No doubt: all these gentlemen in the picture above are famous composers. But - who of those is a member in a famous family of musicians too?
First of all: if you would like to get to the point quickly and to the information directly, you will find information about the famous composers from Beethoven to Wagner via the navigation to your left next to these lines soon. Information about famous families of musicians is what you find further down on this page. If you want to get there instantly, please scroll now or click here.
Is it bean counting? My definition of the three terms "famous", "musician" and "family of musicians"? Is it possible at all? Even "stranger": can you squeeze families of musicians in a "Top 10 "? Or in a "Top 100"? By the way: there are 45.5 beans in the picture above.
Please don't take this paragraph too serious. I mean, please take it even less serious than some more pages and paragraphs at other places of my website. Because this classification really is a little strange. And it might be really limp in one website corner or another. I want to do it anyway.
First let's define the term of "famous" together. Together? Yes, I would love to convince you. Of my ideas. That is why it's "together". "Famous ..." - what does this mean? Famous right now, that is to say in this year? Plus, where? There, where you live? That is in Germany or in Canada? In the United States of America or in India? In South Korea or in Finland? So, for us, famous for that reason has to be international. Let's start with the famous composers before we get to the famous families of musicians. Do you know Mister Gershwin? Mister Sousa? Correct, famous composers. But - not as famous as Ludwig van Beethoven. For Example. Let's go on ...
Famous. Today? Back then? Or well-known over a very long period? So, let's do a statement: famous is no clear definition. The increase "more famous" is really disputable.
So we found out. It depends. Who you ask. Where you ask. And how old the person is, who you ask. The New York Times took the risk. They listed the most famous composers and they did a ranking. And they decided.
Famous composers: the New York Times chose from the "Best of the Best" and decided, that Johann Sebastian Bach is the No. 1 in the ranking of famous composers. Here along to the complete article, just click.
Famous composers in the NYT: Beethoven is on pole position. Johann Sebastian Bach? "Somewhere" in the second row. Sort of at the end of the list. However, he wins.
Correct. What actually do I mean, when I am talking of a family of musicians? So, are we actually able to define a family of musicians at all? Is it at least two musicians in one family and two generations? So, daddy is famous as a musician and his son is making music too? Or is a family a family of musicians as soon as several siblings are doing music? Does it start with two? Or three? Or more persons? And is a family a famous family of musicians based on the number of members or on the quality of their music? Would it do, if somebody sings under the shower? No kidding: is it enough to be able to make music or does it have to be public performances? Or is it even necessary to make music for a living? Or is such a list worthless, actually featherbrained, if you are not famous with your art after all? We get to the next consideration.
When actually is somebody famous? If a whole town adores him or her? Or isn't that enough? Surely it's not. But, if all residents of one country know this person? It depends on the size of the country. Being a star "only" in San Marino is probably less famous compared to the No. 1 in China, India or the United States of America. When does well-known become famous?
It goes without saying that Frank Sinatra's family belongs into the category "famous families of musicians". You don't know Nancy Sinatra? That exactly is, what I mean: the relativity of the grade of "fame".
Okay, let's decide, all musicians are permitted, which you may get into your mind. Whether you are ten years old or eighteen, twenty-eight or just below hundred, for instance fifty. So that is to say, you appoint Beethoven or Pitbull, Heino or Pavarotti, Karajan or Bernstein. Justin Bieber? Sure, Why not. Now we get to the selection of the first ones. No one of those remain in the game, whose sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters made no money with music or at least didn't make music in an orchestra or sang in a choir. Just loving to listen to music is no option in our case and doesn't make a person a musician. May be that is true for more cases. And "just" being able to play the piano or to make a flute do perfect or wrong tones as well, wouldn't do as well.
We further have to deal with two disciplines: firstly the number of family members is one fact. Secondly the solitary fame of the icon of the family plays a role. That is Ludwig in the van Beethoven family, Joseph in the Haydn family and Georg in the Haendel family. Actually, what then counts more? The fame of the icon in the family or the number of performing family members? On this base: would the Beethovens win against the Wagners? Or would the Kelly Family win against the Jacksons? But who would do such a strange competition?
However, if you would do such a thing, then there would be the consideration whether two family members of Tom's family are more prominent than four of Dick's or three of Harry's. What a nonsense. Anyway, it does make a little sense for us. Because in the oncoming paragraphs I want to introduce the most famous families of musicians in the last five hundred years to you. And finally, just as an comparison - again - we will check on the reference values regarding the "musical-Bach family" until 1735 and later too. After that - you decide for yourself. So, actually it's getting tough, to specify a family of musicians. To specify a famous family of musicians, is even more difficult. However, how do you want to compare famous families of musicians with each other?
To the point? Don't think about it too much. It almost doesn't work. But you will find out, we even just don't have to. While you might like to fight about the ranking of the twenty most famous composers - we won't do that either - it is even less necessary with the famous families of musicians. We don't fight. Promise.
Famous families of musicians: be honest, did the Jacksons come into your mind? Yes, of course: the King of Pop and his brothers and sisters are a family, they are making music and they are absolutely famous. And if you don't know him, this might be for very different reason. Folks keep in mind, this website is for all ages, for people from all over the world and for those who have a really different priority in the matter of music. That is why I mentioned you might not know Michael Jackson.
Concerning this chapter of my website about Johann Sebastian Bach, which is about famous families of musicians and the Bach family of musicians I want one thing in particular. I would like to sensitize you. If I don't manage, you won't realize the difference between number one and number two in my funny contest. Did I tell you I made it a contest? After the past lines regarding the definition we now approach the pure numbers. To find famous families of composers with more than ten members, that made music is actually no challenge. Would you believe, there are actually less than ten out there. Just a reminder, the term "famous" is the crucial part of the search. I was astonished, when I googled. Wikipedia and its collection was actually very manageable. Keep in mind there might be a difference between the Wikipedias in different countries.
Twenty-nine families of musicians are listed there. Ant these are not twenty-nine famous families of musicians. Or do you know the Puget Family? Of course you do, now that I ask. And one family mentioned there actually does not even belong to the musicians but to the organ builders. Actually organ builders don't belong into that collection following my guidelines of my little competition. That means, twenty-eight families of musicians are left. Some of them are famous, some aren't. That means, as mentioned, there are not twenty-eight famous families of musicians on earth, but twenty-eight families of musicians - without the attribute "famous".
So far, here is a first result. The icon of the Wagner Family of Musicians. Wagner was composer and musician. Richard Wagner and his family is clearly number beyond the "Top 5" in the list of famous families of musicians on earth and of all times. Because the number of family members, who made and make music goes a little beyond ten. I counted eleven, but mathematics... - that's not my cup of tea. Never was. Plus there is a secret. There is a connection between the Wagner Family of Musicians and one more musical plus famous family, which, if you add up all of them is an appropriate consideration, if we want to be fair. Do we? About this second family of musicians and their connection to the Wagners is what you learn later on this page.
You will find both in this picture: one ambassador of the category "famous composers", who is Johann Sebastian Bach without doubt as well as a tiny portion of the Bachs: a famous family of musicians. By the way, Toby Edward Rosenthal painted this artwork and it's called "Morning Prayer".
The colleagues of Johann Sebastian Bach. The famous ones. Actually you wanted to meet them, to learn more about them? But now you read for five minutes, how you could "specify" "famous families of musicians"? Sorry. Really. You find more facts and background about the colleagues of Mr. Bach soon and you will find this in the navigation, in the middle of this website. Later a click here gets you back to the top and then to "Mozart & Co." easy to access close to your left. However, more about the individual families of musicians is what you get further down on this page. With a click here you get there. Fast.
Famous Composers: Gershwin, of course The name is familiar with you? Did you know what he looked like? Did you know he was living and acting in the United States of America? And what did he compose? Which song?
So you know Gershwin. Sousa, in the picture above, as well? He is a famous composer too. From the USA. You didn't know? That is what I mean - famous is not famous, so to speak. One is famous, others are really famous and some are famous even beyond that. Plus, the time between today and when the famous person was living adds. By the way: think about a composer or a musician, who you believe will still be known by so many people? We probably never forget the Beatles and Paul McCartney. He will remain a famous composer even after the oncoming 250 years? But who else? Abba. Okay. The Rolling Stones. Yes. But generally speaking: this is what I mean.
It's mentioned at various places of this website and in some of the little Bach videos regarding the life of Johann Sebastian Bach too: this family, the Bach Family of Musicians, is the most famous family of musicians on earth and of all times - and as well - the one with the largest number of musicians. A pretension? Subjective or objective? The latter. For sure.
Meanhwile I have proposed so much to you regarding a fair contest among the families of musicians and that does make a little sense now. Because from the next paragraph I introduce the most famous families of musicians in the last five hundred years to you. And finally, as a comparison, explicitly at that place, the end of the list, the facts about the "Musicalisch-Bachische Familie", how Bach himself called his clan until 1735 and beyond. After that - it's your decision after all.
The master himself created this list: he lists fifty-three musicians in the year 1735. We have to deduct a few of them as not all listed persons are really musicians. But almost. However, this "Ursprung der musicalisch-Bachischen Familie", which in English is the "Origin of the Bach-Musical Family of Musicians" mirrors only one third to one fourth of all musicians of that family. Dozens musicians more were born after 1735, side branches haven't been considered in 1735 and even today Bachs are making their living with playing music.
Right away we have "to say good-bye" to two solitaire masters in the ranking. Because both of them were the only musical individuals in their families. That is Georg Friedrich Haendel, sorry. And that is Pjotr Iljitsch Tchaikowsky. All other famous composers still remain "in the race" with that conclusion.
Beethoven's grandfather, his first name was Ludwig too, was a Elected Cologne Court Band Leader at the peak of his musician's career. Plus, the father of our famous Ludwig was tenor singer in the court band and a notable music teacher too. It's not known whether Ludwig's mother acted musically too and, both surviving siblings of "our Beethoven" were no musicians too. One was a pharmacist in Vienna, Austria for sure. Beethoven had no children, so the total number of musicians in this family is exactly: three. And yes, it's not just Beethoven, it's Ludwig van Beethoven. Aristocratic.
Making music as a handcraft to make a living: that was the attitude for the father of Johannes Brahms regarding music. He performed with small ensembles in dance halls in and around Hamburg, Germany. For us this counts: two generations, family of musicians. It's not handed down whether his mother made music. Plus, Brahms didn't marry, and that is why neither wife nor not existing children were musicians. So, in our senseless competition, the Brahms family remains a family of musicians, but a small one and a famous one. The number of musicians: just two.
Anton Bruckner, Sr. was a village school teacher and part of his duty was to make music. In his church and on festivals. It is not known of any musical acting of Anton Bruckner's mom. And nobody knows of any musical activity of one of Anton's eleven siblings, if after all they reached an age for such. Anton, Jr. never married. So there were no children. At least there were no children that we know of today. Result? Family of Musicians? Yes. Number of musicians: two.
The father of "our" Frédéric Chopin is not related to any music. That is, may be he liked music, but he didn' make any. It seemed, Frédéric's sister and his mother had the job, to teach little Frédéric to play the piano. and if that doesn't mean, they took the musician at the hand and lead him to the piano, we may share out two family of musician points, although it doesn't actually match the standard which we installed earlier. Anyway. Chopin died as early as at an age of thirty-nine years old. Until that time he never married. That is why there are no children, at least it's known of none. This makes it a result of three members in this famous family of musicians.
It starts with the two brothers of our famous Joseph Haydn: Michael Haydn and Johann Evangelist Haydn, both not that unknown and both musicians. However, the parents weren't able to read notes, so they are out regarding the addition. In 1760 Haydn married Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia. But, they had no children, that is none of those became a musician. The number of musicians in the Haydn Family for that reason is: three.
Daddy of Franz: administration clerk. Mommy: parlor maid. Therefore none of them was a musician. Siblings: there were none. However, Franz Liszt had three daughters. One of them was musical, without question, in the sense of our little completion: Cosima Wagner. Actually Cosima Wagner was one of the few female composers, whose name is still known by at least a few people. You don't agree, there are more? Are you a classical music lover? Then I step back. Why Cosima Wagner, not Cosima Liszt, you guess it, we get to that later. Wait a minute - the Wagner? Just go on reading. The other two children of Franz, Blandine and Daniel, died in their youth. Result regarding the theme of families of musicians: two. Objection? You want to add Cosima's husband plus Wagner later too? Okay, plus you want to add one musical daughter and one musical grandchild of Cosima too? Alright, than it's six. Objection again? You want to add all the Wagners? Than we consider the Listzs a large famous family of musicians. Now actually we got two large famous families of musicians in our contest. The Wagners and the Listzs.
Felix's parents were much respected, but they were no musicians. And that means now precisely? Felix got his first lessons in music from his mother. For us this counts, especially as Felix played such a great role in preserving the heritage of Johann Sebastian Bach: two musicians among the Mendelssohn Bartholdys. For us Felix's sister Fanny counts too: music gifted. Plus, out of sympathy: Felix's great-aunt was teacher of famous Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "our" Johann Sebastian Bach's second musical successful son. That was musician number four. In 1837 Mendelssohn Bartholdy married. However, both sons became historian and chemist and we can't add them to our list of musicians. And it's not known of any musical excitement of Felix's three daughters. However, with all of my respect: four members.
The first real famous family of musicians, when it comes to the fact that many folks know a family as a family of musicians. Keep in mind, that you might have read about the Wagners and the Listzs a few lines earlier for the first time. The father of Wolfgang Amadeus, Leopold Mozart, was an Sovereign Bishop Chamber Musician, Court Composer and a vice band leader. His mother, Anna Maria Mozart, didn't make music - but her father did. That was Wolfgang's grandfather. He was a chorister and he taught singing. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sister was "the Nannerl" and both got music lessons from their dad: that is if we add - you did the math already - already four members in the Mozart Family of Musicians. Plus, Mozart married. He married his Constanze. She was a soprano singer and she was, beyond that, cousin of Carl Maria von Weber too. That is - without any doubt - two more points respectively musicians. We have reached the phenomenal level of six points, that is to say musicians. It's going further: father of Constanze was a bassist and Constanze's second oldest sister was a soprano singer. Again two folks more: now it's dizzy eight musicians. Mozart's son Carl Thomas Mozart however ended his musical career in his third academic year and became a clerk. But son Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart became a composer and a piano virtuoso. Again one musician, we are now at nine family members. However, Mozart's musical son and his brother too had no children. Anyway: nine individuals in one family, who excelled in music, that is really something. Three cheers for the Mozarts.
This Schubert Family starts with sixteen children. Composer Franz Schubert was position thirteen. But only four of all siblings reached the age of an adult. Daddy was teacher and school principal. Mummy was a cook. So, this is two times no relation to music at all. However, Franz Schubert's father taught him how to play the violin. How do we want to handle this? It's not known of any musical acting of Franz's three siblings. Schubert did not marry and so the Schuberts are almost borderline in our collection of famous families of musicians, with a total of "one and a half" members. So to speak.
The Schumann's family tree is crystal clear: there is Clara Schumann, spouse of composer Robert Schumann. The dad of Clara? He was a learned piano player. Robert's mother: she was a singer and piano player. Her father married twice and one musician resulted from this marriage: composer Woldemar Bargiel. But let me check on that in the future again. We have already reached the level of five musical family members, some of them famous, some very famous. It's not known, whether the children had any relations to music: Walter Alfred Felix Schumann became a poet and both daughters Eugenie and Julie made music only in a quality and an amount that made them unknown to the posterity. Despite the level of fame of the musician couple, that is to say they actually were two famous musicians, altogether as a family of musicians they "only" count five members. In our race however it's a crystal clear position among the winners.
No other musicians are defined that much with the addition "father" respectively "son" as the two Strausses, as their first name was not only a common Johann, but their middle name was Babtist. For both. The father of Strauss (Father) was innkeeper, so he didn't make music. From here it's getting tough. If we want to use the term of "family". Because Johann (Father), was married, but he quit, later lived together, unmarried with a woman. Her name was Trampusch. And together they had three sons who survived - all three were musicians. Actually composers. Makes four musicians. Johann Strauss (this time Son) is the "Waltz King". He was married three times, first with a soprano singer, that is musician number five. Later he was married with an actress and finally with Adele. What Adele did, is not handed down. But because all three marriages remained childless, it's less important here. For that reason the Strausses are represented in the ranking of the famous families of musicians with five musicians. Which is not bad.
Aside of that: Richard Strauss, who lived by the way from 1864 until 1949, is not related to the Strausses above and he isn't related by marriage too. And that is true as well for composer Oskar Strauss and for composer Edmund von Strauss too. Remains the Court Band Master Joseph Strauss and here it's true either.
Daddy of Antonio was a violinist at the St. Marcus Dome in Venice, Italy. It is told, that Antonio's eight brothers and sisters have not been professional musicians. And it is not known of any children, at least not as musicians. That is why, despite of the genius of Vivaldi as a musician this family deserves only two points in out little scrap for the championship.
Alright, because of Richard Wagner's second wife Cosima the Wagners start with two points at the very beginning. Plus, both musicians are famous, which doesn't count when we add. Regarding Wagners parents, dad was working for the police, mom was a baker's daughter however, there is - crystal clear - no point to earn. Cosima however was daughter of Franz Liszt. Wow, it's the first time a third famous musician in one family shows up. We count three musicians. Lets now check on the Wagner's children. First of all there is Siegfried Wagner. He was a German composer. He married Winifred Wagner, she guided the "Bayreuther Festspiele", that is the "Bayreuth Festivals" until 1944. Both had a son: Wolfgang Wagner, opera director, among others, for that Bayreuther Festspiele. His daughter is Katharina Wagner, opera director and big in the music business in Bayreuth. Her sister Eva is as well. Plus, the brother of Wolfgang with the name of Wieland. His children are Nike Wagner, she is not a musician and Wolf-Siegfried Wagner, who worked a long time in the music business. Back to Richard: Eva von Bülow was his second child, whether she was brilliant with music? It's not possible for me to research such until now, but this website still develops, I would love to get some information about that. The third child in "the trilogy" was Isolde and there is "no point in our game" for the same reason as Eva got none. It's crystal clear: the Wagners are a family of musicians. Nine persons. Plus, if you would like to add the members of the Liszt family you get another few. Beyond the number of nine musicians in a family it would make these folks number two in the ranking on this page. However, if you want to add the Listzs and make the families one large Liszt/Wagner Family of Musicians, than we have a one of a kind family and a number one in our competition. Plus there are two icons of the most adored classical composers. An extended family of musicians with fifteen musicians. This is a clear lead and makes them number one. If you find the addition of the Listzs ridiculous, the Wagners are still number one, but they have to share with the Mozarts.
How is that working? The Jacksons here in between the classical composers and musicians? Of course, it is about famous families of musicians, not about classical families of musicians. The Jacksons: that starts with the father of Michael Jackson. He was a musician, however he was no successful musician. Actually, in the first, second and third league of the world he played definitely no role. 1964 three brothers with the name of Jackson made music as the "Jackson Brothers". 1966 the sons of Father Jackson became the "Jackson Five". So, it's a total of six musicians already. 1979 Michael Jackson started his solo career, which doesn't change the ranking at all. However, Michael Jackson's sister Janet Jackson is a successful singer too. Janet's sister La Toya is famous all over the world too and Michael's brother Jermaine as well, both on a chart level. So we add two members, Jermaine is included already above. The total now is eight musicians. Michael's nephews Adaryll Jackson II, Taryll and Tito Joe were successful as a band with the name T3 for a short time. Eleven musicians, tadaaaaaa. Next musical family member is Lisa Marie Presley and if you like - and if we like - we could integrate her father, Elvis Presley into that family. So, with Elvis we would have thirteen members, which make the Jacksons our current number one. Even without him and a number of twelve.
It's getting wired now. If you found the idea of a combination of the Listzs plus the Wagners cool, we would have to be fine with combining the Presleys and the Jacksons too as both would be extended families in our little competition. It would be sort of unfair for the Mozarts, however, the ranking would be: here two icons, Michael and Elvis, there two icons, Franz and Richard. Even. However, the Jackson/Presleys are represented by thirteen members, the Wagner/Listzs by fifteen. Classic wins. Please forgive me.
The "Kelly-Kids": almost nobody knows them with this band name any more. They had this name as a band since 1974. The Kellys are an extended family and from 1978 they became famous as the Kelly Family in the USA. A total of thirteen siblings almost matches the number of the Mozart Family. And now it's your turn. The Kelly Family are more folks than most of the "competitors" in this race. But just the number count? There is the challenge again. What do I mean? How do you want to measure number vs. famousness - plus, is it necessary after all? By the way: the father of Kelly siblings is American with Irish roots and he returned from the USA to Europe later. Neither father nor mother of the Kelly siblings were musicians. However, Pa Kelly sang with them on the stage: do we want to add him, half point for making fourteen musicians, second half for singing? Let's just do it. Fourteen.
The Sinatras are a relatively manageable famous family of musicians, because Frank Sinatra's father was a fireman, a professional boxer and he ran a restaurant. Plus, Frank's mother was no musician. Frank Sinatra started his career with an ukulele and it ended with the byname "The Voice". 1940 he became father of Nancy Sinatra, who became a famous singer too. 1944 his son Frank Sinatra, Jr. was born, who later guided the orchestra of his father. Three family members finally.
On Wikipedia (...where else?) are listed more families of musicians. There are the Berwalds with nine musicians, the Bassanos with five, the Callinets, the Casadesuses, the Dallerys, the Egedachers - impressing ten members. Plus, a few more names, which you now find, if you would like to. But probably you are not even acquainted to their names. I listed these families here, just to be correct. However, this whole page wasn't about families of musicians, but about famous families of musicians.
A famous family of musicians? These eight gentlemen almost alone are competition for the number three and four in the ranking of all famous families of musicians. Almost and with a smile. On the other hand their decedents make music too. Sure, not all of them. But with this knowledge this chapter isn't closed for a long time to come. Oops, almost I forgot: all eight gentlemen's name is Bach. Plus, they are members of the Bach Family of Musicians from Thuringia, Germany. That is to say they are members of the family of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Johann Sebastian Bach alone added up 53 musicians with the name of Bach in his "Ursprung der musicalisch-Bachischen Familie", which is the "Origin of the Musical-Bach Family". With a smile, we have to deduct some three to five, who were no musicians in this list of musicians. That was in 1735, in a time when those who haven't been born yet, are not listed yet. Of course. And Bach was missing those, whom he did not know, although they did belong to his tribe. Because not earlier than many, many decades after his death more and more branches of this unique family were discovered by genealogists. With that knowledge more musicians added. Plus, the Lemmerhirts are missing in Bach's list, a real big potential of musicians. Lemmerhirt was the maiden name of Bach's mother and her line. Bach's second wife is not included, Anna Magdalena, her salary as a soprano singer in Koethen was as high as Bach's pay check. Plus, sure, Maria Barbara was a singer too. Four famous musicians resulted from the common genetic constitution of the master with both of his spouses. If you add all those, who made their living as composers, violinists, musicians, cantors and organists, as these artists count, there are and were many more who enjoy and enjoyed the world with music as descendants of Veit Bach, Johann Sebastian's great-great grandfather, the No. 1 in the "Ursprung". Today, there are at least three still living Bachs who make their living with music and are well-known way beyond their country borders. They teach, they make music and they occupy with music in the broadest sense. If the genealogy is, that is to say, if our Bach Genealogy of the Bach Family of Musicians is accomplished finally, in a few years, then I estimate today - it will be a collection of some 200 musicians. Just average musicians, local well-known folks, four famous musicians in the "second league" and the one icon in the middle of this famous family of musicians: Johann Sebastian Bach.
I guess, it is the most stupid comparison in a discipline, who nobody ever would compare. One exception: I did. I guess, whenever in the future you hear the term of "family of musicians" you probably will remember my nonsense. Although it's absolutely your final decision to vote for the most famous family of musicians of all times, we might agree, that the "Top 5" are the Mozarts, the Wagners, the Listzs, the Jacksons and the Bachs. Agree?