A Brief History of Incest in Popular Music
Kevin Gates is far from the first musician to admit to playing kissin' cousins.
Photo by Bobby Viteri
If prostitution is the oldest profession, incest must be humanity’s oldest perversion. Despite its status as one of our species’ most deeply-ingrained taboos, people have been banging their blood relations since time immemorial, from the royally incestuous time of the Pharaohs to Victorian incest porn up to the present day. The various crowned heads of Europe famously had no problem with keeping it in the family to ensure their (dangerously diluted) bloodlines remained “pure” (even if it did result in dangerous genetic illnesses like hemophilia, unfit rulers like Spain’s imbecile king Charles II and Portugal’s Maria the Mad, and the truly unfortunate Habsburg jaw), and neither did many of their counterparts in Asia and Africa. The internet is still reeling from a particularly troubling first-person account of one 18-year-old woman’s daddy-daughter, no-pants-dance-based relationship, but despite the heavy ick factor (and legitimate concerns for the daughter’s mental health) it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Human history is positively lousy with incestuous couples, and from the looks of things, it ain’t going away anytime soon.
Kevin Gates is proof enough of that. In a recent widely-shared video posted to his own Instagram account, the rapper claimed to have had sex with his cousin on multiple occasions between 2006 and 2008. In all fairness, he was unaware of the familial bond until his grandmother made mention of it, and the woman was a fairly distant relation. It was an honest mistake that a number of people who come from very large families could (and have) made before. That being said, he didn’t seem particularly troubled by the revelation and carried on seeing the woman, explaining that “the pussy good.” Though one would have assumed that plenty of other young heterosexual ladies in Gates’ vicinity (and outside his family tree) might have been willing to allow him to assess their vaginal qualities, he seemed perfectly satisfied with his decision.
The internet, of course, was not, but Kevin Gates is far from being the only musician to have publicly come out as incest-friendly. The Doors channeled Oedipus, Pearl Jam kicked off a whole trilogy with it, Rammstein got predictably gross about it, and the stupefyingly creepy “Lemon Incest” was a big hit in France. Some of these cases do occur between consensual adults, and there are a few on-the-fence cases concerning cousins, but far too many others are the result of rape and coercion. Some of them get very, very dark, so I wouldn’t go into this one on an empty stomach.
Here are a few of the music industry's best-known examples of what can happen when kissin' cousins (or close relatives) decided to make beautiful music together...or have that decision made for them.
JOHANN SEBASTIEN BACH MARRIED HIS COUSIN
Bach it to me, baby.
As we’ve learned, back in the eighteenth century when Bach was knocking around, familial intermarriage wasn’t that big of a deal as long as there were at least a couple degrees of separation involved. When the revered Baroque composer married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach in 1707, no one batted an eye. After they had seven children together and Maria passed away in 1720, Bach went on to become one of the most respected and essential composers of his day. No harm, no foul, I guess.
Honestly, I just thought it’d be nice to start this list off with a touch of class, because it’s about to get ugly...
Elvis had a thing for very young girls; he started dating the girl who would eventually become his wife and muse when she was only fourteen years old. Perennial wild man Jerry Lee Lewis did more or less the same. Since the very young object of his affection also happened to be his first cousin once removed, though, while Evis catapulted to superstardom, Lewis’ name forever set the gold standard for rock’n’roll incest. The scandal around his marriage to thirteen-year-old Myra Gale Brown basically ended his career, as the music industry turned away from him en masse in disgust. The kissing cousins situation was bad enough, but the age gap—a 22-year-old man marrying a seventh-grader—was too much to bear. Their union was doomed from the start, and allegedly dissolved in a storm of abuse after thirteen years of matrimony. They had two children together, and theirs was the second-longest of Lewis’ seven marriages. A candid interview with Myra (now a Williams) shows that she’s made her peace with him, and with the fact that she’ll always be known as his child bride.
“It wasn’t anybody’s business—OK, it was somebody’s business, but it wasn’t everybody’s business. It was my family’s business, it was mine and Jerry’s business. And, OK, if you say to me now, “There’s a 13-year-old girl over here who wants to get married,” I would say “God, please do not do that, little girl. Go to college, get an education, then figure it out.” But it was a different world, things have changed so drastically. Options, mindsets—this world has gone so fast the last fifty years that you can’t keep up with it.”
John “Papa John” Phillips is best known to a certain generation as the leader of 60s folkies The Mamas and The Papas. To those of us who grew up with the Internet, though, he’s best known as the first Google result for “rock star incest.” Eight years after his 2001 death, his daughter, actress MacKenzie Phillips, published her memoir High on Arrival and went public with allegations that she and her father has carried out a decade-long consensual sexual affair that began with his raping her when she was 18 and resulted in heavy drug use and at least one abortion. She claims that she ended the relationship after she became pregnant and was unsure if the baby was her father’s; he paid for the abortion. Other members of the Phillips family tacitly deny her allegations, including Michelle Phillips, MacKenzie’s stepmother and John’s former bandmate, who points towards MacKenzie’s history of drug addiction and mental illness to discredit the allegations. Several family members have come out to support her claims, though, and since Phillips himself isn’t around to tell the tale, the details will forever remain murky.
ASWAD AYINDE JAILED FOR 90 YEARS FOR BEATING, RAPING, AND IMPREGNATING FIVE OF HIS OWN DAUGHTERS
Photo by Galasso/The Record of Bergen County
This one is truly monstrous. In 2013, Aswad Ayinde (AKA Charles McGill) , best known for directing the award-winning music video for The Fugees’ classic hit “Killing Me Softly,” was sentenced to ninety years in prison for beating, raping, and impregnating five of his seven daughters. This man, if you can call him that, fathered six children by his own unwilling children. He believed himself to be a prophet, his desire to create a “pure bloodline” unwitting echoing the contemptible ways in which history often repeats itself. Ayinde reportedly ruled with an iron fist, cowing his then-wife Beverly into keeping silent; she claims he threatened to kill the girls unless she kept her mouth shut. For one of his daughters, the abuse started when she was only eight years old, and continued for over thirty years. It only stopped when she and her sisters discovered that Ayinde had fathered twelve other children with other women, and fearing for their newfound siblings’ safety, found the strength to go to the authorities in 2006. One of Ayinde’s daughters bore two of his children, and thanks to the forced inbreeding behind their conception, both them are afflicted by severe genetic diseases. One can only hope that this man spends the rest of his days in agony.
British singer Lily Allen would like you to know that she is very much NOT on Team Incest, so much that she turned down a plum role on Game of Thrones when it would have required her to be fondled by her real-life brother, Alfie. You’d think that scene wouldn’t have even made it out of the writers meeting, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned by watching its endless fantasy-world fuckfests, GOT is hardly scared of a little incest. As it turned out, Allen made it all up, anyway–but at least we know she’s not afraid to take a brave, anti-brother-banging stance.
An incredibly fucked-up and wildly inappropriate article on Teen.com breathlessly alluded to alleged incestual undertones in the young brother and sister duo’s song “5,” and by alluded I mean they straight up called it incestuous. This is awful on so very many levels, and I’m only including it to underline just how fucked up it was. Accusing someone of incest is low even by tabloid standards, which are already rotting twenty thousand leagues below the last secret subterranean rich dude bunker on Earth.
UPDATE: In light of her recent medical emergency, this piece has been edited to remove an entry concerning Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown and her relationship with her husband, Nick Gordon.
Kim Kelly never wants to type the word "incest" again; she's on Twitter.
- Willow Smith
- Jaden Smith
- Kevin Gates
- Whitney houston
- Lily Allen
- john phillips
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- lemon incest
- ashley judd
- the judds
- aswad ayinde
- bobbi kristina brown