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The Curse Of The Musical Legends

The problem with following in father's footsteps

By Elaine SiheraPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Bob Marley (left) and his son, Ky-Mani. Photo Credit: Mumbai Mirror

Take four famous musical icons whose children have tried to follow in their footsteps: Bob Marley, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole - legends in their own time, with Marley still making a great impact in ours. Having followed the progress of their children over the years, it became patently obvious to me that neither of these rich, wealthy and talented ofspring will ever be 'legends' like their fathers, no matter how hard they work and how desperately they wish to make their own name. In fact, they will always be hovering just over the sea of attention while being judged every step by their father's fame. Dad will always be hanging around like a sweet smell to remind them of their position.

Right throughout history, children of legends seem able to bask in their reflected glory and are given a clear path to their own success, like succession to a royal lineage. But they seem unable to improve on that parent's contribution, or supersede them in their success, and I think I know what could be holding them block.

Bob Marley fathered 12 children, all of them sharing in a huge inheritance from him which grows relentlessly each year (currently estimated at $500 million, with him being the most famous reggae artist on earth. His sons have enjoyed their own music studio where they can do whatever they like ever since they were teens. The result is that four have emerged as real talents: Damian Marley (who is likened to his Dad and is affectionately called 'Junior Gong'), with his own racy pop style, Stephen, Ky-Mani and Ziggy Marley, all different in their own musical renditions and all eagerly competing to wear Marley's musical crown. Damian certainly looks like his father but it is Ziggy who sounds like him.

(Video: Ziggy Marley singing One Love)

Ziggy is the oldest with a cracking voice and should have eclipsed his brothers ages ago. However, while he has a solid fan base, one can sense that he is not regarded as exciting as the others, as he is not mentioned as often. Alas, Ziggy Marley might not realise this, but he suffers from the same problem as Julian Lennon - they both sound too much like their fathers and so create some conflicting dissonance in their listeners. Listen to both of them sing and you get goose pimples hearing their voices. But the public doesn't quite like that. It is too close for comfort to the original sound, without actually providing the original voice.

In fact, the public has an ambivalent attitude towards such children. They would give anything to have Marley or Lennon back and secretly hope the offsprings can continue to deliver in the same vein. But when the children oblige, they perhaps sound too much like Dad, which confuses the audience and irritates them instead. The end result is that, had their Dads not been so legendary, their voices would have made their own impact. But how can you better Bob Marley or John Lennon's voice and style? You can't, so it is best to build up one's own style, which Damian and Ky-Mani, in particular, seem to have succeeded in doing. Yet, in true competitive form, children will always try to imitate or outdo their parents, and famous ones are even more so.

(Video: Julian Lennon singing Imagine)

Like a king, Bob Marley has bequeathed a huge legacy to his sons (his estate brings in $8 million average oer year). They are like gods and princes for the fans they have, mainly through the magical Marley name. However, they have to fight harder for their place in the music world than lesser mortals. While their name gives them instant recognition, and their money provides what they desire, the Marley name will only carry them so far before they find out what a millstone it could be for them. After all, being given a head start by their father, they will never be certain if they would have made it without that famous name.

The Marleys all have their own little dynasties just now, each of them rich in their own right, and each competing fiercely for that elusive musical legacy. But the ultimate Marley crown will never be theirs because their father's impact is too strong. In fact, though the boys keep their father’s songs alive, and collaborate sometimes, they are not really competing against each other. They are actually competing against their father who is still very much in the running. In essence we love the sons and are fascinated by them, as they represent a part of the Old Man, but it's the dad we really want and, even worse, the one we use to judge their sons’ actions.

Basking in the Shadows

Nat King Cole's daughter, Natalie (1950–2015), was no different. No matter how talented she was, just like Nancy Sinatra, they hung behind their famous fathers. Being women, too, they are almost expected to stay in the background, basking in Dad's shadow, real success being perennially elusive for them. Unlike Julian Lennon and the Marley boys, they are perceived in a different way. Being women, they might have been good, but sexism ensures that their true significance is always dimmed. Their aspirations, and talent, were never seen to be in competition with their dads at all, though the legacy has ensured them some success in their own right.

(Video: Natalie Cole singing Unforgettable with her father, Nat)

The trouble with all those siblings and their legendary dads, like Paul McCartney's son, James, is that the children are not really expected to do anything spectacular because their fathers have already attained immortality.

Becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, the curse of the legendary parent inevitably ensures that there is only one legend from each family. Everyone else who follows them, no matter how great their talent, is likely to fall just short of perfection and be consigned to the footnotes of history.


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About the Creator

Elaine Sihera

British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.

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