I had written this a while ago and planned to post it well before Anthony Kiedis’ recent health issues. So, total coincidence…
Anybody who knows me and knows my musical tastes would likely be surprised to find I like the Chili Peppers. No blues, not even traditional rock per se. I’m even surprised myself. But what catches your ear about these guys is yes, they’re funk, yes, they’re rap, yes, they’re hard rock. And it’s all good. And nobody sounds anything like them. AllMusic lists their genres as the following:
- Alternative pop/rock
- Alternative indie/rock
- Funk metal
- Heavy metal
- College rock
- Adult alternative pop/rock
I don’t even know what the hell to characterize them under. I was aware of, but never really got into them till their 1991 Blood Sugar Sex Magik album. At the time I was working with a guy who used to listen to them and I guess that he, as much as anybody, turned me onto them. Whatever it is they do, they do it well and I picked up on their stuff pretty quickly.
They’re funky (George Clinton produced one of their albums) and funny but have a nice melodic (and even sometimes tender) sensibility about them. How could you not love a song (“Give it Away”) that says:
Confide w/sly you’ll be the wiser
Young blood is the lovin’ upriser
How come everybody wanna keep it like the kaiser
I don’t know what it means either! Who cares? If I saw these guys live I wouldn’t be sitting still. Their bassist, Flea, shows up on every possible list of greatest bassists (and on his musical hero David Bowie’s passing, got a tattoo in his honor). Super-funk:
Sometimes when I’m driving around I’ll like a song so much I stop and call the radio station to find out what they played. (This was especially so before stations could identify the song playing by displaying it). Such was the case with “Scar Tissue.” I don’t know exactly what it was that I liked about it. Maybe the tight match between music and lyrics.
This song is about drug addiction, specifically heroin. Both original guitarist Hillel Slovak and singer Anthony Kiedis shared that particular scourge of the working musician. (And increasingly, it would seem, mainstream society.) Slovak died from it. Kiedis put out an autobiography called Scar Tissue.
Blood loss in a bathroom stall
Southern girl with a scarlet drawl
Wave good-bye to ma and pa ’cause
With the birds I’ll share
With the birds I’ll share
This lonely view
Another cool tune by them is “By the Way.” By this time, renowned producer Rick Rubin – whose list of artists he’s worked with is way too long to list here – had been producing them. (He’d refused them previously because of the band’s outrageous party-hard drug lifestyle). Again, funky driving stuff matched with a nice melodic sensibility:
The Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. In that same year, three of the band’s albums, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication and By the Way were ranked among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In May 2009, Kiedis was honored with the Stevie Ray Vaughn Award at the fifth annual MusiCares event for his dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund, and for his commitment to helping other addicts with the addiction and recovery process.
The Chili Peppers very recently had to cancel some dates as Kiedis was hospitalized with stomach pain. He swears it is not a relapse. “Maybe there was a reason for me to get sick, so I can get stronger than I was before.” In the wake of the realization that Prince OD’d on a drug 50x more powerful than heroin, let’s hope for his sake that it was just a stomach thing.