Have you ever considered the possibility that the song you sing along to on the radio might be sung by one of your favorite actors? There is a chance that you have been in that very scenario. With the media tangled up in dramatic headlines, there are many stories that fall between the cracks, stories as simple as a career change could easily get left behind as a high profile divorce takes the spotlight.
Although many famous actors have found success, monetarily and through award recognition, from their film and television roles, many feel a need to expand on their careers. What are they lacking? In this case its the musical aspect to their career! They see their music idols have a blast on stage and want to be a part of the action.
Actors also use their love of music to better express their emotions. In 1988, Johnny Depp told Rolling Stone Magazine, “making music is immediate, and it’s all about you. If you’re playing guitar, the feeling comes through the way you bend the note, the intensity with which you hit the strings. With making films, although it’s real emotion, it’s false emotion. You’re lying.” Musically inclined actors use music as a way to better connect with themselves and with fans.
Read on for our choice of 10 famous celebrities that started out acting but decided to give music a shot–and found success in the process.
10. Robert Downey Jr. – Solo Album “The Futurist”
Robert Downey Jr. is known for a lot of things. In the beginning of his career, he starred in such 1980s hit movies as Weird Science and Johnny Be Good. After a rocky time in the 1990s dealing with drug addiction and multiple arrests, Robert has seen a surge of success in the last decade with monumental roles in the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes series. With all of that acting under his belt, you might be surprised to hear that this dapper man has a serious love of singing. Over the years, he’s provided vocals for a variety of movies and TV soundtracks, including Chaplin, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Ally McBeal. He even released a solo album in 2004 called “The Futurist.” It peaked at 121 on the Billboard 200.
9. Johnny Depp – Plays Guitar, Drums and Bass for Other Artists
Though his first movie role was as Glen in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Johnny Depp has consistently shown his range when it comes to acting roles. He can easily play a pirate, a sad man with scissor-hands or a demon barber. That versatility isn’t just relegated to movies and TV. Johnny Depp also has a real passion for music. He has played a variety of instruments as well as sung backing vocals for many musical acts. He’s played drums and guitar for Marylin Manson, sung backing vocals for Aerosmith and played guitar for Oasis, to name a few. He even played guitar with the Black Keys live at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards.
8. Dan Aykroyd – The Blues Brothers
Dan Aykroyd is often best known for his comedic movies. He made a splash with 1984’s Ghostbusters, which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Another big hit movie for Aykroyd was The Blues Brothers, a film based off a sketch from Saturday Night Live. Aykroyd and fellow comedian John Belushi sang their own songs in the movie. While the film was released in 1980, Aykroyd still tours with the band. He just couldn’t leave the love of blues music behind!
7. Kevin Bacon – The Bacon Brothers
You’ve probably heard of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Since Kevin Bacon has been in so many movies, from Footloose to Apollo 13, most actors in Hollywood can be connected to him within 6 degrees of separation. Well, since Bacon has also had a long career in music, the same can be said for those in the music industry. Kevin partnered with his brother, Michael, to form The Bacon Brothers in 1995, where he sings and plays guitar. Since then, this family band has released seven albums including “Getting There” and “White Knuckles.” They’ve even performed songs on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
6. Zooey Deschanel – She & Him
Zooey Deschanel is most known for her big eyes and quirky character. She’s played love interests in (500) Days of Summer, Yes Man and Elf. She even has her own TV show, New Girl. Although she has had tremendous success in her acting career, winning a Best Comedy Actress award for New Girl from the 2012 Critic’s Choice Television Awards, she’s also had a lot of success in her music career. Zooey sings vocals and plays the piano and ukelele for the band She & Him. The band has had four studio albums since it started in 2006. She & Him even won a Grammy in 2012 for Best Song Written for Visual Media for their song “So Long” from Winnie the Pooh.
5. Hugh Laurie – Band From TV and Solo Albums
Americans instantly think of the medical drama show House: MD when they think of Hugh Laurie. The English native is known even more in his home country for the sketch comedy show A Bit of Fry & Laurie. In addition to acting in various TV and movie genres, he also plays in many musical genres as well, from pop to rock to blues. Hugh is a member of the charity cover band Band From TV along with TV stars Greg Grunberg, James Denton, Adrian Pasdar and other TV stars. He’s also had a successful solo career. His first solo album, “Let Them Talk” reached 16 on the Billboard 200 while his recent album, “Didn’t It Rain” reached 21.
4. Billy Bob Thornton – The Boxmasters and Solo Albums
Billy Bob Thornton is known best for writing, directing and starring in the movie Sling Blade, being nominated for an Academy Award for his acting in the movie. He started his acting career in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that he finally decided to start following his dream of becoming a musician. Focusing mostly on rock music, Billy Bob writes songs, sings lead vocals and occasionally plays the drums. Although he’s been most recently singing for the rockabilly band The Boxmasters, he started his musical career with four solo albums from 2001 to 2007.
3. Jared Leto – 30 Seconds to Mars
One of the most successful actors-turned-musicians on this list is Jared Leto. He first got attention from fans and critics while acting on the cult hit TV show My So-Called Life in 1994. Since then, Jared has had acclaimed roles in Fight Club and Requiem for a Dream. He even recently won a 2014 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Dallas Buyers Club. Still, younger fans know him best as the lead vocalist and guitar player for the alternative rock band 30 Seconds to Mars. Since 1998, the band has released four studio albums and won over 80 awards. They even have a Guinness World Record for the Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band at 309 shows in two years.
2. Juliette Lewis – Juliette and the Licks and Solo Album
Few would be surprised to hear that Juliette Lewis, actress known for hardcore roles in Natural Born Killers and Whip It, would be a part of a rock band. Juliette got her start in the acting world in the late 1980s but finally achieved her dream of becoming a musician in 2003 when she started the band Juliette and the Licks, providing lead vocals. Juliette and the Licks created three studio albums from 2003 to 2006 before the band finally broke up in 2009. Juliette didn’t let that hinder her musical career, though. In 2009 she released a solo album titled “Terra Incognita.”
1. Jack Black – Tenacious D
Since Jack Black likes to inject melody into his traditional acting roles, including his musical numbers in High Fidelity and School of Rock, it’s no surprise that this actor has a love for music. Together with his friend Kyle Gass, Jack Black formed the comedy rock band Tenacious D in 1994, just a few years after he started his acting career. As an actor, Jack Black has won several awards including a Blockbuster Entertainment Award in 2001 as Favorite Supporting Actor for his role in High Fidelity. As a musician, Jack Black and Tenacious D won the 2013 Comeback of the Year Award from Golden Gods Awards.
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