I usually try to write helpful info for songwriters and musicians on this site, but I’ve been in quarantine for months and my mind is rotting and I just want to talk about dumb celebrity drama. Let’s discuss the most epic musician feuds and who took the L in each one. These cases are ruled solely by my opinions, which of course makes them fact. Let’s jump into the shallow end, kids!
10 Musician Feuds You Should Know and Care About
I’d like to make more of these in the future, so for now I’m just focusing on ten feuds that caught my interest. Let me know about other feuds I should write about:My favorite musician feud: Click To Tweet
These are arranged in the order of when they happened, from earliest to most recent:
1). Johannes Brahms vs. Pyotr Tchaikovsky
That’s right, we’re going all the way back, because musicians have hated each other since the beginning of recorded time.
The Story: Tchaikovsky absolutely hated Brahms, calling him “a giftless bastard.” Brahms didn’t seem to share the same hatred (or didn’t vocalize it), but he did fall asleep at a Tchaikovsky show. According to this article, Brahms fell asleep at multiple composer premiers, so I don’t know if this was an actual diss or if he just suffered from narcolepsy.
Tchaikovsky went out of his way to take shots at Brahms, such as: “I consider you to be a very untalented person, full of pretensions but utterly devoid of creative inspiration. I rate you very poorly and indeed I simply look down upon you.” Imagine that as a tweet?! Absolute legend. In fact, feel free to tweet it to me:@Mellanation, I consider you to be a very untalented person, full of pretensions but utterly devoid of creative inspiration. I rate you very poorly and indeed I simply look down upon you. Click To Tweet
For all of Tchaikovsky’s bitching, he pussed right out when he met Brahms in person. It took ten years for them to finally meet. When they did, Tchaikovsky was said to be relieved that Brahms wasn’t as pretentious as he thought.
The Winner: This one is tough, but I actually think I’m going to hand the trophy to Brahms. He never responded to the criticism, and if his nap was indeed shade, it was a signature shade he threw at everyone.
The Loser: Sorry Tchaikovsky, but you let your own inferiority complex get the best of you and spent TEN YEARS dissing a guy who couldn’t be bothered to stay awake at your show. Then you met him and couldn’t say it to his face. You do get points for the burn, but otherwise, hold this L.
2). John Lennon vs Paul McCartney
Obviously, we’re skipping some time. We didn’t go right from “The Nutcracker” to “Love Me Do,” but there’s quite a gap in our popular music culture between the famous composers and the earliest days of recording. Also, either no one in early jazz music hated each other or they were all very good at playing nice. My guess is the latter, but let’s spill some Beatles Tea:
The Story: in 1970, The Beatles broke up due to alleged “poor management” by Paul McCartney. What followed was a series of early diss tracks traded back and forth over several years. Lennon released a song that said, “The only thing you did was ‘Yesterday'” which…unfair and untrue, dude. McCartney of course retaliated, and they went on like this for a while. Eventually they did bury the hatchet and became friends again. McCartney dropped in on Lennon for a surprise visit (strategically, when Yoko Ono was out of town). They being playing music together and the friendship re-ignited.
The Winner: I think for his efforts alone, McCartney seems the winner. He made a song called “Dear Friend” which was meant to be a peace offering for the two. He also reached out to Lennon repeatedly and seemed to make more of an effort to repair the relationship. In terms of this feud, I declare him the winner.
The Loser: I am NOT saying that John Lennon is an actual loser, but in this case it seems that if McCartney didn’t put all that work in, Lennon would have died before the two ever made up, and that would be devastating. Don’t let feuds linger until it’s too late, friends. Make that call; write that olive branch song.
3). Chuck Berry vs Keith Richards
Admittedly, I don’t know much about either of these two. I’m going into this one with a pretty unbiased view as they are both musically (and literally) strangers to me.
The Story: This feud is mainly covered in one event in 1986: a multi-night recording of a concert with both acts playing together. Shockingly, they both had an ego and both wanted to be the star. The show was to commemorate Berry’s 60th birthday, so he probably should have been the star, just saying. Eventually, Keith Richards gave up and left the stage, saying, “I could have killed him,” after leaving the set.
One source states that Berry actually punched Richards in the mouth at this event, but this is unconfirmed. According to the latter article, Berry was actually kind of a garbage person: smuggling a 14-year-old girl across state lines to have sex with her when he was 36, videotaping women in the bathroom, etc. Richards is no saint either, having feuded with Mick Jagger to the point where they couldn’t be in a studio together. At its core, however, you just have two ego-inflated dudes who couldn’t let each other shine.
The Winner: This is tough because I don’t know if a punch was actually thrown or if it’s just a legend. However, this was Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday. The man shaped rock-and-roll, and for all his personal troubles, Richards either didn’t know about them or wasn’t bothered enough by them to not participate. Richards should have stood down. Berry wins (although not at life, because don’t film women in your restaurant bathroom, you weirdo).
The Loser: Although no one could ever call Keith Richards a loser outside of this match (except maybe Mick Jagger), he’ll have to take the L for now.
4). Prince vs Michael Jackson
Most of the 1980s were spent with these two in a feud, but it lasted all the way through 2006. I’m focusing on the totality of their feud because there are so many.
The Story: Both Prince and MJ were famously competitive of each other. It seemed each new album upstaged the others’ previously released album. Each tour was more opulent and extra than the last. It could have been a friendly competition, but it seemed that Jackson was extremely sensitive. Prince was not a willing participant in anything Jackson tried to offer him. Prince refused to perform in Jackson’s “We Are The World,” which made him pretty much the only big celebrity at that time to decline. He also declined to be in Jackson’s “Bad” song and music video, and mercilessly mocked him during a game of ping pong.
This could be viewed in two ways: Either Prince as a relentless, standoffish bully, or Michael Jackson as overly sensitive. I feel like both are maybe a little true.
The Winner: This is subjective, but I think Prince maybe wins here. Yes, he could be seen as antagonistic at times, but MJ seems easily rattled. During a show in 2006, Prince apparently left the stage to where Jackson was sitting and played bass guitar “into his face.” I can’t think of a single person who would have an issue with that, but somehow Jackson did, calling him, I’m not kidding, “a big meanie.” I just. I mean, come on, dude.
The Loser: Jackson has had an endless stream of drama coming his way (most of it sketchy as hell), so the Prince feuds should have been mild inconveniences at most. Instead, he let himself become VERY affected by them, which is something only he can control. You can have whatever opinion of MJ that you want, but I think in terms of this feud, he does not emerge victorious. L.
5). Frank Sinatra vs Sinead O’Connor
I…what? In my mind, these two exist in completely different time periods, but I guess Frank Sinatra lived for a really long time.
The Story: This is a quick one. In 1991, O’Connor refused to sing the National Anthem (at a venue’s request) on her tour. I guess it’s a policy she has? She never plays National Anthems because, according to her, they “have nothing to do with music in general.” I mean…they ARE music, but okay, I can see her point politically I guess. Frank Sinatra didn’t like this. At his concert the next evening (at the same venue) said, “I’d like to kick her ass!” Wow, cool bro. Beating a woman for having a different political opinion than you is a really level-headed thing to do. O’Connor responded, “I can’t hit this man back, he’s like 78 years of age, and I’d kill him.”
The Winner: Sinead O’Connor for sure. I mean, whether or not you agree with her politics, we’re focusing solely on the feud. Sinatra didn’t need to say a damn word, but he’s a thousand years old and can’t handle the idea of someone expressing views that differ from his own. So, he responds with threats of violence. He then watches Matlock, eats dinner at 5:30pm and goes straight to bed so he can be at bingo the next morning. I mean, shut up, dude.
The Loser: Frank Sinatra may be a legend, but in this feud he just comes across as an angry old geezer. He gave O’Conner a wide-open space for a clap back about his age and frailty. Solid L.
6). Elton John vs Madonna
I honestly had no idea about this one until I started research for this post. Apparently Elton John and Madonna have been “frenemies” for years.
The Story: From my limited research (this article, mostly), it seems as though Elton John hates Madonna more than she hates him, or is at least more vocal about it. The two have traded public hate throughout the years, so there is no one specific feud to focus on here.
Elton John has stated several times that he does not like the fact that Madonna lip syncs. Okay, fine, that’s fair I guess. It doesn’t appear that Madonna has said much back to him, but she did take a swipe at his good friend Lady Gaga, calling her music “reductive.” Elton John obviously backed Gaga, and well he should (Gaga wins that feud imo). For his part, Mr. John has called Madonna a “fairground stripper,” among other petty comments about her lip syncing and her music.
The Winner: What this feud really boils down to is whether or not you prefer your celebrities to be chatty or not. Elton John seems to pop off about whatever he’s thinking, while Madonna doesn’t (as much). It also depends on whose music you like more, and I like them about the same. Since I handed Madonna the L in the Gaga feud, I guess I’ll give her the W here. Meh.
The Loser: Again, meh. We’ll say Elton John just because maybe don’t call women fairground strippers and c**ts? Maybe you don’t have to always have a comment or a hot take? I don’t know. I listen to them both about equally and feel just fine about both, so it’s whatever I guess.
7). Mariah Carey vs Nicki Minaj
Both of these ladies have had feuds with other celebrities (Mariah vs Eminem, Nicki vs Lil Kim, Mariah vs. Jennifer Lopez, Nicki vs Cardi B), but this feud was highly televised and shoved down our throats, so let’s dish:
The Story: These two were judges on a season of American Idol and reportedly hated each other. I just…I feel like this was largely made up. The show was on it’s like, millionth season and no one cared anymore. They had MANY tiffs on set, but most of them seemed fake to me:
I don’t know, if they ARE real, it’s super unprofessional. You can see Randy Jackson and Keith Urban physically squirming. It just sucks because real or not, they totally played into the “women are catty at work” stereotype. And all for what, an extra 3 views on a dying show? I just…number one, I don’t care, and the feud wasn’t enough to make me watch the show. Number two, neither of them seem “better” or “worse” than the other in terms of behavior, so it boils down to who you like more.
The Winner: Randy and Keith, for looking level-headed and normal and trying their damndest to keep things rolling.
The Loser: I think both Carey and Minaj lost here. At best, it’s fake in a desperate attempt to get views. They played into a stereotype and furthered the narrative that women can’t work together. At worst, it was real and they both come across like spoiled brats. I honestly like both of their music so this was disappointing to watch as a fan.
8). Katy Perry vs Taylor Swift
Full disclosure: I am not a Katy Perry fan. I just do not get it. I am going into this one fully biased.
The Story: In 2014, Katy Perry stole Taylor Swift’s backup dancers, offering them better pay and a better deal to come on her tour. Swift reportedly wrote “Bad Blood” about Perry, to which Perry replied with “Swish Swish,” an absolute abomination of a song. I just…why is this woman famous? Feel how you want about “Bad Blood,” or any of Swift’s work. But there is an endless stack of reasons besides music (image, marketing/PR, etc) that you could admire Swift for, that Perry just does not have. Again, this is all subjective and entirely my opinion, and feel free to disagree, but this is my site so I get to rule this case.
The women made up eventually, coming together to hug in Swift’s video for “You Need to Calm Down.” I don’t know if this is a real make-up, and honestly I don’t care. It’s just an end cap so scavenger writers like me can “close the case,” which is fine. Case closed.
The Winner: Swift, a thousand times over. It’s not even a contest, it’s just sad. First, she’s a better artist. Secondly, stealing someone’s dancers is just not cool, and I would be against Swift if she was the one who had done this. It’s shady and shitty and further proves that your tour was worse, since you had to steal workers from a different tour to fill your own.
The Loser: Katy Perry, eternally.
9). Taylor Swift vs Kanye West
Another Swift feud. I feel like this happened last year, but it was actually mainly in 2016. Quite honestly, I don’t care about this one and I feel like it’s stupid, but you can’t talk about musician feuds without mentioning this.
The Story: It started in 2009, when a young Swift won some award (I don’t even care enough to look it up) and Kanye interrupted her speech, stating that Beyonce should have won it. It was awkward, and no one shut up about it for like a year afterward. They haven’t been friends since.
The specific feud arose in 2016. Swift claimed she didn’t approve of a lyric Kanye said about her (“I made that bitch famous”). However, Kanye’s wife released a video of her approving said lyric. Taylor Swift was promptly cancelled, but then somehow was un-cancelled years later when, upon further review, she did not approve of the term “bitch” but approved of the rest of the lyric. She released a documentary further explaining her side. She then had a major comeback album (Reputation) that seemed to win everyone back to her side. I guess. I don’t know, I just know that everyone seemed to hate Kanye at first, then Taylor, and now Kanye again.
The Winner: I guess Taylor Swift? I don’t honestly know if anyone “won” or “lost” this because I don’t care enough to weigh in. They’re both still mega famous millionaires so. Ok. I do think Swift had to overcome a lot of public hatred toward her and she seems to have done that, so I will declare her the winner if I have to choose.
The Loser: All of us, for having to be part of it. The amount of time spent on these two in the media is quite honestly astounding.
10). Everyone in Fleetwood Mac vs Each Other
If this band was big when social media was a thing, we would all be SO SICK of them subtweeting each other. Everyone in this band hated each other at some point, and some of the feuds last through today.
The Story: This goes back to the beginning of the band. Everyone was either sleeping with or fighting with each other, or both. Christie Perfect (singer/songwriter, keyboards) married John McVie (singer/songwriter, bass), then they divorced. Stevie Nicks (singer/songwriter) and Lindsey Buckingham (singer/songwriter, guitar) entered the band together as a couple. They then broke up and everyone fought all the time and it was a huge mess.
The specific feud I’m referring to, however, is the most recent one involving their tour in 2018. Buckingham thought he was still in the band. He was then informed that Stevie Nicks forced the band to choose her or him. I mean…obvious choice, right? They went with Nicks. I’m not saying Buckingham isn’t great in his own right, but come on. And from someone who went to the show (and wrote about it here), they did great without him.
Buckingham continues to be salty about it to this day, which I understand. However, the details of the feud itself are highly confusing. Buckingham states that Nicks didn’t like that he “smirked at her” during a speech. Nicks states it was because they wanted to tour in 2018 and Buckingham wanted to push it back a year. The latter makes way more sense, and Buckingham just can’t seem to let go. He filed a lawsuit against the band and is, as of May of this year, still mad about it.
The Winner: Obviously, the winners here are the rest of the band and Nicks. They went on tour and everyone seems cool with each other for now. Also, it’s Stevie Nicks. Did you think she would ever lose?!
The Loser: I like Lindsey Buckingham, but bruh. This is not a good look. For whatever reason, your band decided to tour without you. The details don’t matter much when you boil it down to the fact that as a group, they decided you shouldn’t be there anymore. You’re super talented in your own right, man. Just let it go. (Also, there have been abuse allegations, which I’m obviously against).