15 rock stars whose children are following in their musical footsteps

Max Kalnitz
·12 min read
Paul and James McCartney
Like his father Paul, James McCartney has pursued a career in music. Jim Dyson, David M. Benett/Getty Images
  • The children of numerous rock stars have followed in their parents' footsteps to become successful musicians themselves. 

  • Some, like Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen's son Daxx and Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang, even joined their parents' bands.

  • Others, like former Beatle Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey, who has joined The Who to drum in place of the late Keith Moon, have filled in vacancies in classic rock bands. 

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It makes sense that the children of countless rock legends have followed in their parents' footsteps and pursued careers as musicians. The children of rock stars often grow up touring, at least for some time, with their high-profile parents and get a glimpse of the rock lifestyle at an early age. 

Sometimes rock stars' kids follow in their parents' footsteps and join their band; other times they want to separate themselves from their parents' names and define their own unique style of music.

Here are 15 rock stars whose children have made careers for themselves as musicians. 

Jakob Dylan has followed in his father's footsteps to become a Grammy Award-winning musician.

Bob and Jakob Dylan
Bob and Jakob Dylan. Kevin Mazur, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Arguably America's, or even the rock world's, greatest living songwriter, Bob Dylan passed the gift of his iconic voice and writing skills to his son Jakob. 

Jakob is known for his musical contributions as The Wallflowers, which existed as a band from 1989 until 2014 when Jakob made it his solo project. The younger Dylan and his band were catapulted into the mainstream with their 1996 hit album "Bringing Down the Horse" which yielded the singles "One Headlight," "6th Avenue Heartache," and "Three Marlenas," and went on to sell over 4 million copies and win two Grammy Awards off five nominations.   

 

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's two sons are both musicians.

Billie Joe Armstrong and his kids.
Billie Joe Armstrong playing with his two sons during "The Late Late Show With James Corden." CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Billie Joe Armstrong's two sons, Jakob and Joey, are both following in their rock star dad's footsteps. 

His youngest son, Jakob, is a guitarist and singer/songwriter for the rock band Mt. Eddy; he released his first solo material in 2015 under the stage name Jakob Danger. His eldest son, Joey, is the drummer for the punk rock band SWMRS, whose 2016 track "Lose It" has racked up over 20 million streams on Spotify. 

In April, Armstrong's sons joined him for an appearance on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" to jam out to the Green Day song "I Think We're Alone Now." 

Five of reggae legend Bob Marley's children are musicians.

Bob Marley's children.
From left to right: Ky-Mani Marley, Damian Marley, Julian Marley, Stephen Marley, and Ziggy Marley on stage together in 2019. Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Of Marley's 12 acknowledged children, five have followed in his footsteps to become musicians. 

The most notable is Bob's eldest son, Ziggy Marley, who has released 15 studio albums including seminal hits "Conscious Party" in 1988 and "Dragonfly" in 2003 — he also recorded the theme song for "Arthur." Bob's youngest son, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, is a singer, songwriter, and producer responsible for the 2005 classic record "Welcome to Jamrock." Stephen "Ragga" Marley has released a slew of hits including "Rock Stone" and Hey Baby." Julian Marley is a Grammy-nominated reggae musician, and Ky-Mani Marley is a hip-hop and reggae artist. 

Sean and Julian Lennon both take after their father, John.

Lennons
John, Julian, and Sean Lennon. Michael Ochs Archives, Stephane Cardinale - Corbis, and Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

John Lennon contributed some of the world's most popular and innovative music during his time with The Beatles and in his solo work. John's two sons have followed in his footsteps. 

John's eldest son, Julian — for whom the song "Hey Jude" is named after and who supplied his father with the drawing that inspired "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" —  has experienced a mildly fruitful music career since the 1980s. His 1984 debut album "Valotte" earned him four chart singles and a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Subsequent releases, including "The Secret Value of Daydreaming" and "Mr. Jordan," also cracked the charts. 

His youngest son, Sean, has recently found commercial success after partnering with Primus bassist Les Claypool and Cake drummer Paulo Baldi to form the psych-rock band The Claypool Lennon Delirium. Previously he played in the band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger and from 2009 to 2015, he and his mother, Yoko Ono, brought back the Plastic Ono Band, a supergroup of sorts which his parents started in 1969. 

Phil Collins passed his singing and drumming chops down to his two sons, one of whom now tours with him.

Phil, Simon, and Nicholas Collins
Phil, Simon, and Nicholas Collins. David M. Benett, Prog Magazine, and Sergione Infuso - Corbis/Getty Images

Lily Collins isn't legendary drummer, singer, and songwriter Phil Collins' only child to find success in the arts — his two sons both followed in his footsteps to become musicians. 

His elder son, Simon, was formerly the lead singer for the progressive rock band Sound of Contact. Due to a spine injury, Phil can no longer play drums like he did for Genesis back in the '60s and '70s. But his younger son, Nicholas, is following in his prolific footsteps and now plays drums and tours with his father's band.

Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's son Jason Bonham has filled in on drums at reunion concerts and even has his own Zeppelin tribute band.

John and Jason Bonham.
John and Jason Bonham. Michael Putland, Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

John Bonham provided the bombastic high-energy drumming that helped make Led Zeppelin one of the greatest rock bands on Earth and, in most musicians' eyes, earned him the title of greatest drummer ever. Since his death, his son Jason has filled his footsteps as a powerful, groove-heavy drummer.

Jason has toured and recorded with numerous bands/artists including Sammy Hagar, Foreigner, and UFO, according to his website. In 1989, Jason filled in for his father during the first-ever Led Zeppelin reunion during Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary concert. Later, Jason rejoined Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and Jon Paul Jones in 2007 for Led Zeppelin's highly anticipated reunion concert at the O2 arena in London. 

Jason currently tours as the Led Zeppelin Experience, providing fans of his dad's music with one of the best contemporary live experiences available.

Zak Starkey, son of The Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr, is the drummer for The Who.

Ringo Starr and Zak Starkey
Ringo Starr and Zak Starkey. Chris McKay, Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Ringo is (undeservingly) one of the most underrated drummers in rock history. Compared to other drummers of the '60s like Led Zeppelin's John Bonham or Jimi Hendrix's timekeeper Mitch Mitchell, he may have seemed reserved. But he had a gift for making even simple grooves interesting and helped create The Beatles catalog that would forever change rock music. 

His son is also a gifted drummer. Since 1996, Zak Starkey has been The Who's drummer, mimicking the frenzied spirit and playing style of the late Keith Moon. From 2004 to 2008 he drummed for Oasis and has played with a host of other bands including Johnny Marr and the Spencer Davis Group. Zak got to join his father behind the kit on stage as part of Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in 1992 and 1995. 

Dweezil Zappa plays his late father Frank's music live.

Frank and Dweezil Zappa.
Frank and Dweezil Zappa. Ed Caraeff/Morgan Media, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Frank Zappa is one of rock and roll's most virtuosic, albeit wacky, performers and composers. Luckily his music lives on through his son Dweezil, who performs his father's music with his tribute band Zappa Plays Zappa. 

Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang, plays bass and toured with Van Halen for many years.

Wolfgang and Eddie Van Halen
Wolfgang and Eddie on stage together in 2015. Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Van Halen was always a family affair. Guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, who died earlier this month, and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, named the band after themselves and stuck together through all the ups and downs of addiction, in-fighting amongst the band, and everything else that comes with being a rock star. 

In 2006, the Van Halen boys added a third to their rank: Eddie's son Wolfgang, who, only 15 at the time, replaced Michael Anthony on Bass. Ever since, Wolfgang appeared on stage next to his dad laying down the foundation of Van Halen's iconic tunes. 

Ultimate Classic Rock quotes a Guitar World interview with Eddie where he said, "Wolfgang breathes new life into what we're doing. He brings youthfulness to something that's inherently youthful. He's only been playing bass for three months, but it's spooky. He's locked tight and puts an incredible spin on our s---. The kid is kicking my a--! He's spanking me now, even though I never spanked him. To have my son follow in my footsteps on his own, without me pushing him into it, is the greatest feeling in the world."


James McCartney is the only one of Paul McCartney's children to join him in the music industry.

Paul and James McCartney
Paul and James McCartney. Jim Dyson, David M. Benett/Getty Images

James followed his father, former Beatle and multi-instrumentalist Paul McCartney, to become a musician and songwriter. Early in his career, he appeared on some of his father's solo material including the 1997 album "Flaming Pie" and on his mother Linda's posthumous 1998 album "Wide Prairie." He went on to release two EPs and two albums. The most recent, "The Blackberry Train," came out in 2016.

In 2012, James told Rolling Stone he is interested in forming a "next-generation" version of The Beatles with children from each of the four original members. "I don't think it's something that Zak [Starkey] wants to do," McCartney told Rolling Stone. "Maybe Jason [Starkey] would want to do it. I'd be up for it. Sean [Lennon] seemed to be into it, Dhani [Harrison] seemed to be into it. I'd be happy to do it."

One of Willie Nelson's sons is a country rocker; the other makes lo-fi rock.

Willie, Micah, and Lukas Nelson.
Willie, Lukas, and Micah Nelson. Gary Miller, Stephen J. Cohen, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Both of country legend Willie Nelson's sons followed him into the music business. Lukas fronts the band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, which has released half a dozen albums and has acted as Neil Young's backing band since 2015. His other son, Micah, goes by the stage name Particle Kid and releases lo-fi garage rock and visual art. 

Willie, Lukas, and Micah all appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in July to play a version of Willie's song "I Never Cared For You." 

Both of guitarist Rick Nielsen's sons are musicians, one of whom plays drums for him in Cheap Trick.

Nielsen family
Rick, Daxx, and Miles Nielsen. Timothy Norris, Leon Bennett, Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Daxx and Miles Nielsen, sons of legendary Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, inherited their dad's musical talent and are continuing his more-than 40-year musical legacy.

The two played together in the band Harmony Riley until it broke up in 2004, according to rrstar. They then joined Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons for some time before Miles started his band, Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts. In 2010 Daxx replaced Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlson and has been with his dad's band ever since. 

Daxx got the call from Cheap Trick in 2010 ahead of their Austin City Limits performance. He quickly joined his dad for what he thought was a one-night special occasion, but it ended up being the peak of his career.

"Cheap Trick is definitely the biggest thing I've done in my career," he told rrstar. "I've been around the world but never with an artist as big as Cheap Trick, nothing as cool as Cheap Trick."

Two of guitar visionary Carlos Santana's three children have pursued music.

Santana family
The Santana family. Gabe Ginsberg, Bennett Raglin, Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Carlos Santana's children Stella and Salvador have inherited his musical talent and started careers of their own. 

Stella has released two albums, "Selfish" in 2016 and "Yayaya" in 2019, and is considered to be a genre blender, taking tinges of classic rock, R&B, and contemporary pop to create sonically diverse tracks that compliment her smooth voice. 

Salvador, an instrumentalist, has released a few albums and EPs since the early 2000s, the most notable, perhaps, was his first solo album "Keyboard City" in 2009, which featured the likes of Del The Funky Homosapien, Money Mark, and GZA on production.

Paul Simon's son Harper has had his songs featured on TV shows including "Girls" and "Private Practice."

Paul and Harper Simon
Paul and Harper Simon. Jim Dyson, John Sciulli/Getty Images

Harper Simon has made a successful career for himself in the music industry. 

He's released two solo albums, a self-titled in 2010 and "Division Street" in 2013, and has played with countless legendary musicians including Bob Weir and Yoko Ono. He's also worked on multiple film scores and has had his songs appear on TV shows including "Private Practice" and HBO's "Girls." 

Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer has been one of his main collaborators throughout the years and has released his own music.

Jeff and Spencer Tweedy
Jeff and Spencer Tweedy performing together in 2014. Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Spencer Tweedy has been collaborating with his dad, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, for a long time.

He was first seen drumming in his dad's lap in the 2002 documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" about his dad's band. Jeff and Spencer later went on to form the band Tweedy and put out the album "Sukierae" in 2014. Most recently, Spencer and his brother Sam helped their dad compose and perform the music for the HBO documentary "Showbiz Kids." But he's also begun paving a musical career of his own, releasing two EPs and a single under his own name. 

Since March, Jeff's wife, Susie, has been posting live streams on Instagram of the Tweedy family, dubbed "The Tweedy Show." Sometimes Jeff will perform songs with Spencer and Sam, while other times it's more of a fly-on-the-wall perspective of how the family is handling quarantine. 

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