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Bands In Relationships: 10 Groups Who Dated, Got Married (Or Divorced)
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List & Guides

Bands In Relationships: 10 Groups Who Dated, Got Married (Or Divorced)

Making love as well as music, these bands in relationships have starred in some of rock and pop’s most compelling soap operas.

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Shakespeare once wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on” – and, certainly, making music has gone hand in hand with making love for no shortage of musicians who have found romance within their own ranks. Rock and pop music is littered with fiery tales of passion – and not a few explosive bust-ups – among bands in relationships. But while these meetings of creative minds and instrument-wielding bodies have led to some of the best love songs of all time, they have also resulted in some recriminatory tunes that have soundtracked music history’s very own long-running soap opera.

Not all of these bands in relationships have ended in tears – though the majority have, suggesting that making music together doesn’t always make it any easier to live together. Remembering the good times as well as the bad, we also raise a toast to the few who have gone the distance.

Listen to our Love Songs playlist here, and check out our list of the most notable bands in relationships, below.

Fleetwood Mac: Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks; John and Christine McVie

Married: John and Christine McVie only (1968)

Divorced: Yes (1976)

Fleetwood Mac almost singlehandedly wrote the book on bands in relationships in the 70s, and their gargantuan 1977 album, Rumours, largely chronicled the breakup between the group’s then driving songwriting forces, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

Nicks and Buckingham were a romantically involved singer-songwriter duo when they boarded Mick Fleetwood’s outfit on New Year’s Eve 1974, with Buckingham agreeing to join only if Nicks were allowed to come with him. Less than two years later, after the career-turnaround success of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album, their personal relationship was foundering – though the pair poured their feelings into what became some of the best Fleetwood Mac songs, among them Dreams and Go Your Own Way, both from Rumours. The pair remained in the group until Buckingham left following the release of 1987’s Tango In The Night album, and have had an on-off working relationship since.

Meanwhile, co-founding bassist John McVie had married Christine Perfect in 1968, and, as Christine McVie, she joined Fleetwood Mac in time for 1971’s Future Games. They, too, split in 1976, at around the same time that Mick Fleetwood was in this middle of his second divorce. As one of the best breakup albums of all time, Rumours also included the song Don’t Stop, which charted Christine’s feelings about the demise of her relationship with John. It was later adopted by Bill Clinton for his 1992 presidential campaign anthem.

Must hear: Go Your Own Way

The White Stripes: Jack and Meg White

Married: Yes (1996)

Divorced: Yes (2000)

Even with the title of their 2020 greatest-hits compilation, My Sister Thanks You And I Thank You, The White Stripes perpetuated the myth that they were siblings. In reality, however, the man born John Anthony Gillis married (and took the surname of) Meg White in 1996, a year before the duo formed The White Stripes together, with “Jack” on guitar and vocals, and Meg providing the groups’ Moe Tucker-like primitive drumbeat. The pair divorced in 2000, just as they were on the cusp of a career breakthrough with the White Blood Cells album, but clung to the ruse that Meg was Jack’s “big sister”, even as a rabid music press discovered otherwise. A decade later, the group folded, too.

Must hear: Fell In Love With A Girl

Plastic Ono Band: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Married: Yes (1969)

Divorced: No (Yoko Ono widowed in 1980)

The strength of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s love for each other is apparent in just how much the pair had to overcome – particularly in their early time together. Bar a “Lost Weekend” (read: 18-month affair) with assistant May Pang, Lennon and Ono were largely inseparable from the moment they began a relationship, in 1968, through to Lennon’s murder, in 1980. And yet, amid disgruntled claims that Ono was the cause of The Beatles’ split, and the hoop-jumping rigmarole the pair had to overcome while trying to get married (as chronicled in the song The Ballad Of John And Yoko), they embarked on a romantic and creative partnership that would continue for the rest of Lennon’s life, with Ono’s poetry and avant-garde artworks inspiring Lennon’s songwriting. The couple also waged a very public campaign for world peace, inviting friends, journalists and celebrities to the recording of the song Give Peace A Chance, recorded while they staged a “Bed-In” from their hotel room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, where they spent part of their honeymoon. Released as a single in July 1969, the song was credited to Lennon and Ono’s collaborative outfit, Plastic Ono Band.

Must hear: The Ballad Of John And Yoko

Paul McCartney And Wings: Paul and Linda McCartney

Married: Yes (1969)

Divorced: No (Paul McCartney widowed in 1998)

Not to be outdone by his songwriting turned sparring partner, Paul McCartney also began writing tunes with his first wife, Linda McCartney, and installed her as a keyboardist and singer in his post-Beatles group Wings. As well as co-writing songs such as Band On The Run and Jet, Linda earned a co-credit on McCartney’s second solo album, Ram, and recorded enough solo material for an album of her own, released in October 1998 as the posthumous collection Wide Prairie. Linda had died just months before, of breast cancer; her animal-rights activism and pioneering foray into vegetarian foods, with the Linda McCartney Foods company, ensured that she made a significant cultural impact of her own.

Must hear: Silly Love Songs

ABBA: Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog; Benny Anderson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad

Married: Yes (Björn and Agnetha, 1971; Benny and Anni-Frid, 1978)

Divorced: Yes (Björn and Agnetha, 1980; Benny and Anni-Frid, 1981)

One of the most famous of all bands in relationships, ABBA consisted entirely of two couples, Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, and Benny Anderson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Both couples were romantically involved throughout most of the Swedish four-piece’s phenomenal career (though they married in 1978, Benny and Frida had been an item for the whole decade) and, throughout the 70s, they enjoyed unions as harmonious as their voices. But the pressures of maintaining their unstoppable commercial and creative run – albums such as Arrival and Voulez-Vous; singles such as Dancing Queen and Take A Chance On Me – eventually brought both the band and the marriages to an end. Unlike the likes of Fleetwood Mac, few – if any – ABBA songs are said to have been written directly about the group’s romantic entanglement, though their 1980 hit The Winner Takes It All took experiences of divorce that all four could relate to and fashioned them into a UK chart-topping single.

Must hear: The Winner Takes It All

Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club: Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth

Married: Yes (1977)

Divorced: No

Bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz were already college sweethearts by the time they formed David Byrne, in 1975. The trio had met in earlier in the 70s, at Rhode Island School Of Design, where Frantz and Weymouth had begun dating in 1972. After a move to New York City, Weymouth was convinced to learn her instrument in order to fill the fledgling group’s vacant bass player’s slot. As the four-piece Talking Heads, with keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison, they released their debut album, Talking Heads: 77, in 1977, the year Frantz and Weymouth married. By the turn of the 80s, the husband-and-wife rhythm section were the engine room for some of the best Talking Heads songs, as comfortable traversing post-punk and art-rock abstractions as they were laying down thick funk and Afrobeat grooves.

Just as Talking Heads were riding high on their mainstream breakthrough single, Once In A Lifetime, from the 1980 album Remain In Light, Frantz and Weymouth masterminded their own side project, the hip-hop-affiliated Tom Tom Club, whose first two singles, Wordy Rappinghood and Genius Of Love, topped the US Dance chart, immediately becoming sample fodder for everything from Afrika Bambaataa’s Jazzy Sensation to Mark Morrison’s Return Of The Mack and beyond.

Must hear: Genius Of Love

Sonic Youth: Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon

Married: Yes (1984)

Divorced: Yes (2013)

A match made in alt-rock heaven, the über-cool Kim Gordon began dating noise terrorist Thurston Moore in 1981 and formed Sonic Youth that same year. Quickly becoming doyens of New York City’s No Wave scene, the group spent the next four decades leading an audio assault on all things clichéd and conventional in rock music. After a move to major label Geffen Records, Sonic Youth found fame as grunge agitators, but songs such as the no-bullshit Gordon-sung Swimsuit Issue, from their 1992 album, Dirty, eschewed macho posturing while providing a clarion call for the #MeToo movement three decades ahead of schedule. It’s no wonder that, when she found out Moore had started an affair with book editor Eva Prinz, in 2011, she wasted no time in ending their marriage. The divorce was officially finalised two years later, leaving Sonic Youth a casualty of their era’s most high-profile bands in relationships.

Must hear: Swimsuit Issue

The Revolution: Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman

Married: Yes

Divorced: Yes

In keeping with the mystique that Prince cultivated throughout his entire life, his bandmates in The Revolution were also encouraged to keep fans guessing. Longtime lovers since they were teenagers, his closest collaborators, guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman, never spoke publicly of their relationship while they were part of Prince’s group, but clues, such as the cryptic spoken-word intro to the Purple Rain song Computer Blue (“Wendy?” “Yes, Lisa?” “Is the water warm enough?” “Yes, Lisa.” “Shall we begin?” “Yes, Lisa.”), toyed with fans’ perceptions almost from the moment Melvoin joined the band, following Prince’s tour in support of the 1999 album.

“That she and Lisa were lovers… he’s got white, he’s got Black, he’s got Jewish, he’s got non-Jewish, and now he’s got a gay faction,” Brenda Bennett, singer in the Prince side projects Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, told this author for the book Lives Of The Musicians: Prince, explaining the mixed-race, mixed-gender, mixed-sexuality approach that Prince took to putting The Revolution together. Wendy and Lisa officially broke their silence on their 20-year relationship in 2014, long after they had split – by which point they had not only helped create some of the best Prince songs of the 80s, they had also released chart hits as a duo in their own right, and scored award-winning soundtracks for both film and TV.

Must hear: Computer Blue

No Doubt: Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal

Future fashion icon Gwen Stefani had an inauspicious start when she was drafted in to provide backing vocals for her brother Eric’s ska-punk band, No Doubt. As the younger sister of the group’s co-founder, Stefani initially kept her romance with bassist Tony Kanal a secret, though by the time she took over lead vocal duties, in 1988, their relationship had become a central part of the group, which had already survived the suicide, a year earlier, of original lead vocalist John Spence. When Kanal and Stefani broke up in 1994, however, No Doubt almost imploded along with them, until Stefani hit a creative streak that resulted in one of the best breakup songs of all time, Don’t Speak, along with much of the material that would end up on their multi-platinum-selling album Tragic Kingdom. No strangers to resilience, No Doubt kept going until 2015, with a brief hiatus in the mid-to-late 2000s.

Married: No

Must hear: Don’t Speak

New Order: Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert

Married: Yes (1993)

Divorced: No

Manchester-born Gillian Gilbert was a punk upstart on the local scene when she first came across Stephen Morris, then the drummer with Joy Division. Writing in his memoir Fast Forward: Confession Of A Post-Punk Percussionist: Volume II, Morris recalled that Gilbert, who had formed an all-female punk four-piece in the late 70s, was “a busy girl” who had also made time for school qualifications that entirely outstripped the combined formal education of Joy Division’s male membership. The pair had been dating for two years by the time Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis took his own life, and, when the remaining members re-formed as New Order, Gilbert, who had already stepped in to provide guitar for Joy Division on stage on one occasion, was invited to help the group fill their sound out, taking the pressure of Bernard Sumner as he assumed a new role as frontman.

Bar a ten-year hiatus during which she supported her and Stephen’s daughter Grace through a serious spinal disease, and then survived her own battle with cancer, Gilbert has been with the group ever since. Going the distance as a couple, and also providing resilience through New Order’s own travails, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert have made the Manchester icons the longest-running of rock’s bands in relationships.

Must hear: Temptation

Our bands in relationships have inspired amorous rhapsodies and bitter recriminations. Hear some of the latter in our best breakup songs.

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