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Californication. Scar Tissue. Rock. Punk. Rap. Funk. The Red Hot Chili Peppers embedded almost every type of musical genre into their own music, making them one of the most influential bands in history.
Under the bridge in downtown Los Angeles, CA lead singer Anthony Kiedis would gain experience which would later transcend the popular music of the 1990’s and ultimately, his musical career.
The founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers graduated from Fairfax High in 1980. Members and best friends from the age of 15, Anthony Kiedis – singer, Michael Flea Balazary – bassist, and Hillel Slovak – guitarist and Jack Irons – drummer ran the Hollywood streets as drug-crazed yet musically-driven teenagers. For many years they lived on the streets or artisan galleries where only musicians would be able to live part-time in LA area. During the day they each held dead-end jobs such as working in an animal shelter or a runner for a label executive. But at night they would go to the hottest clubs and play their hearts out. In late ’83, a stunt that sky-rocketed them into the limelight took place at the Kit Kat Club, a local strip club in Hollywood.
At the time they were discovered, they had a setlist of about 6 songs. Flea brought in his punk and jazz influences with his bass playing, developing what is now known as slapping.
Anthony often listened to bands such as grandmaster flash and James Brown. He would jump on stage and rap a poem he had written on the spot.
Hillel Slovak first introduced his bandmates to rock music when they were in high school. He often played Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and what would become one of their greatest influences, Jimi Hendrix. Hillel’s guitar playing was a crunch, distorted, funky sound which worked simultaneously with Flea’s funky, punky, slap melodies.
As a band, they were never tighter. Constant practicing, rehearsals, promoting themselves by themselves. Yet, personal demons came into play when drugs and alcohol were in the mix. When they started recording their self-titled album, the Peppers were highly influenced by their surroundings. They would spend all day getting high, spend all night on stage and be getting high afterward. After constant binging, they would often miss studio time and upset their manager and producers. Anthony and Hillel were sunken deeply into heroin addiction by the time their second album, Freaky Styley was released in 1985. Now in relation to the other groups that were popular in the mid-80’s, such as Queen, Journey, Motley Crue, the Red Hot Chili Peppers did not become an instant commercial success because of their style of music.
When the band went on tour to support Freaky Styley, Hillel’s health began to deteriorate from his addiction. He became physically and mentally weak, often unable to play some of the European shows, prompting the band to briefly kick him out and be replaced.
Upon returning to LA from the tour, Slovak sunk into a deep depression and reverted back to drugs, this time far worse than before. on June 25th, 1988, police found 26-year-old Hillel Slovak dead in his apartment due to a heroin overdose.
Although his best friend died, Anthony did not stop using drugs.
Anthony and Flea mourned the loss of their best friend by continuing to make music, stating that it’s what Hillel built,”the architect”. Jack Irons decided to leave the band.
After about a year of searching for a new guitarist and drummer, Flea and Anthony came upon John Frusciante, a huge fan and a virtuoso on guitar, and Chad Smith, who “ate drums for breakfast”. Together, this group created a funky, melodic explosion that would turn into 1989’s Mother’s Milk album. On this album, the Pepper’s covered Stevie Wonder’s song, Higher Ground, which would be named the second greatest cover ever. It went on to be featured in shows/movies such as Walking Tall, The Longest Yard, The Karate Kid, and an episode on Fresh Prince.
This album helped them record their next album, 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik which would be a huge changeup. Whereas before, the songs were fast-paced, Blood Sugar was more melodic and with more depth, often covering drug-addiction, love, and loss. The album was produced my legendary producer Rick Rubin, who worked with bands such as Slipknot, Beastie Boys, and even more recently Lady Gaga and Eminem.
Once the band went on tour to promote the new album, John Frusciante grew distant and did not appreciate the fame or notoriety they were gaining. He left the band in 92’, leaving the rest of the band stranded in Japan without a guitarist. The other members concluded the tour in late 92,
while John followed the footsteps of his predecessor, often hauled up in his house using drugs and painting.
While he was out of the band for six years succumbing to his addictions, the band released one album with new guitarist Dave Navarro, from Janes Addiction. One Hot Minute did not sell as well as Blood Sugar or Mother’s Milk.
When John entered rehab and joined Red Hot Chili Peppers again, they released their most commercially successful album to date, Californication, with over 15 million albums sold. From there on, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would go on to create four more successful albums, the most recent being with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.
With ten studio albums, one live album, forty-four music videos, numerous stints in rehab, six Grammy’s and over 80 million albums sold worldwide, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have influenced countless artists and countless audiences. Since December 2000, the band has been clean of all drugs and alcohol. Through the 37 years of perseverance, hard work, and love of music, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will continue to be one of the most influential bands in history.