By Ray McDonald
Hugh Laurie is one heck of an actor. Famed for his roles in the British TV series “Blackadder” and “Jeeves and Wooster,” he burst onto United States TV screens in 2004 as irascible M.D. Gregory House. His show, “House,” earned him multiple awards and the distinction of being among the highest-paid actors in television.
As it turns out, Hugh’s also a musician. He loves the blues, and two years ago his salute to New Orleans music, Let Them Talk, went platinum and multi-platinum worldwide while doing very well in the charts, both here and abroad. This week, Hugh Laurie released a second album of blues tunes, Didn’t It Rain. Here’s a clip of him in action on the current single, “Wild Honey.”
Laurie’s venture into music got me thinking about all the other actors and actresses who’ve recorded singles and albums…and believe me, the list is long. I’ve picked out three of my favorites, and then I’ll ask you for your suggestions.
Jeff Bridges has been a celebrity from birth – he and his brother Beau are the sons of noted actor Lloyd Bridges. In 2000, he released an album, “Be Here Soon.” Nine years later, he earned a Best Actor Oscar for his role as country musician “Bad” Blake in the film “Crazy Heart.” In 2011, Bridges signed a contract with Blue Note Records and released his second album, Jeff Bridges. Producing was his “Crazy Heart” collaborator, T-Bone Burnett. Here he is singing “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do.”
You may know Minnie Driver from her roles in movies like “Good Will Hunting” and “Grosse Point Blank,” but did you know she has a musical background? She worked as a jazz singer and guitarist in London, and briefly sang in a group called Puff, Rocks And Brown. She performed at the well-known South By Southwest Festival in 2000, and four years later released her debut album, Everything I’ve Got In My Pocket. Here’s Minnie Driver singing the title track.
In 2007, Minnie Driver released a second album, Seastories.
Finally, let’s talk about Scarlett Johansson.. While actors who attempt a recording career are sometimes viewed with suspicion, Johansson had no such issues: in 2007, she performed with the influential rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain at their reunion concert in California. Later that year, she journeyed to Louisiana to record her debut album, Anywhere I Lay My Head. Consisting primarily of Tom Waits cover songs, it featured guest vocals from none other than David Bowie – further proof of her multi-media star power. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the album fared pretty well in the marketplace and topped “Billboard” Magazine’s Heatseekers chart. Here’s a clip of the first single, “Falling Down.”
In 2009, Scarlett Johansson recorded Break Up, a collaboration with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn. In 2012, she sang on the Academy Award-nominated track “Before My Time,” from the documentary “Chasing Ice.”
These are just a few examples of actors who stepped into the recording studio. Now it’s up to you: What actors-turned-musicians do you like — and which do you think would be better off sticking to their acting…