Lucious Lyon and his family on Fox’s hit show Empire represent a fiercely-driven and immensely talented group who will do anything necessary to stay at the top of their game. From the wickedly manipulative moves of Lucious himself to the ferocious competition between his artist sons Jamal and Hakeem, as well as the shrewd business acumen of third son Andre and family matriarch Cookie, the Lyon lineage refuses to fail. While it’s rare for a single family to feature so much musical dominance and superiority, there have been a few truly notable real-world music families that have captured the minds and ears of listeners and popular culture at large. Taking a closer look at some of those most storied and legendary lineages throughout the history of modern music (and the inherent drama that comes with such influence), there is a handful that stand above the rest as true legacies, and worthy precursors to the Lyon clan and Empire on Fox.
The Gordy Family
The literal grandfather to modern musical family legacies, Detroit native Berry Gordy built the seminal Motown empire by creating a close-knit and familial atmosphere across the label’s groundbreaking roster of artists. His actual family proved to be just as prolific, starting with his son Kennedy William Gordy, who would find fame as Rockwell with the smash 1983 hit, “Somebody’s Watching Me.” None less than Michael Jackson buoyed the song, with his immediately recognizable vocals carrying the track’s catchy chorus. Almost 30 years after Rockwell, Gordy’s youngest son, Stefan Gordy, would top the charts as one-half of dance-pop act LMFAO with hits like “”Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It.” His partner in the group was Skyler Austen Gordy, Berry Gordy’s grandson. Talk about keeping it in the family.
The Jackson Family
Game obviously recognizes game, as it was Berry Gordy who eventually realized the incredible wealth of talent that made up the Jackson 5, signing the group to Motown in 1969. Starting with their debut single, “I Want You Back,” the outfit would go on to international superstardom, with young Michael emerging as one of the greatest artists of all-time. While his four brothers and two sisters all had solo success to varying degrees (Jermaine would crack the U.S. Top 10 twice), it was youngest of the family, Janet Jackson, who would become a major superstar in her own right. When it comes to musical family drama, not even the Lyon clan can hold a candle to the Jacksons.
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The Simmons Family
It would not be an exaggeration to call the Simmons clan the first family of hip-hop. Russell Simmons all but defined hip-hop culture when he co-founded Def Jam with Rick Rubin back in 1983. His brother Joseph is better known to many as Run of Run DMC, while a younger generation knows him as Reverend Run, the patriarch of reality show, Run’s House. That’s where the world got to know his children, including aspiring rapper Diggy Simmons, and daughter Vanessa, who’s pursuing a career in acting.
The Smith Family
Will Smith is a true hip-hop pioneer, taking the culture to the masses as one-half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, who hold the distinction of winning the first Grammy for Best Rap Performance for “Parents Just Don’t Understand” in 1989. While his career crafting hit records eventually gave way to stratospheric success as a movie star, Smith’s children are still making musical waves. Daughter Willow and son Jaden regularly release songs and rock concert stages. Their mom and Will’s wife, Jada, has blazed her own sonic path by fronting nu-metal outfit, Wicked Wisdom.
The Carter-Knowles Family
This musical power couple is building an empire of their own, with Jay Z’s trailblazing efforts both as a rapper and a businessman combined with the culture-defining dominance of all things Beyonce creating an unparalleled whirlwind of influence. Adding to the equation is Beyonce’s sister, Solange, generating her own social and musical prominence, most recently with the critically acclaimed full-length, A Seat at the Table. Only time will tell if a future generation will be rocking to the musical stylings of Blue Ivy.