Dhani Harrison’s recent performance of “Let it Down” for George Harrison Week on Conan has been unanimously praised as a touching tribute. It has also spawned the usual comparisons to George, along with a few suggestions that he tour exclusively with his father’s material.
From one perspective, it makes lots of sense; after all, Dhani looks and sounds eerily like George at times, and who else could better carry on his legacy, especially since George himself never did much touring?
But while the comparison must be extremely flattering, it may also be a heavy burden on Dhani and the four other Beatle sons—Julian Lennon, Sean Ono Lennon, James McCartney, and Zak Starkey—who are musicians trying to make their way in the world with their own bands and in their unique musical styles. How difficult it must be to always be compared to your legendary father, no matter what sort of music you play, and for your talents to be constantly scrutinized and questioned because of your musical connections. Not to mention consistent calls to either play with the two living Beatles or form a second-generation Beatles supergroup (both ideas have been squashed by anyone who has been asked).
Though they never forget their fathers’ legacies, all five of these men have had (and continue to have) strokes of musical brilliance. Take a look at each of the Beatle sons’ recent musical output:
Dhani has always been a champion of George’s music, collaborating with his father and assisting in the production of George’s final album, Brainwashed, released posthumously in 2002. He was also instrumental in creating The Beatles: Rock Band. But he’s a talented musician in his own right; his band, thenewno2, has released three albums, including the recent soundtrack for the film Beautiful Creatures. He’s also a member of the band Fistful of Mercy, a collaboration with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur.
Paul’s youngest child and only son began his musical career backing his father on Flaming Pie and Driving Rain. But he didn’t emerge as a solo artist until 2010 with his EP of original compositions, Available Light. A second EP, Close at Hand, was released in 2011, and Me, his first full-length album, premiered in 2013. Me was supported by a 47-date tour. Though shy and a little awkward in the public eye, James is a powerful songwriter and vocalist.
As the first Beatle son to branch out on his own, Julian has had a long, yet inconsistent, career. His 1984 debut album Valotte was an immediate hit, winning him a Grammy and producing two top-ten singles. But Julian’s musical career became inconsistent, with his second album garnering negative reviews. In the following decades, Julian played intermittently in charity concerts and occasionally recorded music, but focused on other interests such as charity work, photography, and cooking. He ventured back on the music scene with 2011’s Everything Changes, his first album since 1998.
Sean Ono Lennon
Born in 1977, Sean didn’t begin his musical career until well after his father’s murder, but spent much of his childhood collaborating with Yoko on a variety of projects. His first solo album, Into the Sun, dropped in 1998. A tour and other musical collaborations followed, but Sean stayed largely out of the limelight until his next solo album, Friendly Fire, in 2006. In 2008 he founded the band The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, or “The GOAST,” with his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl (cue the Beatle comparisons!). Their most recent album, 2014’s Midnight Sun, has been critically acclaimed as “a near perfect album” and can be heard in its entirety here.
Sean has most recently been in the news for his ridiculously entertaining description of “the most wild, epic, and insane concert of all time,” which involves the Beatles as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a sacrifice of Justin Bieber. Don’t miss this:
Despite his father’s discouragement, Zak ended up following in Ringo’s footsteps as a drummer. Though he was a founding member of the band Johnny Marr and the Healers, his career largely consists of drumming for established bands, most notably The Who—fitting since Keith Moon gave him his first drum kit. Zak has also drummed for Oasis and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and is consistently hailed as one of the best in the business.
So there you have it: the five Beatle-son musicians. No matter how fantastic it might be to see the them covering their fathers’ beloved Beatle songs, each one deserves consideration as an individual, and each one holds his own.