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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Band Mom is The Man: Five Musicians with Politician Parents

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 7:14 AM


Sen. Daniel Inouye, who passed this week, was present for some of the 20th Century's pivotal events. Born in Hawaii in 1924, he witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack as a medical volunteer. He enlisted in the Army and fought in World War II; there he lost an arm and still stayed in the service until 1947. He was elected to Hawaii's senate just two years before it became a state; he then went on to serve eight terms in Congress. He was involved in the Watergate hearings and the Iran-Contra affair.

But did you know about Sen. Inouye's connection to the Washington, D.C. hardcore punk scene?

His son Kenny was the guitarist in Marginal Man, whose debut 12", 1984's Identity, appeared on Washington, D.C.'s Dischord Records. Not only was the Senator proud of his son's punk pursuits, but he was a co-owner of In Your Eye Records, which co-released Marginal Man projects. Legend has it that Sen. Inouye could be seen queueing up in front of the 9:30 Club for his son's shows, no doubt a conspicuous sight in the thrashing crowd.

In the wake of Sen. Inouye's passing, it's interesting to reflect on other bands that included the children of politicians or other high-ranking U.S. government employees. With some help from various Facebook friends, we identified musicians who had parents in the executive and legislative government branches. We could think of no children of Supreme Court justices or federal court judges. Further, no band has included a U.S. President's offspring - although Kathleen Hanna titled one of her first bands Amy Carter, and there were rumors (sadly, easily disproven) that Chelsea Clinton was once a riot grrrl.

Here, then, are five of the most prominent musicians with political roots.

1) Stewart Copeland. The Police drummer's father, Miles Copeland Jr., was a high ranking Central Intelligence Agency agent who was heavily involved in Middle East affairs in the 1940s through the 1960s - a time that included the formation of Israel, the Suez Crisis, and other hot-button issues. It's interesting to note that when Stewart's brothers entered into the music scene, both referenced government acronyms: Ian Copeland formed the FBI booking agency, while Miles Copeland III founded I.R.S. Records.

2) Joe Strummer. The Clash frontman may have claimed to have a "Bankrobber" for a father, but Ronald Mellor was actually a foreign service diplomat who was born in colonial India. Strummer himself was born in Turkey and moved around a lot as a child. Despite his role in the British Empire's waning days, Mellor and his son apparently shared a left-wing view of the world - which didn't stop Strummer from downplaying his roots early on in an attempt to preserve his credentials as a street-level provocateur.

3) Ivor Hanson. Like Inouye, he had roots in the Dischord Records scene. He played drums for State of Alert, whose lead singer, Henry Garfield, eventually changed his surname to Rollins, moved West and became Black Flag's fourth vocalist. Later Hanson joined Faith, which morphed into the Ian MacKaye-led Embrace. Hanson's father, Carl Thor Hanson, was an admiral in the U.S. Navy. He and his family were quartered on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory - a residence that actually served as State of Alert's occasional practice space.

4) Jeff Gramm. The son of Texas Senator Phil Gramm, Jeff was the leader of Aden, a Brooklyn indiepop band that released four fine albums. Your blogger saw Aden several times in New York City in the 1990s, and once spotted Sen. Gramm in the audience with a small entourage in tow. Jeff tended to be uncomfortable with questions about his family, but he could have had it worse: he could have been the son of Foreigner's Lou Gramm.

5) Lori Black. The daughter of child star-turned-ambassador Shirley Temple Black,Lori played bass in the mid-1980s San Francisco band Clown Alley before joining Washington State sludge kings The Melvins. She was dating Melvins guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne at the same time, and when they broke up, she left the band. Osborne discussed this relationship with at some length in an absolutely amazing passage of Everybody Loves Our Town, Mark Yarm's oral history of the Seattle grunge scene (Shirley "tap-danced for us, and she was fucking amazing").

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