The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the alt–rock group that has maintained relevance for nearly 40 years. The RHCP have earned many accolades over the course of their career, including 82 music award nominations and 25 wins, six of which being Grammys. The group currently holds the record for most number one hits on the modern rock chart, with 13 number one singles. In 2012, their place in rock history was cemented when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1983, high school friends Anthony Kiedis and Micheal “Flea” Balzary formed the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Kiedis as lead singer and Flea on bass. They were joined by Hillel Slovak on guitar and Jack Irons on drums, who both quit rock band What is This? to pursue RHCP. Over the course of their lengthy career, the RHCP have had three drummers and seven guitarists, but Kiedis and Flea have remained in the band throughout.
The group put out their first album in 1984, but it wasn’t until their 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik that they saw commercial success. During the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Chili Peppers fan–turned–guitarist John Frusciante joined the group and brought with him a more melodic sound. This album housed their first hit “Give it Away” and their highest charting song to date, “Under the Bridge.” Kiedis wrote “Under the Bridge” about his personal struggle with heroin addiction after losing founding member Slovak to a heroin overdose in 1988. This deep–reaching song emerged from a poem Kiedis had written in a notebook and had no intention of sharing until producer Rick Rubin persuaded him to do so, marking the onset of meaningful songs from a previously nonserious band.
The Blood Sugar Sex Magik world tour was RHCP’s inauguration as rock heavyweights. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and The Smashing Pumpkins, three of the most memorable groups of the '90s rock era, all opened for the band. The San Francisco show that saw the Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam all together was played at a sold–out stadium. The three groups competed for the audience’s favor with physical stunts, and in the end, despite not being the main act, it was Nirvana that stole the night performing songs from Nevermind which had debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 100 that week.
In 1999, the RHCP recorded Californication, their most commercially successful and culturally impactful album. This album featured tracks such as “Scar Tissue,” another reflective song on battles with addiction, and “Californication,” which offered a timely cultural critique of the entertainment landscape and paid tribute to the passing of Kurt Cobain. 1999 was also the year the Chili Peppers were attributed with inciting a riot a Woodstock, though the group claims their decision to perform Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” amid the bonfires was simply an oversight.
Since Californication, the RHCP have continued to release critical and commercial hits including “By the Way” and “Can’t Stop” on their 2002 album By the Way which featured contemplative tracks and took the band in a more subtle direction. “Dani California” and “Snow (Hey Oh)” were the standout tracks on RHCP’s 2006 album Stadium Arcadium which brought back the group’s funk sound.
The RHCP’s latest release was their 2022 album Unlimited Love. This album received mixed reviews, being called everything from “competent and comforting” by Pitchfork to “bloated and self–indulgent” by The Guardian. This 17–track album shows the group's wide–ranging sound, but is by no means inventive.
This year, the RHCP reunion tour took them across major cities in Europe and the United States and will end this February in Australia. The tour has been largely well-received as the RHCP aims to please by playing fan favorites from their long discography. Decades later, the group is still invigorating fans with high–energy performances and onstage antics.
The RHCP have undeniably had a sizable impact on the music world. Rock groups Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, and Linkin Park all consider the Red Hot Chili Peppers among their influences. What’s more surprising is the diversity of other acts that give credit to the group including R&B artist SZA, German electronic duo Milky Chance, and indie darling Lana Del Rey. Rapper Kanye West cites inspiration from the RHCP, awarding them the title of his favorite band.
Members of the RHCP have also made notable contributions to public conversations surrounding drug addiction. In addition to exploring the subject through songs like “Under the Bridge” and “Scar Tissue,” Kiedis details his struggle with sobriety in his 2004 memoir Scar Tissue, while bassist Flea offered his commentary on the opioid crisis in a Time article.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not finished yet. On October 14, they will release their second studio album of the year, Return of the Dream Canteen. Though their legacy is already cemented, the RHCP plans to keep releasing music, claiming uniting people through music to be their life’s mission. So far, they’ve succeeded. The Red Hot Chili Peppers lay claim to millions of fans whose lives they’ve impacted and even non–fans of the group doubtlessly love songs from artists who pay homage to these rock icons.