Brothers and Sisters: The Harmony and Rivalry of Singing Siblings
Often our brothers and sisters are the first people we sing and play music with, so if it works well, it’s only natural to continue to sing and play with them. The tonal similarity of siblings’ voices allows for the building of beautiful harmonies, which can explain the success of the music made by siblings. Not surprisingly, many musical siblings have grown up in musical families and have gone on to great success. Here are a few examples of siblings who sing really well together, some more famous than others. Of course just like the rest of us, their sibling relationships mix harmony with rivalry. And tragically, sometimes it is death that irrevocably splits the siblings up rather than rivalry.
The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael were the 5 brothers who took their motown harmonies and grooves to the top of the charts in the late 60s and 70s. Their first single I Want You Back, reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts, as did the next two singles ABC and The Love You Save. Although Jermaine left the group for personal reasons and Michael began releasing solo albums, the six brothers released their 1978 album Destiny and the 1984 album Victory as a group. Despite Michael’s enormously successful solo career, rivalry would not stop the brothers from regrouping to record and release the 1989 album 2300 Jackson Street. Michael’s death in 2009 makes a reunion of the original members of The Jackson 5 impossible, but his legend lives on as people around the world sing his karaoke songs online.
Who’s Loving You, the B side of I Want You Back shows off the perfect vocal harmony that the brothers achieved:
Kings of Leon
Smash hit machines Kings of Leon recently broke into the mainstream and are currently enjoying many #1 spots on charts across the globe. Based out of Nashville, brothers Anthony, Ivan, Cameron and cousin Michael have been on a tear mixing a southern rock style with with an alternative garage band sound. Although they haven’t had any problems since the band was founded in 1999, they did have to “kidnap” their cousin Michael in order to begin touring and recording. Michael was in Junior High at the time and the Followill brothers had to lie to Michael’s mother in order to have her agree to taking her son out of school for a week. That week turned into several months.
The Brothers Gibb, aka The Bee Gees
It was the reunion of The Bee Gees, brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb in the 70s, that launched them to superstardom, with their disco hits from Saturday Night Fever. The 1977 Rolling Stone article, How Can You Mend a Broken Group, details how the brothers had performed together in the 60s as a trio, but split up in 1969 when Robin wanted to go solo and the others wanted to sue him. Two years later they reunited to achieve great success during the disco era going on to sell millions of albums. Their pop appeal, with their close high harmonies have carried their success past the disco phase. Younger brother Andy, was also a successful recording artist, who had hit songs on the charts at the same time as his brothers. Andy composed songs with his brothers, recorded songs written by them, but did not record with the group. Tragically, Andy died at the early age of 30. Maurice passed away in 2003. Barry and Robin are planning a reunion this year.
Only the Bee Gees can sing Stayin’ Alive the way it should be sung, with high falsetto harmonies:
The Osmond Brothers (and sister)
The Osmond Brothers, Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny and Jimmy and sister Marie, have been performing harmoniously as a vocal group in varying styles and combinations for 50 years. Starting off as a barbershop quartet, Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, performed at Disneyland in the late 50s and on The Andy Williams’ show in the early 60s. They learned to play musical instruments and performed mostly popular songs before turning to rock ‘n’ roll to see them through the 70s. Donny and Marie were able to launch solo careers but would still perform as a duo or with the other brothers. The four original Osmond Brothers made the move to country music, resulting with a few top 40 country hits. The Osmonds have garnered more than 30 gold records and have sold more than 77 million records. They continue to perform throughout the United States and Europe.
The Osmond Brothers, show their vocal stylings and dance moves in One Bad Apple:
The Everly Brothers
Don Everly and his younger brother Phil were born in the 30s in Chicago, to musical parents. The Everly family toured and had their own radio show in the 40s on which the brothers first performed. The Everly Brothers have had a successful career as a duo, singing similar melody lines, but often not more than a third apart, to create close harmonies, that many groups have since imitated. After Bye-Bye Love, their first hit in 1958, they continued to release many other hits (When Will I Be Loved, Wake Up Little Suzie, Cathy’s Clown) until 1973 when the duo had a very public breakup on stage at a performance. Reunited in 1983, they’ve continued to perform together, up until as recently as 2005, although they haven’t recorded any albums since the late 1980s. Their harmonic styling has been noted by Rolling Stone to have influenced The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and others. Ritchie Unterberger, writing for The Vocal Group Hall of Fame writes “they set unmatched standards for close, two-part harmonies and infused early rock & roll with some of the best elements of country and pop music.”
The Everly Brothers perform their first hit Bye Bye Love while on tour in 1985:
The Boswell Sisters
Martha, Connee and Vet Boswell grew up in New Orleans and began their singing career performing in local theatres and on radio programs before moving to New York in the 30s to record numerous successful vocal jazz albums. Martha and Vet would retire from the group in 1935, Connee continued with a solo career performing and recording into the 60s. John Bush’s biography of The Boswell sisters, from The Vocal Group Hall of Fame states they are “Definitely the most talented and arguably the all-around best jazz vocal group of all time, the Boswell Sisters parlayed their New Orleans upbringing into a swinging delivery that featured not only impossibly close harmonies, but countless maneuvers of vocal gymnastics rarely equalled on record.”
The Boswell Sisters influenced many other vocalists and groups, including The Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald. Their close vocal harmonies are shown off in this performance of Heebie Jeebies, filmed for the movie The Big Broadcast (1932):
Heart, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson
Rocking the charts in the 70s and 80s, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, formed the group Heart, sold more than 30 million albums, with more than 20 top 40 hits including Dreamboat Annie, Crazy on You, Magicman, Dog & Butterfly, and sold out stadium shows. They briefly broke up in the 90s to have families but reunited in 2004 with original material and have been performing together since. Ann has released a solo album, but the group Heart continues to tour.
Heart’s 1976 hit Dreamboat Annie shows their amazing harmonized vocals:
New Kids on The Block, brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight
Jonathan and Jordan Knight, are brothers who sang with the ultra-successful boy band, New Kids on the Block, in the 80s and 90s, along with Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood. Their second album, Hangin’ Tough and the release of their single Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind), resulted in their first self-titled album, to be certified 3 times platinum. The band went their separate ways in 1994, but reunited in 2007, releasing a new album The Block, and to tour in 2008.
Donnie Wahlberg’s brother Mark, was one of the original members of New Kids on The Block, but left to pursue his own rap music career as Marky Mark, releasing the #1 hit song Good Vibrations, produced by his brother Donnie.
Here are the New Kids on The Block, singing Step by Step:
Three sisters, Andrea, Sharon, Caroline and their brother Jim, made up the Irish Celtic group The Corrs. Their parents Gerry and Jean, played in a music group called Sound Affair, introduced their children to the music of ABBA and the Eagles. The Corrs reached international success after performing at the 1996 Summer Olympics and went on to play as part of Celine Dion’s Falling into You worldwide tour. They continued to record and perform, until 2006 when Sharon, Jim and Caroline took a step back from music to raise their families. Andrea continues to pursue her solo career. Rolling Stone refers to their harmonies as “sparkling, sisterly harmonies”.
The Corrs, unplugged version of Runaway, showing their unique voices that blend so well together:
All Saints, sisters Nathalie and Nicole Appleton
Sisters, Natalie and Nicole Appleton, were members of the British/Canadian group All Saints along with Melanie Blatt and Shaznay Lewis. Natalie and Nicole formed their own duo Appleton after All Saints broke up. Fantasy their first single reached the #2 position for UK Singles, while their second Don’t Worry reached #5. All Saints reunited to release an album titled Studio 1 in 2006, with the single Rock Steady charting at #3 in the UK, but have split up again to pursue individual interests. Time will tell if they’ll reunite.
Here’s a live version of Fantasy, showing off their harmonies:
Wilson Phillips, sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson
The vocal trio, Wilson Philipps, is made up of sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson (daughters of Beach Boy, Brian Wilson and Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford of The Honeys) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of The Mama’s and The Pap’s John and Michelle Philipps). Their self-titled debut album, released in 1990, sold over 10 million copies, and their second album, Shadows and Light, released in 1992, sold more than 2 million copies. The following years would see them split up to record solo and duo albums, get married, have kids and pursue other artistic endeavours. The trio re-united in 2003 to record California, an album of 60s and 70s California songs with their harmonious voices.
Go On Your Own Way, reached #13 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart:
Love them or not, The Jonas Brothers are brothers who grew up singing together and have made a successful career of it. Kevin, Joe and Nick, debuted their first album, It’s About Time in 2006, their second self-titled album in 2007, which featured their first top 20 hit S.O.S., a third album A Little Bit Longer in 1008 and their most recent and fourth album Lines, Vines and Trying Times, which was to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. All of their songs showing off their sweet vocal harmonies in a pop style way.
Fly With Me, Official Video:
The Veronicas, twin sisters
Twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, from Brisbane, Australia are pop/rock singers whose 2005 debut album The Secret Life of… reached the # 4 spot on the Australian charts and garnered the twins three Top 10 singles. Their second album, Hook Me Up released in 2007 peaked at #2, with the title track reaching #1.
Untouched Official Music Video, perfect blending and timing of the twins voices:
Yes, there are other sibling vocal groups out there that have survived harmoniously or not that we have failed to mention. If we didn’t mention your favorite group of brothers and sisters singers please let us know!
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