Music  |  Lists

The 15 Greatest Sets of Musical Siblings

September 17, 2012  |  9:11am

The prospect of going into business with a brother or sister might seem a nightmare for many of us. It’s not uncommon for our relationships with our siblings to morph from contentious to amiable as we age, but it’s unclear whether that’s because we’re maturing, or because we no longer have to live in the same house. Props are due, then, to all of the musicians who not only share the same livelihood with their talented siblings, but who do it performing with them, touring with them and collaborating creatively with them.

We’ve compiled a list of 15 of our favorite musical siblings. Some feuded, some got along splendidly, but they all used their brotherly or sisterly bonds to write and record some of our favorite music.

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15. Johanna and Klara Söderberg (of First Aid Kit)
In the summer of 2008, a pair of flannel wearing teenage sisters from Sweden posted a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” to YouTube. The video quickly made its way around the Internet behind the strength of the girls’ gorgeous vocal harmonies, and two years later they released their debut album, The Big Black & The Blue. Their latest album, The Lion’s Roar, is a deeply affecting collection of sublime, ‘70s- inspired folk that brings to mind everyone from Emmylou Harris to, yes, Fleet Foxes.

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14. Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh; Bob and Gerald Casale (of Devo)
We’re going to include two sets of siblings here, as both the Mothersbaughs and the Casales make up quirky new wavers Devo. While at Kent State University, Gerald Casale began making a number of devolution-themed art pieces, mostly as a joke. The Kent State shootings in 1970 prompted him to form a band under the same principle, dubbing it Devo. Known for their futuristic dress and stage presence, the group only had one mainstream hit, 1980’s “Whip It,” but have amassed a large cult following over the years and still perform to this day.

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13. Kim and Kelley Deal (of The Breeders)
It wouldn’t be a proper list of musical siblings without at least one pair of identical twins. Unlike many of our other featured siblings, however, the Deal sisters’ musical careers didn’t always run parallel to each other. They had played guitar together in their teens, but eventually Kim went on to play bass for The Pixies while Kelley moved to California. Later, Kim would form The Breeders, which Kelley joined as a guitarist in 1992.

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12. Alex and Eddie Van Halen (of Van Halen)
The Van Halen boys grew up under the musical tutelage of their father, Jan Van Halen, who was a musician himself. From the time they were young, he bought his sons lessons and instruments. Eventually Alex settled on drums, while the younger Eddie took up the guitar. Van Halen would go on to lead the charge of flamboyant ‘80s live acts, selling over 80 millions albums along the way.

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11. Ann and Nancy Wilson (of Heart)
The daughters of a Marine Corps colonel, Ann and Nancy Wilson grew up along the West Coast have been the only consistent members of Heart since they joined the band—Ann in 1970 and Nancy four years later. As members of the band, Ann and Nancy dated brothers Mike and Roger Fisher…who were also in the band. Not surprisingly, this didn’t work out, but Heart pressed on with Ann and Nancy. Behind hits like “Barracuda,” “Magic Man” and “Crazy On You,” Heart has sold over 30 million albums worldwide.

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10. Malcolm and Angus Young (of AC/DC)
Angus Young proved that you didn’t need flashy finger work to qualify as a great guitarists—he did it with his trusty Gibson SG, a prep school uniform, an unlimited supply of energy and some of the catchiest riffs of all-time. He formed AC/DC in 1973 along with his older brother Malcolm on rhythm guitar, and though plenty of band members have come and gone over the years, the Young brothers haven’t left the helm.

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9. Scott and Seth Avett (of The Avett Brothers)
Born and raised in Concord, N.C., Scott and Seth Avett began playing music together seriously when they merged their respective bands in the late ‘90s. They played a number of “get togethers,” eventually dubbing themselves The Avett Brothers and releasing an EP of the same name in 2000. Since then, the brothers Avett have put out seven full-length studio albums, the most recent of which, The Carpenter, was released on Sept. 11.

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8. Colin and Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead)
Colin and Jonny Greenwood? Just the bassist and guitarist of arguably the greatest rock band of the past 20 years. Colin, the eldest, met Thom Yorke in grade school and eventually they formed a band called On A Friday. Colin invited his then 14-year-old younger brother Jonny to join, and you know the rest. Interesting fact: Jonny is the only member of Radiohead without a university degree. He studied music at Oxford Brookes University before dropping out to join the band full time. Colin studied literature at Peterhouse in Cambridge.

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7. The Isley Brothers
Props to mama Sallye Bernice Isley, who gave birth to Ronald, Rudy, Kelly, Vernon, Ernie and Marvin, also known as The Isley Brothers. Led by the fiery vocals of founder and frontman Ronald, The Isley Brothers broke through with their 1959 single, “Shout,” and have been at it ever since. Though their lineup has changed several times over the years (Ernie and Marvin didn’t join the band until the ‘70s), The Isley Brothers are still going strong, having had a single or album make the charts in five different decades.

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6. Noel and Liam Gallagher (of Oasis)
Undoubtedly one of the most notorious pairs of musical siblings, Noel and Liam Gallagher’s fame was checkered by their very public sibling rivalry and often controversial remarks and actions (publicly professing a desire for Blur to “catch AIDS and die” was probably not a good idea). The feuding Gallaghers finally called it quits 2009, with Liam continuing to record with the band under the name Beady Eye and Noel forming his own project. This doesn’t change the fact that Oasis was one of the most successful bands in the history of the UK selling more than 70 million records worldwide. And if you’re holding out hope that the brothers might get back together, don’t count on it. Noel recently told NME Radio that Oasis wouldn’t even reform “if all the starving children in the world depended on it.”

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5. Ray and Dave Davies (of The Kinks)
It’s no surprise that Ray and Dave Davies banded together—they were the only sons and two youngest children of Frederick and Anne Davies, who had six girls before them. The Davies boys were heavily influenced by the music their parents played during their wild Saturday night parties, and after growing up learning to play guitar together, they formed The Kinks in 1964—one of the most influential and respected bands of the British Invasion. More recently, they’ve become one of the go-to musical choices for filmmaker Wes Anderson.

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4. The Jackson 5
Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson combined to form one of the most popular Motown groups of the ‘70s, and did it with style. Behind the strength of an undeniably magnetic charisma, four number one hits and a hall-of-fame caliber collection of afros, the Jacksons took the nation by storm and, of course, launched the career of the greatest pop artist of all time. Add a few extra points for that last part.

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3. Don and Phil Everly (of The Everly Brothers)
It’s hard to think of a better tandem of vocal harmonizers than Don and Phil Everly. With Don providing the baritone and Phil providing the tenor, the two voices become one. This is partly, of course, due to some serious preternatural sibling brainwave vibing, but also to the fact that both Don and Phil’s vocal lines, unlike with typical vocal harmonies, could stand on their own. When layered, they create the effect of a single “super” voice that is nothing short of divine.

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2. Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson (of The Beach Boys)
Brian Wilson was the figurehead, but he formed The Beach Boys as a family band after years of jamming with his brothers Dennis and Carl in their Hawthorne, Calif., home. It was all spurred on by the boys’ father, Murry, who helped them rent instruments, accompanied them on the piano and became their initial manager. Of the most notable skills to develop at their father’s side was the brothers’ vocal harmonizing, which came to define their carefree surf pop.

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1. Duane and Gregg Allman (of The Allman Brothers Band)
It’s not really all that uncommon for siblings to be in bands together. Usually, though, one gets most of the accolades, while the other toils in his or her shadow. That’s not the case with The Allman Brothers. Duane and Gregg co-fronted the southern rock standard bearers, each playing just as integral role in the band’s success. Gregg sang, played organ and was the band’s principal songwriter, while Duane was, simply, one of the greatest guitarists of all-time. From Duane’s solo on “Statesboro Blues” to Gregg’s passionate wailing on “Tied to the Whipping Post,” the brothers Allman may be the greatest pair of siblings music has ever seen.

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