This phenomenon continues today stronger than ever, but in the '80s perhaps more than ever stars of the screen were just dying for music careers, and vice-versa. Some of their careers did almost expire during the process, but that didn't stop the fireworks in a car-wreck rubberneck sort of way. Step back in time for a look at the best and worst of these curiosities.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA
The star of the 1987 sleeper film Dirty Dancing
must have been owed some serious favors that allowed him to record "She's Like the Wind."
The lyrics from this song boast one of the worst lines in music history: "She's like the wind through my trees." Nonsensical has never had it this good. If there were merely one tree, at least it could be interpreted as an offbeat phallic reference. It still wouldn't make any damn sense, but at least there'd be something to hang your hat on... literally.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Universal
Fresh off his hit TV show Moonlighting
and right before he became a full-fledged film star with 1988's Die Hard
, I suppose Bruce Willis felt like the obvious thing to do was release a half-baked collection of Motown
-inspired R&B for a phantom audience. Well, I don't know if that much forethought went into it, but that's certainly all Willis accomplished with this exercise in celebrity self-gratification. Neither the song choices nor performances inspire emotion of any kind, never managing anything more than disinterested disgust.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA
A case could be made that this Australian heartthrob doesn't quite qualify as a crossover artist since his efforts in film, TV and music were always more simultaneous than influenced by one another. Nonetheless, maybe the organic nature of Springfield's dual career helped him generate greater quality in his work. After all, Springfield was believable if a bit bland as Apollo's doomed brother Zack in TV's original Battlestar Galactica
. We already should know he was an underrated, genuine musician.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Sire
This '80s pop queen has always had significantly less luck when it comes to her onscreen appearances, and these stumbles began in earnest with 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan
. Somehow all the charisma at her command could not turn Madonna into a convincing actor, but you certainly can't accuse her of being a quitter. Who's That Girl?
followed in 1987, but the singer reached her '80s film nadir with her embarrassing turn as Breathless Mahoney in the ill-fated Dick Tracy
Album Cover Image Courtesy of SBME Import
Only in the '80s could Mr. Five o'Clock Shadow have worn what he wore on Miami Vice
or emote like a madman in the video for his biggest pop offering "Heartbeat."
But the decade was nothing if not permissive, and that leaves music audiences with considerable carnage following Johnson's foray into vocal excess. The "Heartbeat" music video
was a real bodice-ripper, cloaked in black and white and featuring more fist-clenching, over-the-top exultation than I ever thought possible.
6. Eddie Murphy
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Legacy/Columbia
Well, it was impossible to avoid this one, though I certainly considered it. Murphy's first venture into music had been on an otherwise all-comedy album, and its title, "Boogie in Your Butt," should have been enough warning to music executives not to let him record any more music. But as Bobbi Flekman says, "Money talks and bull solid waste walks," or something like that. So record Murphy did, and even Rick James' help on "Party All the Time" couldn't stop the disaster.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of A&M
Over the course of his long and successful career, very few things Gordon Sumner touched turned out badly, and that goes for his thespian endeavors as well. His turns in Brimstone and Treacle
, and The Bride
were always interesting, quirky and dark, and somehow they seemed to populate a separate universe from his high-profile musical work with the Police
. The evidence of Sting's diverse talent is obvious in that both his film and music careers continue to flourish today.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin
Similar to Sting, David Bowie has always shown an ability to adapt to very different circumstances in the entertainment business. He reinvented himself several times musically but generally remained an oddity of some kind or another. That quality translated well to his film roles, both of the dark variety and the more childlike make-believe fare like Labyrinth. Bowie remains a multi-purpose media star today, obviously.
DVD Cover Image Courtesy of Warner Home Video
The former soap star and major ensemble player on TV's inexplicably beloved Full House never hid the fact within his roles that he really wanted to be a musician. Bad-boy rocker Uncle Jesse therefore took the first opportunity he got to play music more seriously, though that blew up in his face a bit with his involvement with the revamped, "Kokomo"-era Beach Boys. Though he never cultivated an actual musical career, we're still trying to wipe that particular tune from our collective memory.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Jack Wagner
We all know celebrity is an unbelievably powerful thing, and when could that fact be more clear than in an examination of the career of former soap star Jack Wagner? He parlayed General Hospital fame into a hit song in 1984, with the emotive but tepid ballad "All I Need." Since then Wagner has furthered the marriage of these two mass media forms for his own benefit, and he is even set to release a new CD in connection with another soap opera: The Bold and the Beautiful.