The Musical History of the Beatles’ Children
What was it like having a Beatle for a father, especially if you're looking to break into the music business? Those are some mighty big footsteps to follow, as you'll see as we take a look at the Musical History of the Beatles' Children.
You'll read about what they've done in their careers, as well as find out how being the sons of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison or Ringo Starr has helped or hindered them.
Born: April 8, 1963
The first Beatles child to enter the music business has also been the most successful. Julian Lennon's 1984 debut, Valotte, featured two Top 10 singles (the title track and "Too Late for Goodbyes") and went platinum. But future efforts had diminishing sales, and Lennon was eventually disillusioned by the industry's attempt to portray him as the reincarnation of his father, John Lennon.
"They tried to create this image," he told the Telegraph in 1998. "It was like being a puppet, a pawn being shifted around. To me, it was about the songwriting, the songs. But nobody wanted to hear that. They just wanted to see me and touch me and play with me and ask me questions about Dad. For many years, I went along with it. I was too nice. I could have been the nastiest son of a bitch you ever met, but I chose not to take that route. I did have that anger inside me. I did have that laconic wit -- but it's in its place."
His parents' 1968 split was famously the inspiration for "Hey Jude," and Lennon spent his formative years apart from his father. “After [the divorce] I only saw him a handful of times before he was killed,” Julian wrote. “Sadly, I never really knew the man. I think that the work he produced was incredible and so was what he achieved with his three friends, Paul, George and Ringo. But his work hasn’t given me a clear insight into what his real life was about or how he truly felt about it.”
But his difficult relationship with his father gave Julian a different perspective of John than the one the Beatle chose to show the world. "I have to say that, from my point of view, I felt he was a hypocrite," he continued. "Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces -- no communication, adultery, divorce? You can't do it, not if you're being true and honest with yourself."
By 2009, Julian said that he had finally forgiven John, and that it was the result of the death of a friend, who unknowingly provided the inspiration for another Beatles classic. Lucy Vodden -- the inspiration behind Julian's drawing that he called "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" -- died of lupus; Julian's "Lucy," which he released as a single, proved to be therapeutic.
"In the past, I had said I had forgiven Dad," he told CBS News. "But it was only words. It wasn't until the passing of my friend Lucy and the writing of this song that really helped me forgive my father. I realized if I continued to feel that anger and bitterness towards my dad, I would have a constant cloud hanging over my head my whole life. After recording the song 'Lucy,' almost by nature, it felt right to fulfill the circle, forgive dad, put the pain, anger and bitterness in the past, and focus and appreciate the good things."
Born: Sept. 13, 1965
“I was never actively pushed to do anything like that, but I was never discouraged," Zak Starkey said about becoming a drummer. "I was left to do what I wanted, really. I’m sure they thought it would wear off after a while and I’d lose interest, but they were wrong!”
He wound up getting one lesson from his father Ringo Starr, which consisted of being taught how to keep basic time and being told, "If you want to learn, put on headphones and play along to records."
But then family friend, and Zak's godfather, Keith Moon got involved. When Zak turned 12, Moon bought him a professional kit and, shortly thereafter, Zak was playing in a band called the Next with his neighbors, who were considerably older. He spent much of the '80s as a drummer for hire, and also participated in a few of his father's All-Starr Band tours.
Starkey's lifelong connection to the Who camp led to work on solo projects by Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle; he eventually became their drummer in 1996, a position he has held onto ever since. He also spent four years in Oasis, playing on their last two albums.
Born: Aug. 19, 1967
Ringo's other son, Jason, had a much different experience in the music business. He drummed in Buddy Curtis and the Grasshoppers, who released a single in 1984, and also the People's Friend. Another band, Empire of Sponge, put out a single in 2003. He also drummed in a band called Musty Jack Sponge and the Exploding Nudists, which featured his brother Zak on guitar. As far as we can tell, their sole performance was a 1987 gig at a South London pub called the Half Moon, with their father in attendance.
In 1999, Jason began dating fashion designer Flora Evans. They married in 2010 and have four children together. But Jason, who had run-ins with the law in his younger days, has admitted that his famous name has been a burden.
"Being Ringo Starr's son is the biggest drag of my life. It's a total pain," he once said, although it's unknown if he was simply displaying the Starkeys' famous Liverpudlian wit.
Born: Oct. 9, 1975
The 1975 birth of Sean Lennon prompted John to temporarily retire from music, becoming a househusband while Yoko Ono looked after the family affairs. As Sean has often said, he didn't even know about his father's past until a neighbor showed him Yellow Submarine.
Because his father was killed two months after Sean's fifth birthday, he didn't learn about music -- or the pitfalls of the music industry -- from John, but rather his half-brother Julian. “He got attacked, destroyed,” Sean told Rolling Stone in 1998. “He’d say stuff to me like, 'Be careful. They’re really gonna get you.'”
But Sean also got to see how being the son of rock royalty could impact one's musical growth through his friend, Harper Simon. "His dad [Paul Simon] is constantly showing him chords on the guitar," he continued. "It’s nice. He’s lucky. On another level, I think it’s made it hard for him, that his dad is constantly over his shoulder musically. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish my dad was around. Even if my dad had totally repressed me and not allowed me to play music at all, I would take that over him being gone."
Lennon said that the first time he met Paul's daughter, Stella McCartney, they spent all night bonding over growing up as the children of Beatles: "In a way, we feel like these weird floating islands. And when we bump into each other, it’s like, 'Wow! What was it like for you? Oh, well, that’s what it was like for me too.' I definitely feel that connection with Jakob [Dylan], even though I’ve never met him. I’m really psyched for him that he became so successful."
Sean's first appearance on record was on "Even When You're Far Away," a track from Ono's Seasons of Glass, her first album after John's death. That led to more work with his mother, and, at 16, a co-writing credit on Lenny Kravitz's "All I Ever Wanted."
In 1996, he joined the Japanese alternative group Cibo Matto as a bassist, and became romantically involved with one of its members, Yuka Honda. She produced and played on his first solo album, 1998's Into the Sun. Since then, he's released numerous records on his own and as collaborations, scored films and has been an in-demand producer and session musician.
Born: Sept. 12, 1977
The only son of Paul and Linda McCartney, James McCartney, made his recorded debut on his father's 1997 album Flaming Pie, and he co-wrote two tracks with Paul on 2001's Driving Rain. But he didn't release anything on his own until the Available Light EP in 2010. After a second EP, his full-length debut, Me, arrived in 2013, followed by 2016's The Blackberry Train.
Part of his late start, the multi-instrumentalist told the Daily Mail, was due to a struggle with drugs in the wake of Linda's death, but it was also because of the expectations that came with his famous last name.
"It’s hard to live up to the Beatles," he said. "When Wings toured, they got slated. Even Dad found it hard living up to the Beatles. I started out playing under an alias because I wanted to start quietly. ... I felt with the Beatles legacy that there was pressure on me to do music, and while I always loved music and it was always around me at home, I thought about doing other things. I did art, I made furniture. I didn’t want to be a cliche – the Beatle’s son who became a musician."
James made headlines in 2012 when he spoke in favor of creating a band with Sean, Dhani Harrison and either of Ringo's sons, most likely Jason. Part of his wish came true when Dhani played guitar on The Blackberry Train's "Too Hard." He's also dabbled in Linda's profession, photography.
Born: Aug. 1, 1978
George Harrison's sole offspring had originally intended to design cars, but he was called upon to help complete his father's posthumously released Brainwashed album in 2002. He was part of the all-star bands that paid tribute to his dad, first at the Concert for George in 2002 and later at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for his dad. Since 2006, he's been one-half of Thenewno2, has scored several films and has also released an album as Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. His solo debut, In///Parallel, came out in 2017.
Before that, his first public appearance as a musician was joining George onstage during what turned out to be the Beatle's last tour.
“The first time I played onstage was with my dad at Tokyo Dome baseball arena in front of 50,000 people when I was 12," he said. "My joke to my mates was always that I’m working my way back down to playing in a pub in front of four people. Do your music career in reverse. Living the nightmare.”
Dhani admitted that his various projects prior to striking out on his own allowed him to grow into an artist. "Obviously, growing up in my family, you don’t go and play little gigs and have the anonymity when you first start," he told Songwriting. "Not that anyone should feel sorry for me about that!"