It’s the music business, and sometimes people just don’t get along. Whether it’s over royalties, credits, women or just some straight-up, classic ego-tripping, musical feuds are constantly happening. So if you’ve missed all the tiffs, fights, brawls, threats and disses, check out our list of our favorite musical feuds.
John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney
These two were musical giants, part of what many would call the most influential band in rock music. But after the Fab Four split, these two stars went tit for tat in insults. There were some controversial interviews, some insults and a couple of songs which some pointedly acerbic lyrics. In 1971’s “How Do You Sleep,” Lennon sang, “The only thing you did was ‘Yesterday’ …The sound you make is Muzak to my ears. How do you sleep?” Ouch. The two later reconciled, but still remained distant up until Lennon’s death.
Here we have one extremely depressing, bitter singer set against … well … another very depressing, bitter singer. Doesn’t misery love company? Apparently not in this case. According to Smith, Morrissey was always saying “horrible things” about the Cure. Morrissey called the band “a new dimension to the word ‘crap’” and of course, Smith retaliated with a few words of his own. How about we all just sing a round of “Kumbaya” and get along?
Oasis vs. Blur
Here’s a big one: the eternal feud between Oasis and Blur. This one dates back to the mid-‘90s, when the U.K. media played up the differences between the bands. But then things got kind of touchy when Oasis’ Noel Gallagher said that he hoped Blur’s Damon Albarn and Alex James would “catch AIDS and die.” So yeah, there’s that. Then there was this constant head-to-head competition for the top spot in the charts, which didn’t help. There’s been a lot of heat specifically between Gallagher and Albarn, but surprisingly, the two seem to have put their conflict aside and even appeared onstage together last month.
Nirvana vs. Guns N’ Roses
This one started off when Guns N’ Roses requested that Nirvana open for them during their tour. However, Nirvana turned them down, and they were very clear about their reasons why. In an interview, Cobain was quoted as saying, “I can’t even waste my time on that band, because they’re so obviously pathetic and untalented. … They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it.” Guns N’ Roses didn’t take too kindly to Cobain’s words, and Axl Rose in particular was very vocal about his opinion of the band. On stage during a show, Rose said, “Nirvana would rather stay home and shoot drugs with their b—h wives than tour with us.”
George Harrison vs. Eric Clapton
Finally, a love triangle on the list! You’d think we’d have more feuds over a woman, but here’s a famous one. Harrison married the model Pattie Boyd, but soon after, Clapton also fell in love with Boyd. She even inspired Clapton’s popular “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight.” In fact, Boyd became involved with Clapton after she heard “Layla.”
“We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington. Eric had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written,” Boyd said. “He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was ‘Layla.” She was still married to Harrison at the time. At one point, Clapton even showed up drunk at Harrison’s home and challenged him to a duel—rock ‘n’ roll style.
“George handed him a guitar and an amp—as an 18th century gentleman might have handed his rival a sword—and for two hours, without a word, they dueled,” Boyd said. At the end, it seemed as though Clapton had won, and in 1974, he and Boyd got married. Eventually Harrison and Clapton became friends again, and Harrison even went to Clapton’s and Boyd’s wedding.
Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Perhaps this wasn’t as much of a feud as it was a spirited war of words, but Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd were still going toe to toe for a while. It all started off with Young’s songs “Alabama” and “Southern Man,” which openly criticized the racial history of the South, with references to slave ownership and burning crosses. Jacksonville, Fla. Natives Lynyrd Skynyrd thought Young was putting too many good people in the same basket with the bad. The band responded with 1974’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” which called Young out with the line, “Don’t need him around anyhow.” But these guys are cool; they’ve declared their respect for each other, and Young even played “Sweet Home Alabama” in concert at least once.
These two guys were all about soul and crazy stage dance antics in the 1950s. They were also labelmates. But they definitely weren’t buddies. Tex famously accused Brown of stealing his stage moves. And they also got into a tiff over Bea Ford, Tex’s wife, who would later join up with Brown. In response, Tex recorded the song, “You Keep Her.” Things escalated when Tex made a scene mocking Brown at a show. Brown retaliated by grabbing a gun and firing a few rounds at Tex in a nightclub. …Talk about getting caught in the crossfire. Literally.
Okay, so this was more of a good-natured rivalry than the mega-feud that the media hyped it up to be. But the media knew what it was doing; it was easy to target these two polar-opposite bands. The Beatles were a wholesome, family-friendly band with a squeaky-clean image. The Rolling Stones rocked and rolled and sang about sex and drugs. To the media, it was a case of the teacher’s pet versus the rebellious wild child. And they were also battling in the charts.
Guns N’ Roses vs. Poison
Here we’ve got a hair metal feud. Guns N’ Roses were the big guys on the scene, but then Poison showed up, and Guns N’ Roses weren’t too happy about it, calling Poison a bunch of wannabe posers. This feud didn’t go too far, but Poison still did go so far as to intimidate and threaten one of Guns N’ Roses’ female publicists. Put down the hair spray, guys, and just chill.
Michael Jackson vs. Paul McCartney
This one may be a shocker, because Jackson and McCartney were both friends and certainly didn’t seem like the types to start up any conflicts. But business can bring out the nastiest in people. McCartney allegedly gave the King of Pop some investing advice, telling him how much money he could make by buying the publishing rights to songs. Jackson certainly took the advice to heart and ended up buying the company that owned most of the Beatles’ catalog. “I think it’s dodgy to do things like that, to be someone’s friend and then buy the rug they’re standing on,” McCartney said.
We’re just going to start off by saying Love loves a good conflict. And it’s been rocky between her and Grohl ever since the ‘90s. After Kurt Cobain’s death, Love and Grohl were regularly exchanging blows. Love’s gripes have been mostly financial, concerning Nirvana royalties, while Grohl’s gripes have been personal; he has accused Love of enabling Cobain’s addictions, among other accusations.
Natalie Maines vs. Toby Keith
“I hate it. It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant,” Maines said of the song. The two started battling, and Keith even displayed a photo of Maines’ head cropped onto Saddam Hussein’s body at his concerts. Maines responded by wearing a t-shirt that had the acronym “FUTK.” The last two letters stood for Keith’s initials, and as for the first two letters…well, we’re sure you can figure it out. But Keith eventually ended the feud afer his bandmate lost his two-year-old daughter to cancer.
“A few days after I found she didn’t have long to live, I saw a picture on the cover of Country Weekly with a picture of me and Natalie and it said, ‘Fight to the Death’ or something. It seemed so insignificant. I said, ‘Enough is enough.’”