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11 '80s TV Stars Who Recorded Obscure Albums

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When these stars weren't acting, they were singing.

1. Scott Baio

To most of us, Baio’s finest credit will always be his performance as Bob Loblaw. But he was around long before that, achieving full '80s teen heart-throb status as Charles in Charles in Charge. Helping him along the way to later sex addiction were, no doubt, the two albums he released in the early '80s, one of which was 1983’s "The Boys Are Out Tonight."

2. Bruce Willis

Remember, before Bruce Willis was chasing terrorists barefoot through glass, and before it turned out he was dead the whole time, he was David Addison, the “fast-talking, fun-loving detective running the City of Angels Detective Agency” in the 1980s ABC dramedy Moonlighting. In the midst of the show's reasonably successful run, Willis put out 1987’s Bruce Willis ‎– The Return Of Bruno.

3. Tina Yothers

Tina Yothers was the blonde daughter in Family Ties who never got to say anything funny or important after she outgrew her cute years. But she used her voice in other ways, launching a singing career with this Tiffany-style bubble pop album, Over and Overin 1987. 

4. Lisa Whelchel

When the producers of Facts of Life wanted a story arc in which one of the girls lose their virginity, their first choice was Blair, the snooty rich girl, played by Lisa Whelchel. Whelchel wouldn’t do it, as it conflicted with her Christian values. What didn’t conflict was the 1984 Contemporary Christian Album All Because of You. It received more relative success than most '80s sitcom crossover albums, reaching number No. 17 on CCM charts, and was nominated for an Inspiration Music Grammy.

5. Kim Fields

The Facts of Life was a hotspot of budding talent (George Clooney came from there!) with adorable Tootie (Kim Fields) releasing two singles in 1984. One, a cover of Michael Jackson’s "Dear Michael," and the other the disco-delic dance track "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not."

6. Vicki Lawrence

You may remember Vicki Lawrence as the perpetually pissed-off matriarch Thelma Harper, whom she portrayed in the inexplicably creepy family sitcom Mama’s Family. But she was a woman of many talents. Her murder ballad "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia," off the album of the same name, reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1973. In other news, “murder ballad” is a genre!

7. Alyssa Milano

Did you know Alyssa Milano had a huge recording contract, producing four studio albums plus a greatest hits compliation? If you did, then you’re probably much, much too interested in Japanese '80s pop culture. A Japanese record executive saw Milano’s performance in Commando (made when she was 12) and immediately offered her a record deal. Her albums were never released in America, but you can listen to a sample of her work above. 

8. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen

This happened. But there is no need to dwell on it. 

9. John Schneider

The Dukes of Hazzard used to stand for something, before it was disgraced with the 2005 film. The General Lee used to jump hay trucks for justice. John Schneider (Bo Duke…the hot one) understood the power of Hazzard County. He used his fame to launch a country music career, producing 10 albums in the 1980s alone. None of which can ever be as awesome as the Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song.

10. Mr. T

Mr. T is against children using drugs, talking to strangers, and shunning homework. He made a rap album in 1984 to tell them this. Ice-T is listed on the album as “rap director” for tracks 2, 3, 6, and 7.

11. Phylicia (Allen) Rashad

Before she was Claire Huxtable, the best mom/hottest wife/smartest lawyer in the world, she sang disco, and had the fro to prove it! Her album, Josephine Superstar, was a tribute to Josephine Baker.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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