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.

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David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
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Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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9 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak
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Maurice Sendak's books were shaped by his own childhood: one marked by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the concentration camp deaths of most of his extended family, and parents consumed by depression and anger. When Sendak started illustrating and writing for children, he vowed that he wouldn't write stories of sunshine and rainbows, because that's not real life. In honor of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are a few other things about Maurice Sendak's real life you may not have known.

1. HE DESIGNED F.A.O. SCHWARZ'S WINDOW DISPLAYS.

Sendak and his brother visited Manhattan’s F.A.O. Schwarz in 1948 to try to get the company to purchase their handmade, fairytale-inspired wooden toys. Though the toy store declined to purchase the brothers’ work for reproduction, they were impressed with Sendak’s artistic eye and asked him if he’d be interested in a job dressing windows. He worked at F.A.O. Schwarz for three years while taking classes at the New York Art Students League.

2. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

The book was intended, of course, to feature fillies, foals and mares. Editor Ursula Nordstrom adored the title, finding it poetic and beautiful, but there was one problem: Sendak couldn’t draw horses. When he told his editor that the whole horse thing wasn’t going to work out, he recalls her “acid tone[d]” response: “Maurice, what can you draw?”

“Things,” he said, and "things" he drew.

Side note: Ursula Nordstrom was also the editor of a few classics like The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Charlotte’s Web among others. Not a bad resume.

3. THE “THINGS” SENDAK ENDED UP CREATING WERE INSPIRED BY HIS IMMIGRANT RELATIVES AND THE WAY HE VIEWED THEM AS A CHILD.

“They were unkempt; their teeth were horrifying. Hair unraveling out of their noses.” Though the monsters were modeled after his family, they weren’t named after them; in fact, the things had no names in the book. They finally received monikers when Wild Things was made into an opera. “We had to have names to tell [the actors] when they were screwing up. They had Jewish names: Moishe, Schmuel. But the names were dropped after the opera. They never had names until they became movie stars.”

4. MOST OF HIS EXTENDED FAMILY DIED IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

It wasn't until he was older that Sendak realized how lucky those immigrant relatives were to be alive—and how lucky he was. Most of his extended family died in concentration camps, which his father discovered the day of Sendak's bar mitzvah. He attended the happy event anyway. When unknowing guests burst into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" when Mr. Sendak walked through the door, Maurice knew something horrible had happened by his father's expression. "My father's face was vivid, livid, and I knew I had done something very bad, that I had made him suffer more than he had to. This 13-year-old ersatz man."

5. EVEN IF WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE HADN'T BEEN SUCH A HIT, YOU PROBABLY WOULD HAVE KNOWN SENDAK’S WORK ANYWAY.

Prior to the success of his own books, Sendak illustrated the popular Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik.

6. ONE OF HIS BOOKS IS FREQUENTLY BANNED.

Though many parents and libraries initially protested that Where the Wild Things Are was too scary for children, it was his later book, In the Night Kitchen, that landed on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged and banned books list. It features a little boy named Mickey, who is nude throughout most of the story, likely because he’s dreaming. “Have you never had a dream, yourself, where you were totally naked?” he said, when Stephen Colbert asked him about the nudity. (Colbert: “No.” Sendak: “I think you’re a man of little imagination.”) Because of Mickey’s full frontal and some of his nude antics in the book (he jumps into a milk bottle, for instance, and later slides down it), critics have deemed it inappropriate for children. It was #24 on the ALA’s frequently banned books from 2000-2009.

7. HE WAS DEEPLY AFFECTED BY THE LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPING.

Sendak believed that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping very much affected his childhood, his work and his views on life in general. Though he was only 3.5 years old when the tragedy occurred in 1932, he says he vividly remembers the whole thing, including hearing Mrs. Lindbergh’s tearful voice pleading with the kidnappers via radio to rub camphor on her infant’s chest because she didn’t want his cold to get worse. “If that baby died, I had no chance. I was only a poor kid, okay? [When the Lindbergh baby was found dead,] I think something really fundamental died in me.”

8. SENDAK HATED EBOOKS.

Waiting for a sweet Where the Wild Things Are app for the iPad so your kids can explore the book in a new way? Don’t hold your breath. To say that Sendak disliked eBooks is an understatement: "F*** them is what I say; I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future ... they may well be. I will be dead, I won’t give a s***!”

9. HE NEVER CAME OUT TO HIS PARENTS.

Sendak never told his parents that he was gay. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in 2008. “They never, never, never knew.” His partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, passed away in 2007.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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