The Forgotten Music Careers of 15 Famous Actors
Of the many dual titles that exist in Hollywood, actor-musicians may be some of the most frequently encountered hyphenates. But for every individual who has shown genuine talent in both disciplines (see: Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tom Waits, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Liza Minnelli, and Jamie Foxx), there is, well, a Steven Seagal. Here are 15 well-known actors with all-but-forgotten musical careers.
1. EDDIE MURPHY
The 1980s were a very good decade for Eddie Murphy. In addition to being one of Saturday Night Live’s biggest stars, he was drawing huge crowds as a stand-up comedian, turning those comedy shows into iconic pieces of pop culture history with Delirious and Raw, and headlining some of Hollywood biggest blockbusters. In the midst of all this, he somehow found the time to try and launch a singing career and actually managed to produce two hits, 1985’s "Party All the Time" and 1989’s "Put Your Mouth on Me." Rick James, who produced the former tune, was clearly a fan. Though it’s actually kind of catchy, it’s regularly been cited as one of the worst songs of all time.
2. ALYSSA MILANO
Having conquered the small screen as the star of Who’s the Boss?, Alyssa Milano set her sights on the music world and, at least internationally, actually had some success. Her 1989 album, Look In My Heart, turned out to be pretty big in Japan. Stateside, she was best known for singing the theme song to her workout video, Teen Steam. Though she told Paste Magazine that she’s never pulled out the old cassette tapes, she said that she has "watched a couple of the music videos, because my brother is in them with me. It was definitely '80s pop, so it was just singing and dancing, all that stuff I love to do, but there’s nothing too outrageous. We were able to control all of that. It was like that bubble gum pop era… that Tiffany, Debbie Gibson era. Clean, good fun. I was 14 or 15, so I don’t really remember a lot of it."
3. LEONARD NIMOY
In the late 1960s, one science fiction icon paid tribute to other sci-fi greats with a pair of albums that celebrated the genre with a lineup of songs with titles like "Alien," "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Earth," "Lost in the Stars," and what is perhaps his most famous recording: "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" (see above), which appeared on his second album, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy.
4. WILLIAM SHATNER
Though more of a spoken word artist than a full-on musician, Leonard Nimoy’s Star Trek co-star also made a bit of a splash on the music scene, beginning with his 1968 spoken word album The Transformed Man, where he gave well-known songs like "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" a Shatner-esque twist. He has recorded a handful of albums since, including 2013’s Ponder the Mystery.
5. STEVEN SEAGAL
In addition to his run as one of Hollywood’s best known action stars during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Steven Seagal has attempted a number of other careers: aromatherapy specialist, energy drink maker, law enforcer, and, yes, musician. Years after giving his music a part in a few of his own films, including Fire Down Below, Seagal released his first album, Songs from the Crystal Cave, which Sputnik Music described as "the Plan 9 From Outer Space of records."
6. BRUCE WILLIS
Steven Seagal is far from the only action star to try his hand at music-making. In 1987, at the height of Moonlighting’s success, Bruce Willis released The Return of Bruno, an album that mixed pop music with blues and managed to produce a hit single, "Respect Yourself," featuring The Pointer Sisters. The accompanying video (above) was appropriately cinematic. In 1989, he released a follow-up album—If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.
7. JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT
Thanks to her early acting career on the variety show Kids Incorporated, Jennifer Love Hewitt has been singing for as long as she has been acting—and even sang backup on fellow Kids Incorporated co-star Martika’s hit 1989 song, "Toy Soldiers." Though she released her first album, Love Songs, in 1992—when she was just 12 years old—it wasn’t until after she gained fame as an actress that her music career found some steam. "How Do I Deal," a single she recorded for the soundtrack to I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in 1999, became her first song to chart. In 2009, it was reported that Hewitt was working on material for a country album; sadly, that has yet to surface.
8. JOEY LAWRENCE
Jennifer Love Hewitt wasn’t the only '90s teen heartthrob to take a stab at a recording career. In 1993, at the height of Blossom mania, Joey Lawrence released his self-titled debut album, which included "Nothin' My Love Can’t Fix," which became a bona fide hit around the world. In 2014, he told Queen Latifah that he was thinking about making a return to the music scene. Whoa!
9. JOE PESCI
Before he was an actor, Joe Pesci was a barber. In between, he attempted to mount a musical career—and didn’t do too badly at it. In his earliest days, he played guitar with several bands, including Joey Dee and the Starlighters (the band went through a few rotations, but Jimi Hendrix ended up playing the same gig as Pesci at a later point). In 1968, Pesci released a solo album as "Little Joe" called Little Joe Sure Can Sing!, on which he covered a handful of major hits—including several Beatles songs. In 1998, six years after My Cousin Vinny, he released an album in character called Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You.
10. DON JOHNSON
While his Miami Vice co-star Philip Michael Thomas was busy trying to become an EGOT, Don Johnson was making a foray into the music business as well. During the 1980s, he released two solo albums, and scored a major hit with "Heartbeat," which made it all the way to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His cover of Aaron Neville’s "Tell It Like It Is" (above) also managed to log some radio play.
11. MR. T
Mr. T made no secret about pitying the fools who didn’t take advantage of getting an education, and he released a series of videos on this very topic—plus a 1984 rap album titled Mr. T’s Commandments, which basically implored kids to stay in school and to just say no to drugs.
12. MILLA JOVOVICH
Today, Milla Jovovich is best known as the ass-kicking hero of the Resident Evil movie franchise. But her first step into the spotlight came as a model, a career she began at the age of 9. She broke into acting as the star of a made-for-TV movie called The Night Train to Kathmandu, which premiered in 1988—the same year she began recording her first album. In a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone Australia, she described her style as "a mix between Kate Bush, Sinéad O'Connor, This Mortal Coil, and the Cocteau Twins." Her first studio album, 1994’s The Divine Comedy, was well received by critics (Rolling Stone called it a "remarkable recording debut"). While she has continued to record since (her last single was released in 2012), acting has remained her busiest career.
13. BURT REYNOLDS
One year after infamously posing nude for Cosmopolitan, Burt Reynolds took another chance and released an album, Ask Me What I Am, and also put his pipes to use alongside Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Music fans didn’t seem all that interested.
14. COREY FELDMAN
If you’ve noticed '80s star Corey Feldman’s name trending lately, it’s likely due to a couple of odd live musical performances he’s put on for the Today Show. And while the fallen star definitely began his career in front of the camera—he began landing some television roles back in the late 1970s—he did try to make a go of a musical career dating all the way back to 1992’s Love Left. And he’s still trying. Some people have called his latest album, Angelic 2 The Core, the year’s worst album. His prior attempts—both professionally, and one incredibly embarrassing performance he concocted for his ex-wife on an episode of his reality show The Two Coreys (above)—haven’t fared much better.
15. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
Yes, Shaquille O’Neal is best known as a superstar athlete. But don’t try telling fans of Kazaam—or users of Icy Hot, Gold Bond, or the dozens of other products Shaq has endorsed over the years—that the man is not a consummate actor as well. In the early 1990s, Shaq added "rapper" to his repertoire and gave music fans the platinum album known as Shaq Diesel.