DNA? Musicians, composers, lyricists, painters, sculptors, and writers. Artists whose efforts bring pleasure to devotees born hundreds of years after their work was first presented. Often their skills and talents are passed from one generation to the next—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, siblings and if traceable perhaps a great-grandfather or a rumored cousin three times removed.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s ancestors all worked as professional musicians—church organists, court musicians and composers. His dad was a town musician in Eisenach, Germany. Johann lost his parents at the age of ten and was brought up by his older brother Johann Christoph—the town organist. John Sebastian wrote music for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestras, and choirs. His second son, Carl Phillip Emanuel was held in high regard by his fellow musicians—he composed in the then fashionable Rococo style as did his brothers W.F. Bach, J.C. Bach, and Friedemann Bach.
A self-taught musician, Johann Strauss the Elder, wrote waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and galops. Johann the younger wrote more than 500 pieces with 150 of them waltzes. His waltz titled The Blue Danube established Strauss as “The Waltz King.”
Oscar Hammerstein I immigrated to America in 1864 and built opera houses that drew a wide audience to listen to some of the finest singers in the world. Times Square became the “in place” because of him. His sons Willy and Arthur presented stars like Al Jolson and Houdini and Willy gifted America with his son Oscar Hammerstein II who wrote lyrics with Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers during the “Golden Age of the American Musical.”. Rodgers begat Mary Rodgers who wrote the music for “Once Upon a Mattress,” and the novel and screenplay for “Freaky Friday,” and Mary begat the Tony award wining Adam Guettel who wrote the music and lyrics for “Floyd Collins” and “The Light in the Piazza.” The sons of Oscar Hammerstein II—William and James—were directors and he nurtured the talent of Stephen Sondheim.
Actors? Robert Alda gave us Alan Alda, Judy Garland presented the world with Liza Minnelli, Goldie Hawn had Kate Hudson and, America’s Royal Family, the Barrymores, are still going strong with Drew.
Artists? The Wyeth family is blessed with talent—N.C. Wyeth is the venerable father of three generations of Wyeth-Hurd artists and renowned for his illustrations in grand adventure stories, and classics for children such as Scribner’s Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. His youngest son Andrew Newell Wyeth is recognized as America’s foremost realist artist. His first daughter Henriette became a fine portraitist and his second Carolyn is known for her introspective work in modern-day painting. Grandson James Wyeth found recognition at an early age with his portraits of people and the animals he painted in his rustic setting.
And taking pen to paper or fingers to keyboard we have the Brontes—Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Anne’s Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. The Waugh family, beginning with Arthur who won the Newgate prize for poetry in 1888, continued with sons Alec who wrote Island in the Sun and Evelyn with Brideshead Revisited and continues with the latest generation, Auberon and Alexander. There’s H.G. Wells and his son Anthony West, Hilma Wolitzer and her daughter Meg, Alexandre Dumas, pere, and fils, and Mary Higgins Clark whose works have sold over 100 million copies and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark who has been nominated for the Anthony and Agatha Awards. High on any list are Stephen King and his wife Tabitha King and their sons Joe Hill and Owen King—writers who keep us up all night.
Are they any artistic ancestors in your family? How about your children? Do they need, want, love to write?