Musician Relationships With Controversial Age Gaps

Since the radio was invented, countless rock and pop stars have cultivated reputations for their wild, scandalous, and often downright illegal lifestyles. Indulging in cars, drugs, alcohol, sex, and many other vices is part and parcel of the celebrity life. And while it's easy for us audiences to pass judgment on the decadent lives of those who dominate the airwaves and magazine covers, let's not pretend that most — if not all — of us wouldn't give in to all manner of debauchery if we achieved ungodly fame and fortune. After all, popularity and riches can corrupt just as absolutely as absolute power.

But one of the more questionable things that prominent musical artists often do is become romantically involved with substantially younger people. It's one thing when they hook up with, say, a supermodel or movie actor in a highly public and tumultuous relationship, but it's something else entirely when they hook up with someone who's young enough to be their child or, worse, grandchild. Even if their significant other is well above the age of consent, this type of affair raises all kinds of questions about whether the young paramour is being exploited or manipulated in some way. Let's take a look at musician relationships with some of the most controversial age gaps.

Billie Eilish and Jesse Rutherford

Billie Eilish whipped fans into a frenzy in 2022 when photos surfaced of her locking lips with Jesse Rutherford, singer of The Neighbourhood, outside of a restaurant in Los Angeles. While rumors of celebrity romance will always get the masses talking, there was something else about their apparent relationship that really got people chatting: the 11-year age gap between them.

At the time, Eilish was 20 years old, while Rutherford was 31. Additional photos of them in public together spread across the internet, further fueling speculation until Eilish made their relationship Instagram-official on November 1, 2022, in a carousel that included a picture of her and Rutherford in their Halloween costumes. That photo, of course, sparked plenty of controversy, as it featured Eilish in a baby costume and Rutherford made up to look like an old man, supposedly poking fun at their age difference. While many people voiced their concern about the young adult singer dating a considerably older man, Eilish's brother, Finneas O'Connell, made it clear that their relationship didn't bother him. He went to a TikTok video criticizing him and responded with, "I want my sister to be happy and safe and she is a 21-year-old adult perfectly entitled to make her own life decisions."

However, Eilish and Rutherford broke up after less than a year of dating, as Eilish's representative told Page Six in a statement, "We can confirm Billie and Jesse did split amicably and remain good friends."

Elvis and Priscilla Presley

The most uncomfortable age gap on this list is that between Elvis and Priscilla Presley. It's not the number of years that separated them that makes it so uncomfortable (they were 10 years apart) — it's that the romance began when he was 24 years old and she was only 14. A military brat, Priscilla's father was stationed in Wiesbaden, West Germany, in 1959, where she met Elvis and the two quickly fell in love. They were introduced by a mutual acquaintance who took Priscilla to Elvis' house for a party; during their first meeting, Priscilla told Elvis she was in ninth grade, but that didn't diminish his interest in her. They met again a few days later, as Priscilla recounted in People, and then a third time shortly after that, which was when they had their first kiss. Perhaps finally realizing what he was getting into, Elvis pulled away and said, "We have plenty of time, Little One," before sending her home.

This sort of relationship would never fly today, and rightfully so. Still, Priscilla assures fans that Elvis' love for her was innocent; she spoke at a press conference following the premiere of Sofia Coppola's film "Priscilla" at the Venice Film Festival, where she said (via Entertainment Weekly), "[P]eople think, 'Oh, it was sex'... Not at all. I never had sex with him. He was very kind, very soft, very loving. But he also respected the fact that I was only 14 years old. We were more in mind and thought. And that was our relationship."

Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood

While Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood's relationship ended over a decade ago, it has continued to generate considerable controversy ever since. In fact, their romance kicked off with a scandalous start in 2006, as Wood was only 19 years old while Manson was 36. Their dubious affair continued in 2007 when the young actress appeared in the music video for Manson's song "Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)," which featured plenty of dark sexual imagery. Wood told's The EDIT (via US magazine), "I thought I was in love. I wasn't doing it to prove a point or be rebellious. I wanted to break a mold for sure — I knew I was edgier, more alternative, and weird. And [Marilyn] was just what I needed, because I felt really free with him. And that freedom was attractive."

While Manson and Wood were engaged in January 2010, their engagement only lasted for eight months. The two went their separate ways, and Wood often talked about her wild relationship with Manson. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Wood released statements about being exploited by one of her previous partners, confirming the identity in a February 2021 Instagram post that stated (via US magazine) the following: "The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson. He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years."

Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell

Paul McCartney needs no introduction, nor does his love life need much elaborating on. His first wife was Linda McCartney (née Eastman), with whom he famously formed the band Wings. After her tragic passing in 1998, he married Heather Mills in 2002, but that marriage ended acrimoniously in 2008. However, it's his marriage to his third wife, businesswoman Nancy Shevell, that's raised the most eyebrows, as she's 17 years younger than him. The two first met in 2007 while McCartney was in the process of divorcing Mills; they both were living in the Hamptons and frequently met for coffee.

As soon as McCartney's divorce was finalized, he and Shevell embarked on a romance whose details they tried to keep as private as possible; only a handful of intimate tidbits would leak to the press. Eventually, however, the two started to appear in the public eye more and more, such as when they attended McCartney's daughter Stella's fashion show in Paris in 2008 and the 2011 Met Gala in New York City, where Shevell was seen sporting an engagement ring. The pair got hitched in 2011 and are still married today, and quite happily so, it seems. In a 2023 interview on his website, McCartney stated that "When it comes to being a husband ... I see it as just trying to be good to my wife Nancy and trying to be considerate and romantic. I completely overdo Valentine's Day!"

Tommy Lee and Brittany Furlan

Throughout his career, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee has attracted as much attention for what he does offstage as what he does onstage. His high-profile love life includes marriages to actress Heather Locklear and Playboy model Pamela Anderson, with whom he caused quite a stir when their sex tape leaked to the public. Lee was subsequently involved with dancer Mayte Garcia and singer Sofia Toufa (and even briefly reunited with Anderson), but none of those relationships lasted long, nor did they produce much in the way of public scandal.

However, his latest marriage to social media personality Brittany Furlan has attracted considerable scrutiny, largely due to the fact that she's 24 years younger than him. She endured a wave of criticism following the release of Anderson's book, "Love, Pamela: A Memoir of Prose, Poetry, and Truth." Furlan addressed her fans in a now-deleted TikTok video to say (via US magazine), "I just wanted to come on here and let you know I'm OK because I know people have been checking on me, which is really nice and I'm good, don't worry. And don't worry about the people that are saying all the mean things they're saying ... I don't live in that world." Not only did she make it clear that the criticism didn't bother her in the video, she also invited her critics to say whatever they wanted about her, pointing out that her comments section is always open.

Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick

On July 4, 2015, music icon Billy Joel and then-girlfriend Alexis Roderick surprised guests at their annual Independence Day party with a wedding that was presided over by former New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Even more surprising, though, is the age gap between them — Joel is a whopping 33 years older than Roderick.

Their relationship is all the more questionable as Joel's daughter, singer-songwriter Alexa Ray, is only four years younger than his wife. But things get dicier, still, when one learns the reason behind Joel's divorce from his third wife, Katie Lee: "It was really the age difference that caught up with them. They grew apart. She is very career-oriented. She loves going out. She loves the city. When Billy isn't touring, he'd rather be on Long Island with his motorcycles and boats," a friend told the New York Daily News. The age gap between Joel and Lee was 32 years — only one year less than the gap between Joel and Roderick — so hopefully this latest marriage fares better.

Steven Tyler and Aimee Preston

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler is no stranger to dating younger women. The most disturbing example of this was described in a sexual assault lawsuit filed against him in late 2022, in which the plaintiff, Julia Holcomb, alleges that Tyler convinced her mother to make him her legal guardian after they met in 1973, when she was just 16 years old and he was 25. The latest instance of his interest in younger women is, at the very least, far more legal, yet still quite eyebrow-raising. In 2016, he revealed his relationship with Aimee Ann Preston, who is 39 years younger than him.

Another uncomfortable aspect of their relationship is the fact that Preston started off as his personal assistant in 2012. Now, plenty of romances were born in the workplace, but there's something questionable about a boss — especially one as famous as Tyler — who becomes involved with his assistant (although it should be noted that Preston has been an assistant to such luminaries as Donald Trump's ex-wife Marla Maples, Christina Aguilera, and the Beckham family). Still, the two seem genuinely happy together, as Preston frequently posts lovey-dovey pics of the two of them on her Instagram.

Mick Jagger and Melanie Hamrick

Mick Jagger has a love life that would put Giacomo Casanova to shame — and that's just with the partners the public knows about. While only being legally married once, the Rolling Stones frontman has fathered eight children with five different women. He's continued to provoke discussion about his latest relationship, this time with former ballerina Melanie Hamrick, who's 43 years his junior. Even though the guy's an octogenarian, he still hasn't lost his mojo.

The two first started dating in 2014, and had a son together in 2016 named Deveraux Octavian Basil. In a June 2023 interview with People, Hamrick addressed the rumors spreading about the ring she was seen sporting, saying, "I mean, I have to giggle because did Mick give me the ring? Yes. Is it for that finger? Yes. But are we like, horny teenagers where we're giving each other... In my mind, it's a promise ring. We'll be immature and call it a promise ring." While initially downplaying any possibility of them tying the knot, there have been rumblings that the so-called "promise ring" is indeed an engagement ring, though, as of this writing, no official announcement has been released from the Jagger-Hamrick camp.

Jimmy Page and Scarlett Sabet

Rock stars, man. As they get older, their romantic partners get younger, apparently. Jimmy Page's latest lover is a whole 46 years younger than him, which only adds to his long-standing reputation as a Lothario. His girlfriend, poet Scarlett Sabet, of course had to endure quite a bit of scrutiny for not only being involved with the guitarist of one of the most famous rock bands of all time –- Led Zeppelin –- but being involved with one who is nearly old enough to be her grandfather. The couple tried to keep their romance a secret, but when news broke, they endured no shortage of criticism. Sabet told Tatler that "I guess some people will say I've made an unusual choice. At the time it felt very uncomfortable. I felt like my life was going to be over. I had such a sense of shame about the whole thing."

Despite the age gap, Page and Sabet have bonded over their shared creative passions, and treat their home — the 19th-century Tower House in the Holland Park district of Kensington and Chelsea, London — like an artist's haven. "Jimmy's children come and stay, which is lovely. My siblings come too. We had a big family lunch for my birthday at Farmacy last year and then all came back to Tower House for tea and cake. Other than that, we like it to be just us. I feel so safe here, it's such an inspiring house," Sabet revealed to Tatler.

Adam Duritz and Emmy Rossum

Adam Duritz has been rocking nonstop since the early 1990s, most notably with his band Counting Crows. As a high-profile rock star, it's no wonder he's been romantically linked to several high-profile actresses, such as Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox. However, perhaps his most standout relationship is that with actress Emmy Rossum, whom he started dating when he was 45 and she was 23. During the launch of the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., Rossum told People, "I get why chicks dig him. He's extremely kind, incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, creative, and respectful." However, at the time, she was reluctant to admit to the outlet whether the two were actually dating or not, saying, "Let's put it this way: I'd be flattered if someone hit on me tonight, but I really can't say if I'm available or not."

While the couple called it quits in 2009, it sounds like their introduction was a dream come true for the young actress at the time. Rossum revealed on the radio show "Valentine in the Morning" (via People), "I was on tour with the band this summer. They invited me actually on Twitter. That's how we met — on a dare. They dared me to come sing with them a song that I'd never sung before ... So I ended up on tour with the band, and it was very, very fun."

Jennifer Lopez and Beau Casper Smart

In the annals of musical artists dating someone substantially younger than them, it's usually the male who's the older one. However, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez proved that she's just as capable as any male pop star of attracting a far more youthful mate. The mate in question is Beau "Casper" Smart, who was previously her backup dancer and is 18 years her junior. Not long after rumors began to spread about their relationship, Lopez confirmed that they were dating in 2013 to Harper's Bazaar, wherein she stated how helpful Smart was to her following her divorce from Marc Anthony: "He's fantastic; he's like my best friend. I can tell him everything, when I'm feeling down, when I'm feeling good. He gives moral support, endless love and support."

Since her relationship with Smart ended, Lopez developed a bit of a reputation for specifically dating younger guys only. However, during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," she was quick to point out that this wasn't necessarily the case, saying, "I dated Beau and he was younger and that was the first guy I ever dated who was younger than me and then I got labeled right away ... If they're somebody older, they're older. If they're younger, they're younger. It doesn't matter. It's whether or not I'm attracted to them or not, attracted to their spirit, their soul, whatever — their energy."

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon made waves when they first got together, not just because of their popularity, but because of their 11-year age gap. The couple sparked rumors of their relationship when Cannon was seen in the music video for her 2008 song "Bye Bye" before publicly announcing their marriage, followed by having twins several years later. Unfortunately, their marriage only lasted for six years, and it seems that the difference in age factored into the breakup. According to HollywoodLife, a source told them that, "He wanted to party and she wanted to stay home with the kids. He's young, the age difference played a huge role in this. She's not easy to get along with ... A total diva. Never happy and always making demands, he never wanted to be home."

However, despite the acrimonious split in 2014, Carey and Cannon have since patched things up and remain friendly. Cannon has spoken highly of her, though he recognizes that Carey's defenders still have a bone to pick with him regarding how young he was compared to her, revealing in an interview with the Shade Room that "I always talk about that and then it goes viral and then all her fans get mad at me ... I was 12 years old with Mariah Carey pictures on my wall, and that becomes my wife. And the fact that she's the coolest person I ever met ... I get a lot of this delightful disposition from her."

Ronnie Wood and Sally Humphreys

As a member of the Rolling Stones since 1975, it's safe to assume that guitarist Ronnie Wood has lived a pretty wild life, making it all the more surprising that he'd eventually settle down, get married, and have some children. Of course, what's less surprising is his decision to end up with a woman who's younger than him by about three decades. That woman is Sally Humphreys, who first met Wood when she was working at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where he was hanging up some of his art. Wood's marriage to his then-wife Jo was nearing its end, so it wasn't long before the two started dating and eventually got married. When asked about the age difference, Humphreys told The Telegraph, "Um, well, I know it's there. And I wish it wasn't, but it is. I think I had to say 'I can't do this because of the age', or I just had to let it go and take it all on board. At no point, years ago, did I say to myself: 'I think I'll go out with someone twice my age,' but that is what has happened."

Of course, the couple have endured their fair share of ridicule, prompting Humphreys to defend their marriage in the Daily Mail: "Yes, he is older and I am younger, but I don't think about age when I think of Ronnie. He's always had this unbelievably positive, youthful energy about him, which I love."

Sunny Ozell and Patrick Stewart

Singer and songwriter Sunny Ozell may not be a household name, but her marriage to Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "X-Men" fame has certainly catapulted her life into the limelight. Considering the fact that she's 39 years younger than him, the age difference is of course going to be brought up in interviews. Ozell told the Daily Mail, "He is so youthful and I guess I'm kind of an old worry wart, so we bridge the gap. It hasn't come up much. He's in better shape than me, which infuriates me."

While Ozell has managed to take the age difference in stride, Stewart, on the other hand, has had a bit of a rougher time with it. In the same interview with the Daily Mail, he pointed out how his age is very much on his mind, saying, "Right now, what my age means is that I go to a load of memorial services. This has been a horrible start to the year. My generation — some of them younger than me – are going. I get this urge to say, 'Don't go!'" Making things worse was the fact that Ozell's father, at first, wasn't happy with the idea of his daughter being with such an older gentleman, but has since learned to not only accept it but joke about it, even going so far as to refer to Stewart, who his five years younger than he is, as his son.

Madonna and Andrew Darnell

Madonna has always been one to flout social mores, so is it any wonder that she once dated a man almost a third her age? That's right, the "Like a Virgin" singer was in a relationship with someone who was 23 years old while she was 64, and that someone was model Andrew Darnell. With a lifetime of stirring up controversy in public, it seems that Madonna isn't afraid to make her close acquaintances raise their eyebrows, as an insider told HollywoodLife that "although some of her friends think the fact that he is 23 is a bit strange, Madonna does not seem to care at all. She has never really let age affect her decision on who to date and who not to date and it is not like Madonna is going to settle down, nor does she want to."

Obviously, this relationship didn't last long, according to Page Six, who was informed by a source that "It was only a very casual thing so she's not broken-hearted. It's just that it has come at a bad time. She's having a bit of a crisis of confidence and this doesn't help. She had a lot of fun with Andrew but it was never love or anything like that." In fact, Madonna's fling with Darnell was even shorter than her relationship with 28-year-old backup dancer Ahlamalik Williams, which survived for around three years.

Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster

As a lifelong rock star, Rod Stewart has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in the romance category. Considering the countless loves he's had in his life, he seems like the last guy to finally settle down. But that's exactly what he did when he married Penny Lancaster, who's 26 years younger than him. During her appearance on "Loose Women," she pointed out the misconceptions people have about them and their age difference, stating, "People would often say to me, 'What about his age? Does it matter?' I'm like, 'He's a little schoolboy!' He's the naughtiest little, funniest guy to be with ... He also has this, kind of like, sort of steely side to him. He's got a lot of strength and he works out regularly, so I find him very sexy, appealing, you know, all that."

Of course, because the couple had two children while Stewart was quite long in the tooth, the situation forced Lancaster to consider the inevitability of her husband dying before her. On another episode of "Loose Women," she shared that "Rod's in his 70s, early 70s, and we have a huge family base at home and there's a lot of activities ... My life is based on the family ... The children will be grown up and gone, so I kind of feel like I need to prepare."