Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll… and diapers? Just doesn’t have a ring to it, does it? How do you maintain the aura of a rockstar when you’ve got kids back home? In the same vein, how are we as modern dads supposed to “keep our cool” as we transition from freewheelin’, beer-drinkin’, late-night partyin’ 20 year olds… to 30-something dads?
It’s more of a question we’re asking than an answer we’re providing: can dads keep their cool?
Here’s a look at 10 rock star dads who managed to keep their families together despite the ‘highs’ and lows of incredible fame.
1. Steven Tyler
Liv Tyler didn’t meet her real father, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, until she was 8 years old. Up until then she was under the impression that musician Todd Rundgren was her dad. In fact, even though Rundgren knew there was a chance she might not be his, he signed the birth certificate and decided he would be the de-facto dad. According to Bebe Buell, Liv’s mother, the reason for the subterfuge was because Steven Tyler was addicted to drugs at the time and incapable of being a parent. So Liv was actually born under the name Liv Rundgren.
But when she was 8, Liv met Steven Tyler and noticed her own similar appearance to Tyler’s other daughter Mia. The secret was revealed and eventually father and daughter formed a close relationship.
Lesson learned: many dads screw up in the early years, still not having adapted to life as a father, still wrestling with demons of the past. If that’s you, it’s never too late to atone for those sins and connect with your children… even in extreme cases were you were completely absent for years. Although Tyler has said that the relationship at times can still be hard, they are often seen together as a family and she has close bonds with the other Tyler siblings, including two sisters and a brother whom she would never have met if Steven Tyler hadn’t worked at reconnecting.
2. Gene Simmons
Gene Simmons has gotten into a lot of trouble lately with some ridiculous comments he made about depression in the wake of Robin Williams death. But that’s nothing new for the Kiss co-frontman. He’s been opening his mouth and making misogynistic, inappropriate comments since he first slathered on the demonic face makeup. So how does his family deal with it?
In three words: They get it. Simmons is so over the top that if his kids couldn’t differentiate between the public and private personae, they’d be seriously screwed up. Instead, kids Nick and Sophie seem to understand what their dad is up to, that he’s literally playing a character. Based on their successful show Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels, the kids seem to be well-adjusted, straight-A students who appreciate their father’s accomplishments, and are okay with him being a demonic, bass-playing, misogynistic, demon from hell, while they go about their own lives. Call him what you will, but for his kids to understand celebrity that clearly is a testament to good parenting.
Here’s Simmons talking parenting:
3. Lenny Kravitz
Sometimes Lenny Kravitz comes off as being so ‘cool’ you forget he’s even a dad. He has a daughter Zoe with ex-wife Lisa Bonet. So what kind of parent is he? As it turns out, he can be pretty conservative at times: “My dad was brought up very old school, very strict – ‘Yes ma’am, yes sir,’ she said. ‘So he’s wearing leather pants and a boa, but he would be like, ‘Did you do your chores today?’ Or ‘That dress is too short!’ Seriously, no joke.” (uk dailymail). On the flipside, daughter Zoe also notes that she steals clothes from her father all the time. Which goes to show, if you want to keep your cool as a dad, don’t throw your dress code out the window just because you’re married with kids.
Sting made headlines recently when he announced that he wasn’t leaving his money to his children. Sure, they probably won’t starve to death, but it’s still an interesting insight into how to handle kids when you become “rockstar” rich:
“I told them there won’t be much money left because we are spending it!… I certainly don’t want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses ’round their necks. They have to work. All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate. People make assumptions, that they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but they have not been given a lot.” (uk dailymail)
5. Paul McCartney
Having penned some of the most heartfelt and playful songs of all time, would you expect anything less from Sir Paul than being a great dad? In many ways, his life as a father actually seemed to fully overtake his life as a rockstar, as he traveled everywhere with the children once they were born. In 1998, when McCartney lost first wife Linda to breast cancer, he leaned heavily on his children and vice versa during their grief.
“Naturally, he’s not Sir Paul McCartney to me, but just my dad who makes me laugh and smile.” – daughter Mary McCartney
As other daughter Stella McCartney rose to the top of the fashion world, Paul was happy to take a back seat to her growing fame, showing up to many of her shows and once famously tweeting:
6. Mick Jagger
A living legend, Mick Jagger could just as easily be praised for keeping his wide-ranging clan together as for his musicianship. Jagger has 7 children with 4 women, ranging in age from 15-43.
Unlike Steven Tyler’s absence in his daughter’s life, which may have very well been pure ignorance, things were a little different for Mick Jagger with his first child, daughter Karis. Mick refused to acknowledged paternity or pay child support for years, until about 1978, when he was finally ordered to pay up. Amazingly, since then, Mick has developed a relationship with Karis and there appear to be no hard feelings. In fact, mother Marsha Hunt has said, “In a way, with hindsight, I can say, ‘Wasn’t it lucky that he wasn’t there.’… She was 12—formed—when they got to know each other. What are you going to do to a child of 12? You are going to have some influence, but there is already some core stuff pulled together by then…I have no idea how different things would have been if Mick had been part of her life, but I know that the influence of celebrity and all that goes with it is difficult for children.”
And as for holding the family together, second daughter Jade Jagger has said: “I think we are actually remarkably functional…I think it’s a high priority for my dad, keeping his quite large family together…They’re getting bigger and bigger. Each generation keeps coming up. The next top model and the next grandchild.”
Jagger’s other children include 2 daughters and 2 sons with second wife Jerry Hall (including model Georgia Mae pictured above), and one son with Luciana Gimenez. Indeed, Sir Mick gives new meaning to being a prolific musician.
7. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce has always lived his personal life true to his Jersey roots, and the same can be said about his parenting style. Although he had set up shop with Patti Scialfa in Los Angeles, once their children were born, like so many East Coasters they moved back home to start their family life.
Bruce and Scialfa have three children: their eldest son, Evan, graduated from Boston College. He writes and performs his own songs and won the 2012 Singer/Songwriter Competition held during the Boston College’s Arts Festival. Their daughter Jessica is a nationally ranked champion equestrian and attends Duke University. She made her show-jumping debut with the Team USA in August 2014. Their youngest son, Sam, is a firefighter. (Wikipedia)
You will often see pictures of Bruce at his daughter Jessica’s equestrian competitions, most recently showing up to the Royal Dublin Society Horse show wearing a fancy jacket and a silk ascot… but of course, paired with jeans. He’s still the boss, after all.
8. Bob Dylan
The man is a mystery, even to this day, guarding his personal life in a shroud of secrecy that he seldom lets down. However, in a New York Times interview, Jakob Dylan revealed this about his legendary father.
“When I was a kid, he was a god to me for all the right reasons. Other people have put that tag on him in some otherworldly sense. I say it as any kid who admired his dad and had a great relationship with him. He never missed a single Little League game I had. He’s collected every home-run ball I ever hit. And he’s still affectionate to me.” He paused and smiled. “Maybe he doesn’t want people to know that,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, because it’s my interview.
9. Lionel Richie
Another living legend, Richie has managed to navigate a career in music spanning four decades, and he’s done it all with that laid-back charm that’s as easy as Sunday morning. And apparently, that’s his parenting style as well. Celebrity daughter Nicole Richie says of her dad, “I have always had really great memories of my childhood. I had a lot of fun.”
“I’m so comfortable with him,” says Nicole. “We have that very comfortable banter. He’s always down to have fun. He is down to be the butt of any joke as long as it’s making people smile and laugh.”
10. John Lennon
In some ways, the man considered by many to be the greatest rock n roll star of all time was a tale of two fathers. His first son, Julian, was 5 years old when John Lennon left to be with Yoko Ono. After that, Julian didn’t see his father for two entire years. Julian has said: “Mum was more about love than Dad. He sang about it, he spoke about, but he never really gave it, at least not to me as his son.”
But given the chance to do it again, John Lennon stepped up to the plate with second son Sean, his child with Yoko Ono. For a period of time, Lennon was no less than a total stay-at-home dad, caring for Sean, teaching him to read, write and draw. He has penned some remarkable songs about this period in his life, most notably “Watching The Wheels”, wherein he sings about trading in the rockstar life for domestic bliss. And of course, perhaps the most poignant father/son song of all time, “Beautiful Boy”, in which he lays out his deep paternal feelings. It’s tough to call Lennon a great father, though, because for all the love he bestowed upon son Sean, there was a distance with Julian. Even the last line of “Beautiful Boy” must cut like a knife, as he closes the tune by dedicating it to, “My Darling… Sean.”
Julian has admitted jealousy of Sean, saying: “I remember thinking, when Dad gave up music for a couple of years to be with Sean, “Why couldn’t he do that with me?” Those thoughts haunted me for a time.”
As with his music, there is both a darkness and a warmth to John Lennon’s legacy as a dad. One of the most important things we can remember as fathers is to treat all our kids equally, all the time.
By taking a look at some of the rock star dads above, it’s easy to see that they struggle and succeed in many of the same areas as the rest of us when it comes to parenting. Crossing over from the single, free-wheelin’ lifestyle of a bachelor into the responsible and domesticated role of ‘father’ isn’t an easy transition. You can get tripped up in the pitfalls of broken marriages, absentee parenting and in some cases, drugs and drinking. But even in extreme cases, there are plenty of tales of redemption, like Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler who got their shit and their families back together, and John Lennon who tried to be a better parent the second time around. On the other hand, dads like Paul McCarntey and Bruce Springsteen seemed to have made the transition more easily, natural fathers bereft of personal demons. In all cases, it’s the way these dads have balanced mega-careers as rockstars while maintaining strong relationships with their children that is the truest measure of their success.