Michael Peter Balzary was born on the sixteenth of October 1962, in Melbourne, Australia. When he was four, his parents divorced and Michael, his sister Karen and his mother Patricia headed for New York; they didn’t stay long and soon ended up in L.A. (in 1972), where his step-father, a jazz musician named Walter Urban Jr., intended to start a career. Flea would often sit in on weekly jam sessions with his stepfather and the constant flow of musicians who trucked through. High school was not always an easy road for young Michael. He was a misfit because of his unusual musical taste. While most of the kids were into disco and dance music, Flea preferred jazz artists like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Flea’s first musical instrument was the drums, but soon he also began playing the trumpet. After school he would race home to listen to his Gillespie records and play along with his idol. He counts as his greatest childhood memory the time his mother got him back-stage to meet Gillespie after one of his concerts. He also played with the Los Angeles Junior Philarmonic Orchestra. Influenced by some of his friends from school who shared the same passion for music – among them, Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak, who would later play in the Red Hot Chili Peppers with him – his musical interests then diversified: he discovered funk music, and Jimi Hendrix became his new idol. At the end of 1977, he met Anthony Kiedis. For some reason, Michael was holding a young schoolmate named Tony Sherr in a headlock, when Kiedis, who was Tony’s best friend at the time, came to rescue him; they almost had a fight. After this meeting, they soon became aware they were made to be friends, and have been inseparable since. The two became known for their mischievous antics, which often got them into trouble. This is also when he gained the nickname Flea, while he was joking with some friends about calling each other a cartoon name. Around 1979, due to Flea’s obvious musical talent, he was sought out as a recruit for a band formed by his school-mates, Anthym, with Jack Irons (drums), Hillel Slovak (guitar) and Alain Johannes (vocals and guitar) as members. Flea picked up the bass, which he had never played before, and became so good that within a few months he had forged his very own style, which later would make him one of the most famous and talented bass players in the world. After a shaky start the band got a few club gigs but no major breaks. Anthony Kiedis, who was always there to support them, became the presenter of their shows which he opened with a few jokes or improvised poems of his own. In 1982, Flea joined the L.A. punk band Fear. He also landed a small role in the Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia (1984). John Lydon of PIL asked Flea to join his band when he left Fear in 1984, but Flea instead decided to rejoin his friends. With Kiedis, Slovak and Irons, they started another band together, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which soon earned a good reputation in the Los Angeles underground music scene. Flea was married in 1985 to Loesha Zeviar, whose first name he got tattooed above his left nipple – close to his heart. They have since divorced, but still share daughter Clara, born on September 16, 1988. Clara sometimes goes on the road with her dad, and has done artwork for the Chili Peppers’ t-shirts and promotional material. In 2001, along with friends Pete Weiss and Keith Barry, Flea founded the Silverlake Conservatory Of Music, an organization whose aim is to provide affordable music lessons to everyone and to encourage children’s musical education.
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