Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. Their music incorporates elements of alternative rock, funk, punk rock and psychedelic rock. The band consists of vocalist Anthony Kiedis, guitarist John Frusciante, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith. With over 80 million records sold worldwide, Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the best-selling bands of all time. They are the most successful band in the history of alternative rock, with the records for most number-one singles (13), most cumulative weeks at number one (85) and most top-ten songs (25) on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. They have won six Grammy Awards, and in 2012 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in Los Angeles by Kiedis, Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons. Because of commitments to other bands, Slovak and Irons did not play on the band’s 1984 self-titled debut album; instead, the album featured Jack Sherman on guitar and Cliff Martinez on drums. However, Slovak rejoined shortly after its release and performed on the albums Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987), the latter of which saw a reunion of the original lineup. Slovak died of a drug overdose on June 25, 1988; Irons, devastated, left the band.
With new recruits Frusciante and Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded Mother’s Milk (1989) and their first major commercial success, Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). Frusciante was uncomfortable with their newfound popularity and left abruptly during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour in 1992. His replacement, Dave Navarro, played on the sixth Red Hot Chili Peppers album, One Hot Minute (1995). Although commercially successful, the album failed to match the critical or popular acclaim of Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
In 1998, following Navarro’s dismissal, Frusciante returned to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their seventh album, Californication (1999), became their biggest commercial success, with 16 million copies sold worldwide. Their next albums, By the Way (2002) and Stadium Arcadium (2006), were also successful; Stadium Arcadium was the band’s first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart. After the Stadium Arcadium tour, Red Hot Chili Peppers went on an extended hiatus. Frusciante left again in 2009 to focus on his solo career; he was replaced by Josh Klinghoffer, who appeared on the albums I’m with You (2011) and The Getaway (2016), before Frusciante rejoined in 2019.
Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in Los Angeles by singer Anthony Kiedis, guitarist Hillel Slovak, bassist Flea, and drummer Jack Irons, classmates at Fairfax High School. Their early names included Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, and their first performance was at the Rhythm Lounge club to a crowd of approximately 30, opening for Gary and Neighbor’s Voices. Inspired by punk funk acts like Contortions and Defunkt, they improvised music while Kiedis rapped.
At the time, Slovak and Irons were already committed to another group, What Is This?; however, the band was asked to return the following week. The band changed its name to Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing several shows at LA venues. Six songs from these initial shows were on the band’s first demo tape. In November 1983, manager Lindy Goetz struck a seven-album deal with EMI America and Enigma Records. Two weeks earlier, however, What Is This? had also obtained a record deal with MCA, and in December Slovak and Irons quit Red Hot Chili Peppers to focus on What Is This?. Flea and Keidis recruited Weirdos drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman.
The band released their debut album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, in August 1984. Airplay on college radio and MTV helped build a fan base, and the album sold 300,000 copies. Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, who produced the album, pushed the band to play with a cleaner, more radio-friendly sound, and the band was disappointed with the result, finding it over-polished. The album included backing vocals by Gwen Dickey, the singer for the 1970s disco funk group Rose Royce. The band embarked on a gruelling tour, performing 60 shows in 64 days. During the tour, continuing musical and lifestyle tension between Kiedis and Sherman complicated the transition between concert and daily band life. Sherman was fired in February 1985. Hillel Slovak, who had just quit What Is This?, rejoined in early 1985.
George Clinton produced the second album, Freaky Styley (1985). Clinton combined various elements of punk and funk into the band’s repertoire, allowing their music to incorporate a variety of distinct styles. The album featured Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. The band often indulged in heavy heroin use while recording the album, which influenced the lyrics and musical direction of the album. The band had a much better relationship with Clinton than with Gill, but Freaky Styley, released on August 16, 1985, also achieved little success, failing to make an impression on any chart. The subsequent tour was also considered unproductive by the band. Despite the lack of success, the band was satisfied with Freaky Styley; Kiedis reflected that “it so surpassed anything we thought we could have done that we were thinking we were on the road to enormity.” Around this time, the band appeared in the 1986 films Thrashin’, playing the song “Blackeyed Blonde” from Freaky Styley, and Tough Guys, performing “Set It Straight”.
In early 1986, EMI gave the Chili Peppers $5,000 to record a demo tape for their next album. They chose to work with producer Keith Levene from PIL, as he shared their interest in drugs. Levene and Slovak put aside $2,000 of the budget to spend on heroin and cocaine, which created tension between the band members. Martinez’s “heart was no longer in the band”, but he did not quit, so Kiedis and Flea fired him in April 1986. Irons rejoined the band, to their surprise; it marked the first time all four founding members were together since 1983. During the recording and subsequent tour of Freaky Styley, Kiedis and Slovak were dealing with debilitating heroin addictions. Due to his addiction, Kiedis “didn’t have the same drive or desire to come up with ideas or lyrics” and appeared at rehearsal “literally asleep”.
For their third album, the Chili Peppers attempted to hire Rick Rubin to produce, but he declined due to the band’s increasing drug problems. They eventually hired Michael Beinhorn from the art funk project Material, their last choice. The early attempts at recording were halted due to Kiedis’s worsening drug problems, and Kiedis was briefly fired. After the band were named “band of the year” by LA Weekly, Kiedis entered drug rehabilitation. The band auditioned new singers, but Kiedis, now sober, rejoined the recording sessions with new enthusiasm. Songs formed quickly, blending the funk feel and rhythms as Freaky Styley with a harder, more immediate approach to punk rock. The album was recorded in the basement of the Capitol Records Building. The recording process was difficult; Kiedis would frequently disappear to seek drugs. After fifty days of sobriety, Kiedis decided to take drugs again to celebrate his new music.
The third Red Hot Chili Peppers album, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, was released in September 1987. It peaked at No. 148 on the Billboard 200, a significant improvement over their earlier albums. During this period, however, Kiedis and Slovak had both developed serious drug addictions, often disappearing for days on end. Slovak died from a heroin overdose on June 25, 1988, soon after the conclusion of the Uplift tour. Kiedis fled the city and did not attend Slovak’s funeral. Irons, troubled by the death, decided to leave the band; following years of depression, he became a member of Seattle grunge band Pearl Jam in 1994.
DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight, a former member of Parliament-Funkadelic, was hired as guitarist, and D. H. Peligro of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys replaced Irons. Kiedis re-entered rehab, and visited Slovak’s grave as part of his rehabilitation, finally confronting his grief. Thirty days later, Kiedis left rehab and was ready to resume his career with the band. Three dates into the tour, McKnight was fired, having lacked chemistry with the band. McKnight was so unhappy he threatened to burn down Kiedis’ house.
Peligro introduced Kiedis and Flea to teenage guitarist and Chili Peppers fan John Frusciante. Frusciante performed his first show with the band in September 1988. The new lineup began writing for the next album and went on a short tour, the Turd Town Tour. In November, Kiedis and Flea fired Peligro due to his drug and alcohol problems. Following open auditions, they hired drummer Chad Smith in December 1988, who has remained since.
The Chili Peppers began work on their fourth album in 1989. Unlike the stop-start sessions for The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, preproduction went smoothly. However, the sessions were made tense by Beinhorn’s desire to create a hit, frustrating Frusciante and Kiedis. Released on August 16, 1989, Mother’s Milk peaked at number 52 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The record failed to chart in the United Kingdom and Europe, but climbed to number 33 in Australia. “Knock Me Down” reached number six on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks, whereas “Higher Ground” charted at number eleven and reached number 54 in the UK and 45 in Australia and France. Mother’s Milk was certified gold in March 1990 and was the first Chili Peppers album to ship over 500,000 units.
In 1990, after the success of Mother’s Milk, the Chili Peppers left EMI and entered a major-label bidding war. They signed with Warner Bros. Records and hired producer Rick Rubin. Rubin had turned the band down in 1987 because of their drug problems but felt they were now healthier and more focused. He would go on to produce five more of their albums. The writing process was more productive than it had been for Mother’s Milk, with Kiedis saying, “, there was new music for me to lyricize”. At Rubin’s suggestion, they recorded in the Mansion, a studio in a house where magician Harry Houdini once lived.
In September 1991, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released. “Give It Away” was the first single; it became one of the band’s best known songs, and in 1992 won a Grammy Award for “Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocal”. It became the band’s first number-one single on the Modern Rock chart. The ballad “Under the Bridge” was released as a second single, and went on to reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the highest the band had reached on that chart as of 2016.
The album sold over 12 million copies. Blood Sugar Sex Magik was listed at number 310 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and in 1992 it rose to No. 3 on the U.S. album charts, almost a year after its release. The album was accompanied by a documentary, Funky Monks. The band kicked off their Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour, which featured Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins, three of the era’s biggest upcoming bands in alternative music, as opening acts.
Frusciante was troubled by his newfound fame, and began falling out with Kiedis. Unknown to others, Frusciante was also starting a drug habit and isolating himself. Frusciante abruptly quit the band hours before a show during the Blood Sugar Japanese tour in May 1992. The band contacted guitarist Dave Navarro, who had just split from Jane’s Addiction, but Navarro was involved in his drug battles. After failed auditions with Zander Schloss, Arik Marshall of Los Angeles band, Marshall Law was hired, and the Chili Peppers headlined the Lollapalooza festival in 1992. Marshall would also appear in the music videos for “Breaking the Girl” and “If You Have to Ask”, as well as in The Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled”. In September 1992, the Chili Peppers, with Marshall, performed “Give It Away” at the MTV Video Music Awards. The band was nominated for seven awards, winning three, including Viewer’s Choice. In February 1993, they performed “Give It Away” at the Grammy Awards, and the song won the band their first Grammy later that evening.
The Chili Peppers dismissed Marshall as he was too busy to attend rehearsals. They held auditions for new guitarists, including Buckethead, whom Flea felt was not right for the band. Guitarist Jesse Tobias of the Los Angeles-based band Mother Tongue was briefly hired, but dismissed as “the chemistry wasn’t right”. However, Navarro said he was now ready to join the band. In August 1993, the non-album single “Soul to Squeeze” was released and featured on the soundtrack to the film Coneheads. The song topped the Billboard US Modern Rock chart.
Navarro first appeared with the band at Woodstock ’94, performing early versions of new songs. This was followed by a brief tour, including headlining appearances at Pukkelpop and Reading Festivals as well as two performances as the opening act for the Rolling Stones. The relationship between Navarro and the band began to deteriorate; Navarro admitted he did not care for funk music or jamming. Kiedis had relapsed into heroin addiction following a dental procedure in which an addictive sedative, Valium, was used, though the band did not discover this until later.
Without Frusciante, songs were written at a far slower rate. Kiedis said: “John had been a true anomaly when it came to songwriting … I just figured that was how all guitar players were, that you showed them your lyrics and sang a little bit and the next thing you knew you had a song. That didn’t happen right off the bat with Dave.” With Kiedis often absent from recording due to his drug problems, Flea took a larger role in the writing process, and sang lead on his song, “Pea”.
One Hot Minute was released in September 1995 after several delays. It departed from the band’s previous sound, with Navarro’s guitar work incorporating heavy metal riffs and psychedelic rock. The band described the album as a darker, sadder record. Kiedis’s lyrics addressed drugs, including the lead single, “Warped”, and broken relationships and deaths of loved ones, including “Tearjerker,” written about Kurt Cobain. Despite mixed reviews, the album sold eight million copies worldwide and produced the band’s third number-one single, “My Friends”. The band also contributed to soundtracks including Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
The band began the tour for One Hot Minute in Europe in 1995; the US tour was postponed after Smith broke his wrist. In 1997, several shows were cancelled following deteriorating band relations, injuries, and Navarro and Kiedis’s drug use. They played their only show of the year at the first Fuji Rock Festival, in Japan. In April 1998, the band announced that Navarro had left due to creative differences; Kiedis stated that the decision was “mutual”. Reports at the time, however, indicated that Navarro’s departure came after he attended a band practice under the influence of drugs.
With no guitarist, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on the verge of breaking up. In the years following Frusciante’s departure, it became public that he had developed a heroin addiction that left him in poverty and near death. Flea convinced Frusciante to admit himself to Las Encinas Drug Rehabilitation Center in January 1998. His addiction left him with permanent scarring on his arms, a restructured nose, and dental implants following an oral infection. In April 1998, Flea visited the recovered Frusciante and asked him to rejoin the band; Frusciante began sobbing and said nothing would make him happier.
In June 1999, after more than a year of production, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Californication, their seventh studio album. It sold over 16 million copies, and remains their most successful album. Californication contained fewer rap songs than its predecessors, instead integrating textured and melodic guitar riffs, vocals and basslines. It produced three more number one modern rock hits, “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Californication”. Californication received stronger reviews than One Hot Minute, and was a greater success worldwide. While many critics credited the success of the album to Frusciante’s return, they also felt Kiedis’s vocals had also improved. It was later listed at number 399 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Californication was supported with a two-year international world tour, producing the first Chili Peppers concert DVD, Off the Map (2001). In July 1999, the Chili Peppers played the closing show at Woodstock 1999. During the set, a small fire escalated into violence and vandalism, resulting in the intervention of riot control squads. ATMs and several semi-tractor trailers were looted and destroyed. The band was blamed in the media for inciting the riots after performing a cover of the Hendrix song “Fire”. In his memoir, Keidis wrote: “It was clear that this situation had nothing to do with Woodstock anymore. It wasn’t symbolic of peace and love, but of greed and cashing in.”
The Chili Peppers began writing their next album in early 2001, immediately following the Californication tour. Frusciante and Kiedis would collaborate for days straight, discussing and sharing guitar progressions and lyrics. For Kiedis, “writing By the Way … was a whole different experience from Californication. John was back to himself and brimming with confidence.” The recording was difficult for Flea, who felt his role was being diminished and fought with Frusciante about the musical direction. Flea considered quitting the band after the album, but the two worked out their problems.
By the Way was released in July 2002 and produced four singles; “By the Way”, “The Zephyr Song”, “Can’t Stop” and “Universally Speaking”. The album was their most subdued to date, focusing on melodic ballads over rap and funk, with layered textures, more keyboards, and string arrangements. The album was followed by an eighteen-month world tour, a concert DVD, Live at Slane Castle, and the band’s first live album, Red Hot Chili Peppers Live in Hyde Park. More than 258,000 fans paid over $17,100,000 for tickets over three nights, a 2004 record; the event ranked No. 1 on Billboard's Top Concert Boxscores of 2004. In November 2003, the Chili Peppers released their Greatest Hits album, which featured new songs “Fortune Faded” and “Save the Population”.
In 2006, the Chili Peppers released their ninth album, Stadium Arcadium. Although they initially planned to release a trilogy of albums, they chose to release a 28-track double album. It was their first album to debut at number one on the US charts, where it stayed for two weeks, and debuted at number one in the UK and 25 other countries. Stadium Arcadium sold over seven million units. It won five Grammys: Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song (“Dani California”), Best Rock Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocal (“Dani California”), Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package, and Best Producer (Rick Rubin).
The first single, “Dani California”, was the band’s fastest-selling single, debuting on top of the Modern Rock chart in the U.S., peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, and reaching number 2 in the UK. “Tell Me Baby”, released next, also topped the charts in 2006. “Snow (Hey Oh)” was released in late 2006, breaking multiple records by 2007. The song became their eleventh number-one single, giving the band a cumulative total of 81 weeks at number one. It was also the first time three consecutive singles by the band made it to number one. “Desecration Smile” was released internationally in February 2007 and reached number 27 on the UK charts. “Hump de Bump” was planned to be the next single for the US, Canada, and Australia only, but due to positive feedback from the music video, it was released as a worldwide single in May 2007.
The Stadium Arcadium World Tour began in 2006, including several festival dates. Frusciante’s friend and frequent musical collaborator Josh Klinghoffer joined the touring band, contributing guitar, backing vocals, and keyboards. The band was the musical guest for Saturday Night Live, which aired in May 2006 with featured host Tom Hanks.
Following the last leg of the Stadium Arcadium tour, the Chili Peppers took an extended break. Kiedis attributed this to the band being worn out from their years of nonstop work since Californication (1999). Their only recording during this time was in 2008 with George Clinton on his album George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love; accompanied by Kim Manning, they recorded a new version of Shirley and Lee’s classic “Let the Good Times Roll”.
Kiedis, who had recently become a father, planned to spend the time off taking care of his son and developing a television series based on his autobiography, Spider and Son. Flea began taking music theory classes at the University of Southern California, and revealed plans to release a mainly instrumental solo record; guest musicians included Patti Smith and a choir from the Silverlake Conservatory. Frusciante released his album The Empyrean. Smith worked with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Michael Anthony in the supergroup Chickenfoot, as well as on his solo project, Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats. Flea and touring Chili Peppers percussionist Mauro Refosco joined Thom Yorke in the supergroup Atoms for Peace.
In July 2009, Frusciante left the Chili Peppers, though no announcement was made until December 2009. Frusciante explained on his Myspace page that there was no ill feeling about his departure this time, and that he wanted to focus on his solo work. In October 2009, the Chili Peppers entered the studio to begin writing their tenth studio album, with Klinghoffer replacing Frusciante.
In January 2010, the Chili Peppers, with Klinghoffer on guitar, made their live comeback in January 2010, paying tribute to Neil Young with a cover of “A Man Needs a Maid” at MusiCares. In February, after months of speculation, Klinghoffer was confirmed as Frusciante’s replacement.
The band began recording their tenth studio album with producer Rick Rubin in September, and finished in March 2011. They decided against releasing another double album, reducing the album to 14 tracks. I’m with You, the tenth Red Hot Chili Peppers album, was released in the US in August 2011. It topped the charts in 18 countries, and received mostly positive reviews. “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, became the band’s 12th number-one single. “Monarchy of Roses”, “Look Around” and “Did I Let You Know” (released only in Brazil), and “Brendan’s Death Song” were also released as singles.
In July 2011, the Chili Peppers played three invitation-only warm-up shows in California, their first since 2007. They began a month-long promotional tour in August 2011, starting in Asia. The I’m With You World Tour ran from September 2011 until 2013. The North American leg, expected to begin in January 2012, was postponed to March due to a surgery Kiedis required for foot injuries he had sustained during the Stadium Arcadium tour. Following the I’m with You World Tour, the band set out on another small tour, including their first shows in Alaska, Paraguay, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Recordings from the tours were released in 2012 on the free 2011 Live EP.
The Chili Peppers were nominated for two MTV Europe Music Awards for Best Rock Band and Best Live Artist and nominated for Best Group at the 2012 People’s Choice Awards I’m with You was also nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In April 2012, the Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May saw the release of the download-only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Covers EP, comprising previously released studio and live covers of artists that had influenced the band. From August 2012, the band began releasing a series of singles as the I’m with You Sessions, which were compiled on the I’m Beside You LP in November 2013 as a Record Store Day exclusive.
In February 2014, the Chili Peppers joined Bruno Mars as performers at the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, watched by a record 115.3 million viewers. The performance was met with mixed reviews for its use of backing music; Flea responded that it was a NFL rule for bands to pre-record music due to time and technical issues, and that they had agreed because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He said Kiedis’s vocals were completely live and the band had recorded “Give it Away” during rehearsals. The band began another tour in May 2013, which ended in June 2014. 2012-13 Live EP was released in July 2014 through their website as a free download.
The Chili Peppers released Fandemonium in November 2014, a book dedicated to their fans. That December, they began work on their eleventh album, their first without producer Rick Rubin since 1989; it was instead produced by Danger Mouse. Flea suffered a broken arm during a skiing trip which delayed the recording for several months. The band announced in May that “Dark Necessities”, the first single from their upcoming album, would be released on May 5. On that same day, it was announced that the band’s eleventh album would be titled The Getaway, and would be released in June. Kiedis said many of the songs were influenced by a two-year relationship that fell apart. “Dark Necessities” became the band’s 25th top-ten single on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, a record they hold over U2. In February 2016, “Circle of the Noose”, an unreleased song recorded with Navarro in 1998, was leaked.
In May, the band released “The Getaway”, the title track on their upcoming album. The music video for “Dark Necessities”, directed by actress Olivia Wilde, was released in June 2016. The Getaway made its debut at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, behind Drake, who had the number-one album for eight consecutive weeks. The Getaway outsold Drake its opening week with album sales of 108,000 to 33,000 (actually placing him at 4th in sales for the week) though due to album streaming, Drake managed to top the band for the top position in the charts. In July 2016, the Live In Paris EP was released exclusively through the music streaming website Deezer. “Go Robot” was announced as the second single from The Getaway. In the same month, the band members started to post images from the set of the music video. The Getaway was re-issued on limited edition pink vinyl in September, as part of 10 Bands 1 Cause. All money from sales of the re-issue went to Gilda’s Club NYC an organization that provides community support for both those diagnosed with cancer and their caretakers. It is named after comedian Gilda Radner.
The band began the headlining portion of The Getaway World Tour in September with the North American leg, featuring Jack Irons, the band’s original drummer as an opening act on all dates, beginning in January 2017. Dave Rat, the band’s sound engineer since 1991, announced that following the band’s show of January 22, 2017 he would no longer be working with the band.
The Getaway World Tour concluded in October 2017. The tour consisted of 151 shows lasting a year and almost five months. In December, the band headlined the Band Together 2 Benefit Concert at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Money raised from the concert went to the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund which between 2005 and 2017 raised $150 million to educate, employ, house and support those in need in the Bay Area.
The recording of the next Chili Peppers album was delayed due to the Woolsey Fire; they performed a benefit show for fire victims on January 13, 2019. In February, they performed “Dark Necessities” with rapper Post Malone at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. They appeared in Malone’s music video for “Wow”, released in March 2019.
In February 2019, the Chili Peppers began a month-long tour, featuring their first headlining shows in Australia in twelve years, including their first show in Tasmania, which was briefly halted due to a power outage. On March 15, 2019, they performed in Egypt, becoming one of the few acts allowed to perform at the Pyramids of Giza. The performance was live-streamed on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. On October 26, 2019, photographer David Mushegain announced that a Chili Peppers documentary was in the works.
Klinghoffer released his debut solo album, To Be One With You, on November 22, 2019, featuring Flea and former Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. On November 2, 2019, the Chili Peppers performed at a charity event at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles; it was their final show with Klinghoffer. On December 15, 2019, the Chili Peppers released a statement via Instagram that, after 10 years, they had split with Klinghoffer and that Frusciante had rejoined the band. They wrote that Klinghoffer was “a beautiful musician who we respect and love”. In an interview on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, Klinghoffer said there was no animosity: “It’s absolutely John’s place to be in that band … I’m happy that he’s back with them.”
In January 2020, Smith confirmed that the Chili Peppers had been working on a new album with Frusciante. On February 8, Frusciante performed with the band for the first time in 13 years, at a memorial service held by the Tony Hawk Foundation for late film producer Andrew Burkle, son of billionaire Ronald Burkle. The band’s first full shows with Frusciante were scheduled for festivals in May, but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On August 20, former Chili Peppers guitarist Jack Sherman died, aged 64; the band issued a statement thanking him for “all times good, bad and in between”. In September, Smith said the Chili Peppers had been in talks with Rubin to produce their next album.
The Chili Peppers’ mix of hard rock, funk and hip hop has influenced genres such as funk metal, rap metal, rap rock and nu metal. In a 2002 interview with Penthouse, Kiedis said “We were early in creating the combination of hardcore funk with hip-hop-style vocals”, and suggested they had influenced Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, and Linkin Park.
In an interview with Jason Tanamor, Smith said, “Certainly Anthony’s singing style and voice lends itself to being unique, and nobody sounds like him. The cool thing about it is we can play any style of music whether it’s hard and fast, or loud or quiet, slow or medium, whatever it is; rock or funk, and it still sounds like us. I’m proud of that because sometimes bands don’t have that strong personality where you go, ‘Oh, that’s boom, right away.'”
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In April 2012. The induction lineup was Kiedis, Flea, Smith, Klinghoffer, Frusciante, Slovak (represented by his brother James), Irons and Martinez; Frusciante was invited, but did not attend. Navarro and Sherman were not inducted; Sherman said he felt “dishonored”. The band performed “By the Way”, “Give It Away” and “Higher Ground”, which included Irons and Martinez on drums. It was the first time Kiedis and Flea had performed with Irons in 24 years and Martinez in 26 years.
In 2012, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication, and By the Way were ranked among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at 310, 399, and 304, respectively.
In 1990, the Chili Peppers appeared in PSA ads for Rock the Vote, a non-profit organization in the United States geared toward increasing voter turnout in the United States Presidential Election among voters ages 18 to 24.
The band was invited by the Beastie Boys and the Milarepa Fund to perform at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in June 1996 in San Francisco. They also performed at the June 1998 Washington, D.C. concert as well. The concerts, which were held worldwide, were to support the cause of Tibetan independence. In September 2005, the band performed “Under the Bridge” at the ReAct Now: Music & Relief benefit which was held to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The live event raised $30 million.
In July 2007, the band performed on behalf of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore who invited the band to perform at the London version of his Live Earth concerts which were held to raise awareness towards global warming and solving the most critical environmental issues of our time. The band performed a free concert in downtown Cleveland, Ohio in April 2012 in support of President Obama’s re-election campaign. The requirement for getting into the concert was agreeing to volunteer for the Obama 2012 phone bank. The event quickly met its capacity limit after being announced.
In May 2013, the band performed a special concert in Portland, Oregon for the Dalai Lama as part of the Dalai Lama Environmental Summit. In January 2015, they performed their first show of the new year for the Sean Penn & Friends Help Haiti Home fundraiser in support of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization. The band were among over 120 entertainers and celebrities to sign up and announce that they would be voting for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election in September. The band performed at a fundraiser event at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach in the same month. All money was donated to A Reason To Survive (ARTS), Heartbeat Music Academy, San Diego Young Artists Music Academy, and the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. In October, Kiedis and Flea hosted the annual benefit for the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. The band performed a special rare acoustic set.
In February 2016, the band headlined a fundraiser concert in support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. In April, the band performed at a private function on behalf of Facebook and Napster founder Sean Parker for his launch of The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Chad Smith and Will Ferrell hosted the Red Hot Benefit Comedy + Music Show & Quinceanera in the same month. The benefit featured a performance by the Chili Peppers along with comedy acts selected by Ferrell and Funny or Die. A portion of the proceeds went to Ferrell’s Cancer for College and Smith’s Silverlake Conservatory of Music.
In February 2018, Smith once again joined Ferrell at his One Classy Night benefit at the Moore Theater in Seattle to help raise money for Cancer for College. The event raised $300,000 in college scholarship money for students who have survived cancer.
The musical style of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has been characterized as funk rock, alternative rock, funk metal and rap rock, with influences from hard, psychedelic and punk rock. The band’s influences include Parliament-Funkadelic, Defunkt, Jimi Hendrix, the Misfits, Black Sabbath, Metallica, James Brown, Gang of Four, Bob Marley, Big Boys, Bad Brains, Sly and the Family Stone, Ohio Players, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Deep Purple, the Beach Boys, Black Flag, Ornette Coleman, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Fugazi, Fishbone, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Santana, Elvis Costello, the Stooges, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo, and Miles Davis.
Kiedis provided multiple vocal styles. His primary approach up to Blood Sugar Sex Magik was spoken verse and rapping, which he complemented with traditional vocals. This helped the band to maintain a consistent style. As the group matured, notably with Californication (1999), they reduced the number of rapped verses. By the Way (2002) contained only two songs with a rap-driven verse and melodic chorus. Kiedis’s more recent style was developed through ongoing coaching.
Original guitarist Slovak’s style was strongly based on blues and funk. Slovak was primarily influenced by hard-rock artists such as Hendrix, Kiss and Led Zeppelin, while his playing method was based on improvisation common in funk. He was noted for an aggressive playing style; he would often play with such force, that his fingers would “come apart”. Kiedis observed that his playing evolved during his time away from the group in What Is This?, when Slovak adopted a more fluid style featuring “sultry” elements compared to his earlier hard-rock techniques. On The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987), Slovak experimented with genres outside of traditional funk music including reggae and speed metal. His guitar riffs would often serve as the basis of the group’s songs, with the other members writing their parts to complement his guitar work. His melodic riff featured in the song “Behind the Sun” inspired the group to create “pretty” songs with an emphasis on melody. Kiedis describes the song as “pure Hillel inspiration”. Slovak also used a talk box on songs such as “Green Heaven” and “Funky Crime”, in which he would sing into a tube while playing to create psychedelic effects.
Frusciante’s musical style has evolved over the course of his career. His guitar playing employs melody and emotion rather than virtuosity. Although virtuoso influences can be heard throughout his career, he has said that he often minimizes this. Frusciante brought a melodic and textured sound, notably on Californication, By the Way and Stadium Arcadium (2006). This contrasts with his earlier abrasive approach in Mother’s Milk, as well as his dry, funky and more docile arrangements on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. On Californicationand By the Way, Frusciante derived the technique of creating tonal texture through chord patterns from post-punk guitarist Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, and bands such as Fugazi and The Cure. On By The Way, he wanted people to be able to sing the lead guitar part, influenced by John McGeoch of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Johnny Marr of The Smiths and Bernard Sumner of Joy Division. He initially wanted this album to be composed of “these punky, rough songs”, drawing inspiration from early punk artists such as The Germs and The Damned. However, this was discouraged by producer Rick Rubin, and he instead built upon Californication's melodically driven style. During the recording of Stadium Arcadium (2006), he moved away from his new-wave influences and concentrated on emulating flashier guitar players such as Hendrix and Van Halen.
Navarro brought his own sound to the band during his tenure, with his style based on heavy metal, progressive rock and psychedelia.
Klinghoffer’s style employed a wide range of unconventional guitar effects and vocal treatments. In his debut Chili Peppers album, I’m with You (2011), he focused heavily on producing a textured, emotional sound to complement the vocals and atmosphere of each song. He has stated that he is a fan of jazz and funk.
Flea’s bass guitar style can be considered an amalgamation of funk, psychedelic, punk, and hard rock. The groove-heavy melodies, played through either finger-picking or slapping, contributed to their signature style. While Flea’s slap bass style was prominent in earlier albums, albums after Blood Sugar Sex Magik have more melodic and funk-driven bass lines. He has also used double stops on some newer songs. Flea’s bass playing has changed considerably throughout the years. When he joined Fear, his technique centered largely around traditional punk-rock bass lines. However, he changed this style when Red Hot Chili Peppers formed. He began to incorporate a “slap” bass style that drew influence largely from Bootsy Collins. Blood Sugar Sex Magik saw a notable shift in style as it featured none of his signature technique but focused more on traditional and melodic roots. His intellectual beliefs as a musician also shifted: “I was trying to play simply on Blood Sugar Sex Magik because I had been playing too much prior to that, so I thought, ‘I’ve really got to chill out and play half as many notes’. When you play less, it’s more exciting—there’s more room for everything. If I do play something busy, it stands out, instead of the bass being a constant onslaught of notes. Space is good.”
Drummer Smith blends rock with funk, mixing metal and jazz to his beats. Influences include Buddy Rich and John Bonham. He brought a different sound to Mother’s Milk, playing tight and fast. In Blood Sugar Sex Magik, he displays greater power. He is recognized for his ghost notes, his beats and his fast right foot. MusicRadar put him in sixth place on their list of the “50 Greatest Drummers Of All Time”.
Early in the group’s career, Kiedis wrote comical songs filled with sexual innuendos and songs inspired by friendship and the band members’ personal experiences. However, after the death of his close friend and bandmate Hillel Slovak, Kiedis’s lyrics became much more introspective and personal, as exemplified by the Mother’s Milk song “Knock Me Down”, which was dedicated to Slovak along with the Blood Sugar Sex Magik song “My Lovely Man”.
When the band recorded One Hot Minute (1995) Kiedis had turned to drugs once again, which resulted in darker lyrics. He began to write about anguish, and the self-mutilating thoughts he would experience as a result of his heroin and cocaine addiction. The album also featured tributes to close friends the band lost during the recording process including Kurt Cobain on the song “Tearjerker” and River Phoenix on the song “Transcending”.
After witnessing Frusciante’s recovery from his heroin addiction, Kiedis wrote many songs inspired by rebirth and the meaning of life on Californication. He was also intrigued by the life lessons that the band had learned, including Kiedis’s experience with meeting a young mother at the YMCA, who was attempting to battle her crack addiction while living with her infant daughter.
On By the Way, Kiedis was lyrically influenced by love, his girlfriend, and the emotions expressed when one fell in love. Drugs also played an integral part in Kiedis’s writings, as he had only been sober since 2000. Tracks like “This Is the Place” and “Don’t Forget Me” expressed his intense dislike for narcotics and the harmful physical and emotional effects they caused him. Stadium Arcadium (2006) continued the themes of love and romance; Kiedis stated, that “love and women, pregnancies and marriages, relationship struggles—those are real and profound influences on this record. And it’s great, because it wasn’t just me writing about the fact that I’m in love. It was everybody in the band. We were brimming with energy based on falling in love.” I’m with You (2011) again featured Kiedis writing about the loss of a close friend, this time in the song “Brendan’s Death Song”, a tribute to club owner Brendan Mullen who gave the band some of their earliest shows and showed support to them throughout their career.
Themes within Kiedis’s repertoire include love and friendship, teenage angst, good-time aggression, various sexual topics and the link between sex and music, political and social commentary (Native American issues in particular), romance, loneliness, globalization and the cons of fame and Hollywood, poverty, drugs, alcohol, dealing with death, and California.
Kiedis was convicted of indecent exposure and sexual battery in 1989 after he exposed himself to a woman following a show in Virginia.
In Daytona Beach, Florida, Smith and Flea were arrested after filming an MTV Spring Break performance in 1990. They sexually harassed a 20-year-old woman during their show, after Flea walked into the crowd and carried her away.
In 2016, a former music executive accused two members of the band of sexually harassing her during a business meeting in 1991.
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