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Home / Hollywood / From Billy Bob Thornton to Scarlett Johansson: Hollywood’s tryst with music

From Billy Bob Thornton to Scarlett Johansson: Hollywood’s tryst with music

As Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, and Kevin Bacon announce or release their new albums, we look at other musically inclined Hollywood stars who have released a full-length studio album.

hollywood Updated: Jun 07, 2018 18:29 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
A slew of Hollywood celebrities have been active in the music industry and released full-length studio albums.
A slew of Hollywood celebrities have been active in the music industry and released full-length studio albums.

One is used to seeing international musicians appearing in Hollywood films. From Elvis Presley to Beyonce, some of the most popular musicians have acted in Hollywood films. In recent times, rappers Ice Cube and Common have even managed to make a name for themselves as actors. But, did you know that there’s a slew of Hollywood stars who have released studio albums? Last week, Kevin Bacon, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeff Goldblum announced or released their latest albums. But they’re not the only actors to boast of a musical gift. From Hugh Laurie to Ryan Gosling, we take a look at popular Hollywood names who have had a fairly successful alternate career in music.

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Billy Bob Thornton

Actor Billy Bob Thornton has performed with a rock/blues band for more than a decade now.
Actor Billy Bob Thornton has performed with a rock/blues band for more than a decade now.

The American actor is big fan of country and rock music. Since 2001, Billy Bob Thornton, 62, has cut four studio albums — Private Radio (2001), The Edge of the World (2003), Hobo (2005), and Beautiful Door (2007). Private Radio was famous for the song Angelina — many wondered if it was about his then wife, actor Angelina Jolie. Thornton also sang for a Texas-based blues/rock band, Tres Hombres. Since 2007, he has fronted and played the drums for another blues/rock band The Boxmasters. Of the six studio albums by this band, the last one was Boys and Girls... And the World (2016).

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Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie has been taking piano lessons since he was five years old.
Hugh Laurie has been taking piano lessons since he was five years old.

The exceptionally gifted British actor is man of many talents, and music is one of them. The 58-year-old has been taking piano lessons since he was a child, and thus developed an affinity with musical instruments. He also plays drums, harmonica, and saxophone. On his TV show, House, in which he plays a doctor, Hugh Laurie’s character owns an electric organ, and has often plays it on the show. His character also plays a variety of electric guitars. A self-confessed fan of blues and jazz, Laurie cut his debut album, Let Them Talk, in 2011. It featured other popular artists, including Tom Jones, Irma Thomas and Dr John. He cut another album in 2013, named Didn’t It Rain.

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Robert Downey Jr

Robery Downey Jr released his debut album, The Futurist, in 2004.
Robery Downey Jr released his debut album, The Futurist, in 2004.

The Iron Man star is a musical superhero as well. Apart from singing for films and TV shows, Robert Downey Jr, 53, released a 10-track jazz/folk album, The Futurist, in 2004. It opened to mixed reviews, but has since then become one of the most popular albums across streaming platforms. Sadly, The Futurist is his only album so far, as he has said that he’d rather spend time with his family than in a recording studio. However, Downey Jr’s affinity with music hasn’t dwindled; he has been a part of many rock concerts. In 2011, for his 60th birthday, English singer-songwriter Sting performed in New York, and invited top American singers like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to share the stage. But it was Downey Jr, whose duet with Sting on the ’80s song, Driven To Tears, that went viral.

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Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling can play the piano, guitar, and bass guitar.
Ryan Gosling can play the piano, guitar, and bass guitar.

His musical talent came into the limelight globally with the 2017 film La La Land, but it was 10 years earlier that the actor also made his mark as a musician. Now 37, he had in 2007 released a single, Put Me in The Car, on the Internet, available for free download. The song didn’t get the attention that it probably should have, but that didn’t deter Gosling from forming a rock and roll band, with his friend Zach Shields. Their two-member act, Dead Man’s Bones, has so far released only one album, a 12-track disc also named Dead Man’s Bones, featuring a children’s choir. They learned to play all the instruments themselves. For the band, Ryan goes by the alias Baby Goose. He’s the vocalist, pianist and guitarist for the band.

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Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves has continued playing music even after his hit band, Dogstar, broke up in 2002.
Keanu Reeves has continued playing music even after his hit band, Dogstar, broke up in 2002. ( Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP )

He kicks a** not only in the movies, but also through his music. The 53-year-old actor played the bass guitar for more than a decade for a pop rock band, Dogstar, which Reeves founded with his friend, actor Robert Mailhouse in 1991. The band released two albums — Our Little Visionary (1996) and Happy Ending (2000) — and one EP named Quattro Formaggi. After their split in 2002, because the band members were busy with other projects, Reeves retained his passion for music, and even formed another band, Becky, with Mailhouse. But that never became as successful as Dogstar.

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Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy’s biggest hit single till date is Party All The Time, from his debut album, How Could It Be.
Eddie Murphy’s biggest hit single till date is Party All The Time, from his debut album, How Could It Be.

He never hid the fact that he was homophobic, and released two singles — Boogie in Your Butt and Enough is Enough. But it was in 1985 that the actor-comedian showed serious musical chops with his debut album, How Could It Be, which had Murphy’s most popular single till date — Party All The Time. His second and third albums were So Happy (1989) and Love Alright (1993). Besides these, the actor mostly sang for films. He performed Neil Diamond’s I Am A Believer in the first Shrek film; then Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca with Antonio Banderas in Shrek 2. In 2013, Murphy‘s reggae track, Red Light, featured rap star Snoop Dogg. In the same year, Murphy also revealed that he was working on his fourth studio album, tentatively titled 9.

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Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard released his debut album, Drive Through It, in 2008.
Terrence Howard released his debut album, Drive Through It, in 2008.

He plays a powerful hip hop musician and a record label owner on the show Empire. But in real life, Terrence Howard loves jazz. In 2008, he released his debut album, Drive Through It, an 11-track jazz album. The album, as multiple reports indicate, was recorded in a remarkable 11 days, and Terrence even dubbed the artists on the album as a band – The Band of Kings. But since then, the 49-year-old actor — even though he has admitted that music is his “first love” — has not released any fresh music.

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Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson released her first album in 2009.
Scarlett Johansson released her first album in 2009.

The first time fans got to know about Scarlett Johansson’s musical talent was in 2006, when she sang Summer Time, for an album, Songs From Stars. In 2008, people saw her as a serious musician, when she cut an 11-track album, Anywhere I Lay My Head. This album had only one original song; the rest were Johansson’s covers of songs by Tom Waits, whom she has admired since she was 11. In 2009, she cut her second album, the alt rock project Break Up. For the album, Johansson collaborated with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, and the two have recently combined again for an EP, titled Apart. Apart from the solo path, Johansson formed an all-girl band, Singles, and they even released their first single, Candy. However, a few months later, a Los Angeles rock act that had the same name as Johansson’s girl band, got a cease and desist order, essentially asking her to stop using the name.

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Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum released his debut album this year.
Jeff Goldblum released his debut album this year.

Although he has released his debut album only this year, Jeff Goldblum’s jazz prowess has been praised by many for a long time. He has played the piano for the Los Angeles-based jazz outfit, Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, since the ’90s. The actor learnt classical piano when he was five years old, and then shifted to jazz, which he has been playing since the age of 15. Now 65, he has a weekly show with his band. In an interview, Goldblum has said that if he wasn’t an actor, he would’ve pursued a career in music.

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Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon and his elder brother, Michael Bacon, have been playing as a band for the past 23 years.
Kevin Bacon and his elder brother, Michael Bacon, have been playing as a band for the past 23 years.

The 59-year-old actor has had a steady career in music alongside his very successful acting career. Kevin and his elder brother Michael Bacon, 68, formed a rock group, named The Bacon Brothers, in 1995. The rock-oriented outfit has released as many as nine studio albums and so far. Their latest disc, also called The Bacon Brothers, which is a 10-track album, was out last week. The brothers had played together for ages, but things weren’t organised until 1995, when the duo gave a serious thought to music.

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