There's something that seems untouchable about rock stars. Like they sprung forth out of some sort of shell, Birth of Venus style. They are infinitely untouchable, almost mythic. Most commoners wouldn't dream of thinking of them as a real person with a real childhood, or anything absurd like that.
That's why LIFE magazine's recent feature "Rock Stars with Their Parents" will surprisingly blow your mind. The piece comes from an archived photographs taken by John Olson from the magazine first printed in September 24, 1971, and features the likes of Grace Slick, Elton John and Frank Zappa posing with their parents in their suburban living rooms in London, Brooklyn and California. It's amazing. These celebrities have become even more iconic through the passage of time, but they too had parents who wear polyester! Grew up with al rumpus room with green shag carpet! It's like the ultimate "Celebrities Are Just Like Us!" column.
One of the goofiest pictures is of Frank Zappa, his dad Francis and his mom Rosemarie in 1970's Los Angeles. Their living room is completely purple with a giant purple couch. Rosemarie and Francis grin on the couch while Frank blends into the walls in a purple t-shirt and purple bell bottoms, holding a tiny cat in his arms.
I also learned something new. Apparently Elton John was born Reggie Dwight, and grew up in a suburban London apartment. In the photograph, Elton John illustrates that he got his eccentric style from his mother, who wears what appear to be calf-high, snakeskin go-go boots. Elton poses in an all-jean ensemble next to his stepdad Fred who he called "Derf."
A series of particularly poignant photos depict the Jackson 5 at home with their parents in California. Certainly much has been published about the abuse that the children suffered at the hands of their father, but in the photos, the scenes look idyllic, with the children racing around the swimming pool on motorbikes. Michael later regretted the family's rapid rise to success--three years before the affluent photos were taken, the family was poor in Gary, Indiana.
More interesting for the modern viewer is the huge discrepancy between children and their parents in terms of clothing. All of the rock stars posed in bell-bottoms, long-hair and leather-tasseled jackets while their parents mostly pose in conservative dresses and suits. For the modern viewer, however, even the children's hip attire is hopelessly outdated in modern culture.
Did you enjoy LIFE's archival reprint? How do you think of music celebrities--mortals or gods?