized for her behavior.
25. Mixed Opinions
When Mackenzie Phillips dropped the shocking news of her incestuous and abusive relationship with her father, John Phillips, in 2009, her sisters did not know what to think. Mackenzie’s half-sister Chyna Phillips has supported her throughout the aftermath, but other family members have raised doubts over the credibility of the stories. Mackenzie's half-sister Bijou said that she first heard of the mistreatment from Mackenzie when she was 13 years old. However, she now doubts the veracity of Mackenzie's story.
Pianist and jazz artist Norah Jones had a bit of a rocky relationship with her father, the famous Indian musician Ravi Shankar, after he split up with Jones’ mother in the mid-1980s. Although Jones has become a huge success, she always wanted to mend her relationship with her father. She managed to do so just in time—in the late 2000s, she traveled to New Delhi to spend time with Ravi, just before he passed on in 2012.
27. You’ve Got Talent
When your father is a world-renowned composer and musician and your mother is a concert producer, you grow up around music. It’s not at all surprising, then, that Norah Jones has carved out quite the career with someone like Ravi Shankar as her father. Jones certainly inherited some talent and has received a slew of awards and nominations.
She is also one of the top-selling jazz artists of all time; her 2002 solo album, Come Away with Me, went certified Diamond, reaching sales figures of over 27 million copies.
28. Off the Deep-End
Miley Cyrus has, to put it mildly, had a roller-coaster decade with the American public. The daughter of country-music sensation Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley at first cut a pure and innocent figure through her Disney-channel show. That changed around the mid-2010s when things got a little more…adult. At the height of the antics came the announcement that she would be performing a fully undressed concert with The Flaming Lips as her backing band.
Well, Wayne Coyne was certainly never one for subtlety!
29. Up in Smoke
In what can only be described as a “stoner phase,” Billy Ray Cyrus’s once innocent TV star daughter, Miley Cyrus, got really into doing weed. In fact, it became a part of her tribute to her dog Floyd after he passed on. To honor her beloved pet, Miley built a massive, light-up bong.
30. Into the Family
Everyone knows that Nicole Ritchie is the famous writer and socialite daughter of musician Lionel Ritchie, but did you know that she was actually adopted? Nicole’s biological parents, also musicians, could not afford to raise the young girl and when Lionel Richie met them at a Prince concert when Nicole was just 2, he agreed to take her into his home.
31. Trouble with the Law
Growing up with a famous dad in the middle of a bitter and public divorce, Nicole Richie herself claims that she was allowed too much freedom while growing up. The result was a series of public run-ins with the law during the 2000s. While filming her reality show with friend Paris Hilton, Ritchie was apprehended for a DWI and eventually spent four days in lockup.
32. Enhancing the Image
After a series of run-ins with the law and DWI arrests, Nicole Richie decided she wanted to change the way the public perceived her, and she became invested in a number of philanthropic endeavors with her partner Joel Madden. “The Richie Madden Children’s Foundation” has done a number fundraisers for UNICEF since 2007, including a public-service announcement to raise funds for Myanmar after the country was rocked by a devastating cyclone.
33. Lights, Camera, Action
Growing up is hard enough when your father is supposedly some offspring of the devil or something, so adding in a bunch of cameras and television crew to your daily life couldn’t help. But that was what Kelly Osbourne experienced in the final years of her teens. The MTV series The Osbournes took a candid look into the family life of the foul-mouthed Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne.
Kelly has since talked about how stressful the filming of the reality show was for herself and her family, but that it also provided her with a springboard into more film and television roles.
34. Kill the Pain
In part because of the stress of having cameras watching your every move for months at a time, Kelly Osbourne made headlines in the late 2000s when she entered rehab for an addiction to painkillers. She relapsed twice, re-entering treatment in 2005 and 2009 but has since recovered and continues to have a successful career on television shows such as Project Runway and Dancing with the Stars.
35. Daddy’s Girl
Famous musicians love to write songs about their children—usually in a positive way! Lionel Richie was no different. In 1986 he penned the single “Ballerina Girl,” which was a tribute to his daughter, Nicole Richie.
36. Family Connections
People were kind of surprised when they found out that Redfoo and Sky Blu of LMFAO fame were actually an uncle and nephew duo—but it made sense with the family line. After all, Redfoo, whose real name is Stefan Kendal Gordy, is the youngest son of one of the biggest music moguls on the planet. Stefan’s father is none other than Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records.
No wonder they could afford all those shots in this economy.
37. Family Beef
We know Rashida Jones now for her wry wit and comedic acting chops thanks to stints on hit sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation, but when she was still a teenager she made the headlines for much more political reasons. In 1994, she penned a strongly-worded open letter in response to a recent attack on her parents from Tupac Shakur.
Tupac had been dismissive of Quincy Jones for his mixed-race marriage to Rashida’s mother Peggy Lipton. The family eventually smoothed things over.
38. He Never Made It
Kidada Jones was waiting for Tupac Shakur in a Las Vegas hotel the night he was fatally shot. The model and fashion designer claims that she was engaged to Tupac at the time of his passing, and remained with him in the hospital for six days, before he eventually succumbed to his wounds.
39. Not the Life for Me
Before she eventually took up the performing arts like her father Quincy, Rashida Jones had her eyes set on a different career. While attending Harvard, Rashida became politically engaged and was interested in a potential career as a lawyer. This all changed with the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Rashida has recalled that she became disillusioned with the court system after seeing the near-constant news cycle about the events and outcome of the trial. She wisely turned her attention to her gifts as a singer and actor.
40. Fated to Be
Sometimes it’s just meant to be, you know? Take Rufus Wainwright, the talented Canadian singer-songwriter and pianist. His father was the famous folk singer Loudon Wainwright III, who was in turn the son of Life magazine columnist Loudon Wainwright, Jr. But the talent goes way further back than that. The Wainwrights come from an American political dynasty that extends to Peter Stuyvesant, who in the 17th century was the governor of New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that later became New York.
41. Dark Times
When Rufus Wainwright was 14, he had a life-changing experience. While in London, England, he met a man at the bar and began what he thought was going to be romantic stroll through Hyde Park. Instead, the man nearly killed Rufus after sexually assaulting and robbing him. The event was severely traumatic for the young man, and led to some of his struggles with addiction years later.
42. A Bad Trip
Rufus Wainwright’s crystal methamphetamine addiction reached rock bottom when he temporarily lost his vision in 2002. He spent a week gallivanting through London partying with the likes of Barbara Bush (George W. Bush’s daughter), his own mother and her friend, the singer-songwriter Marianne Faithfull, and Anohni, who at the time was the singer of Antony and the Johnsons.
After hallucinating images of his father throughout the entire episode, Rufus decided he needed to get clean and went to live with Loudon Wainwright III, with whom he had always had a rocky relationship.
43. Tragic Fall
Even the biggest rock stars on the planet fall victim to tragic accidents. In 1991, Eric Clapton’s four-and-a-half-year-old son, Conor, tragically passed on after falling out the window of his 53rd-floor condo. The window had been accidentally left open by one of the maids cleaning the apartment.
44. Paying Tribute
After the tragic loss of his son Conor, Eric Clapton got to work making a tribute the best way he knew how: with his music. In 1992 he released the single “Tears in Heaven,” which was initially written for the film Rush. The song was a major success, topping the charts and selling almost three million copies in the United States alone.
The song went on to receive nine Grammy nominations for 1992, winning in six categories.
45. Healing Tunes
Eric Clapton used music as a way to help him grieve the untimely passing of his son. He spoke of the song he wrote for Conor, “Tears in Heaven,” as a form of healing in interviews: “I almost subconsciously used music or myself as a healing agent,” he said to Daphne Barak, “I have got a great deal of happiness and a great deal of healing from music".