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With the Red Hot Chili Peppers, bassist Flea has scored numerous hit albums, including 1991's BloodSugarSexMagik and 2006's Stadium Arcadium.
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Born in Australia in 1962, Michael "Flea" Balzary started out as a jazz enthusiast. He was a talented trumpeter growing up. In high school, Flea turned to punk and rock. He formed the Red Hot Chili Peppers with three friends from high school. The band had its first hit album, BloodSugarSexMagik, in 1991. More successes have followed, including 2006's Stadium Arcadium and 2011's I'm With You.
As the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael "Flea" Balzary is one of rock's most famous performers. The band, known for its funk-punk infused sound, has enjoyed great success since the release of their 1991 breakout album BloodSugarSexMagik. Flea, however, started out as a jazz performer before crossing over to rock.
Some of his early musical influences came from his stepfather, a jazz musician, and included Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Growing up, Flea became enamored with the trumpet and developed into a musical prodigy. His family life, however, was unstable. His parents had split up when he was young, and his stepfather had problems with alcohol.
At Fairfax High School, Flea was a bit of an outcast for his quirky musical tastes. There he met Anthony Kiedis and the two became good friends. Flea's musical tastes began to change, adding such rock legends as Jimi Hendrix to his list of favorite performers. Before long, he had taken up the bass guitar. Flea basically taught himself the instrument with a little help from friend Hillel Slovak. The trumpeter quickly transformed into an ace bassist, playing in a couple of bands, including the Los Angeles punk group Fear.
In 1983, Flea formed what would become the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers with high school friends Kiedis, Slovak, and Jack Irons. Marrying the hard, driving sound of punk and 1970s funk, the group was a popular act on the Hollywood club scene. The Chili Peppers were known for their high-energy stage antics as well as their wild lives off-stage.
While their first few albums failed to make a commercial impact, the group soldiered on. Flea and his fellow band members were deeply hurt by Slovak's death from an overdose in 1988. Things soon started to turned around for the group with the addition of guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith. The Chili Peppers started to attract notice for their innovative sound from more mainstream outlets, including getting their videos on MTV. Mother's Milk (1989) featured a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" as well as their own composition "Knock Me Down."
The Chili Peppers reached new heights with 1991's BloodSugarSexMagik with a little help from famed producer Rick Rubin. With such hits as "Under The Bridge," the album went on to sell more than 4 million copies. The group soon went through some line-up changes, replacing Frusciante with Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for a time. But by 1999's Californication, Frusciante was back in the band. The Chili Peppers continued their winning streak with such songs as "Scar Tissue" and "Otherside."
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When musicians land big fame, there typically comes a moment of reinvention in which the "rock star" identity is born. This new persona often requires a new name, a way to differentiate between the private and public versions of themselves. Musical monikers take different forms, from the simple, last-name changes aimed at boosting celebrity appeal—like Steven Tyler—to the glamorized version of a childhood nickname—like Jay-Z. Musicians' nicknames and aliases tend to take on an identity all their own over time, often becoming as full of personality as the artists they represent.
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