Why is it that whenever an actor tries his or her hand at music they usually go down in a ball of flames? Some work out, like Jeff Bridges, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of grizzled country music veteran Otis Blake, which led to the release of two decent albums. But for every Jeff Bridges there are hundreds of Corey Feldmans and Gwyneth Paltrows waiting in the wings.
Here are five random musical actors.
We’ve all heard William Shatner’s bizarre, spoken word version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man," but he truly surprised everyone with his 2004 album Has Been. Produced and arranged by Ben Folds, it was critically acclaimed. Seriously. An album by William “halting cadence” Shatner was critically acclaimed. The album featured a popular cover of Pulp’s “Common People” and the original song “What Have You Done," which deals with his wife’s tragic death in 1999. While he's not the only Star Trek alum to try his hand at a musical career (if you’re brave, google “Leonard Nimoy's Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”), but he’s definitely had the strangest.
This guy went from being a bodyguard who was so renowned he was sought out for assassinations to a punch line relegated to commercials and reality shows. But for a brief moment in 1984, Mr. T was more than a walking cartoon character; he was a walking cartoon character who released two albums, Mr. T’s Commandments and Mr. T’s Be Somebody…or Be Somebody’s Fool. Both of which were meant to inspire kids to stay in school and not do drugs. Eh, still better than anything Nickelback has ever released.
Steven Seagal is a man of many terrible talents. He’s made terrible movies, terrible energy drinks, a terrible reality show about his terrible law enforcement career…so why not throw in some terrible music? Mr. Seagal has two albums, 2005’s Songs From The Crystal Cave, featuring a duet with Stevie Wonder (which means either Mr. Wonder has a great sense of humor or truly, truly hates his fans) and 2006’s Mojo Priest. Seagal’s music is a mix of country, blues, and terrible.
In 1995, Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael formed the folk rock duo, The Bacon Brothers. They’ve released six studio albums, been featured on countless soundtracks, and even performed a charity concert on top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. They’re currently touring and have even released a greatest hits collection. So, while most actors mentioned in this article have burned out in a blaze of failure, Kevin Bacon makes it work.
In 2009, we saw the rap debut of Joaquin Phoenix. At the time most people were pretty sure his music career and retirement from acting were nothing more than an elaborate ruse. And they were right; it was all staged for the mockumentary I’m Still Here. But just think at what a glorious world it could have been, where a disheveled, hoboesque Joaquin is stumbling on stage night after night, sputtering lyrical poetry and fishing bread crumbs from his beard.
That’s just a small sample. The list of actors-turned-musician is seemingly never ending. There’s Eddie Murphy’s disastrous album, Lindsay Lohan’s train wreck of a record, Bruce Willis’ painfully mediocre bar band, Kim Kardashian’s sad, sad attempt at singing, and god help us, even Kevin Costner has taken a stab at it.
(Elford Alley has written plays, sketch comedy, and short stories. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter. Follow Elford on Twitter.)