Singers can’t act and actors can’t sing…with the exception of Elvis

My wife watches American Idol. I’ve watched it here and there in the past, mainly to laugh at how ridiculous it is, but refuse to watch this year. One of the main reasons is the fact that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has joined the panel. Nothing says “sell-out” like joining the cast of American Idol. It has made me lose the low percentage of any trace of respect I may have ever had for him, mainly from the early days of the band.

It reinforces my opinion that I formed long ago…singers can’t act and actors can’t sing (with the exception of Elvis). Don’t be misled for a second…what Tyler is doing is acting, or trying to act. It’s not real. And he’s doing a terrible job.

Need more proof of my SCAAACS (WTEOE) theory? Let’s first take a look at singers who tried to act (note: they always try to place a big star with them for “twice the star power!”).

Glen Campbell: Glen had a ton of hits throughout the late 1960’s, plus his own variety show on TV. So in 1969, John Wayne hand-picked him to star opposite him in the motion picture “True Grit”. Maybe the Duke thought he needed to attract a younger audience so he could get a bigger bang for his box-office percentage. Even though Campbell won a Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer”, the critics were less than kind…and fans weren’t very “gentle on his mind” either.  Big star: John Wayne.

Neil Diamond: Neil started as a songwriter and hitmaker in the 1960’s, and his output from that decade was pretty good. In the 70’s he started mellowing out, but still collected mega-hit after mega-hit. So naturally, Hollywood tried to make an actor out of him. The result was a 1980 remake of the 1920’s classic “The Jazz Singer”, which originally starred Al Jolson. Diamond was TERRIBLE. It really hurts to watch it. And who was his love interest? Lucy Arnaz…that’s right, Desi and Lucy’s daughter. They must have blown their budget on Diamond and his co-star Laurence Oliviet. Big star: hint-it’s not Lucy Arnaz.

Diana Ross: When the lead Supreme started sleeping with the boss (Berry Gordy), she gave him an ultimatum: “make me a star or I’ll start screwing someone at another label”. So Gordy gave her a solo career, and paid for the production of  “Lady Sings The Blues”, a vehicle for Ross to portray troubled torch singer Billie Holiday. As one critic put it, “The acting was good (if you choose to accept the idea of Billie Holiday being a weak minded flake).” They couldn’t even find star power for this dud. Big star: Billy Dee Williams? Richard Pryor? Isabelle Sanford? (yes, that’s Louise “Weezy” Jefferson to you and me).

NOW let’s take a look at actors who can’t sing:

Bruce Willis: On the strength of his smart-ass character on the TV show “Moonlighting”, some poor record company sap was given the order to “sign that kid…he may sell some records”. The result was “The Return of Bruno”. First off, who the fuck is Bruno? Second of all, he had the audacity to cover Atlantic and Stax R&B. It sucked worse than you can imagine. The length of his recording career isn’t what Demi Moore must have had in mind, if ya catch my drift.

Patrick Swayze: Anyone remember “Ghost”? “Dirty Dancing”? “Red Dawn”? (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Now…does anyone remember “She’s Like The Wind”? Huh? The only thought that comes to most peoples’ minds is “Wow, that tune was worse than Red Dawn”…and that’s saying something. Good thing he had the smarts not to try hitting a recording studio again.

Eddie Murphy: What is it with Saturday Night Live cast members? They start getting a little attention, and all of a sudden they’re in a recording studio. First those two dick-wads do the Blues Brothers thing (well, Belushi was ok), then Eddie Murphy is putting out an album called “Party in my Pants” or something like that. I had to play the song “Party All The Time” when I was in radio. I honestly felt sorry for Eddie…I thought he was pretty funny, but it was obvious that he was taking his singing career seriously. Ick.

 Remember, Elvis is the exception. So watch an Elvis flick this weekend…anything from “Love Me Tender” (ok, maybe skip that one…and “Kissin’ Cousins”) up to “Change of Habit”. Geez, it’s GOT to be better than anything Jon Bon Jovi is in.


About groovyrick

I live in a small town in Illinois with my wife and three kids. I am a part-time musician, part-time writer, and full-time dreamer.
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13 Responses to Singers can’t act and actors can’t sing…with the exception of Elvis

  1. Lívia says:

    I fully agree! =)

  2. belle says:

    Very valid point you have there!
    And for the record: can’t staaaaaaand Bruce Willis (not even his real name! Loser), and Patrick – didn’t even know that was his song! Bad song.
    Elvis, however. Most definitely the exception.
    Cool post 🙂

  3. greg sutter says:

    A few random thoughts…

    Bob Dylan’s flat performance in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid supports your argument.

    Diana Ross is just fine in Lady Sings the Blues. I’d put her acting in the movie against a whole bunch of the Elvis vehicles.

    David Bowie is a notable exception. He received rave reviews for his stage performance of The Elephant Man. He was also good in the Man Who Fell To Earth. And he did a good Andy Warhol in the movie Basquiat.

    I’m reluctant to mention Gweneth Paltrow because she seems like a somewhat humorless, condescending turd.

    Poor David Soul. He tried both. That counts for something, right?

  4. Great post–Steven Tyler needs to stop with the facial surgery, or does he just look plastic naturally?
    Some friends of mine put my name in at karaoke one time for “She’s like the wind”. I can sing Johnny Cash “okay”, but sound like a tortured cat with some other songs. But we were having fun so I went up and did it; luckily I was familiar with it from radio at least. Even though it’s about a woman, it may be the gayest-song-by-a-straight-guy ever.

    • groovyrick says:

      I can hear it advertised on late-night TV now…”Trailertrashdeluxe Sings Johnny Cash”. And if you order now, you ALSO get “Trailertrashdeluxe Sings Patrick Swayze”. Maybe even a tour! Sign me on for 10 percent and I’ll get this thing off the ground! 🙂

  5. Usually I agree 100% with you, Rick, but I have thought of a few exceptions, maybe you’ll disagree, but I thought I’d throw these out for conversation:

    Frank Sinatra – “The Man With The Golden Arm”

    Mac Davis – “North Dallas Forty”

    Dennis Wilson – “Two Lane Blacktop”

    James Taylor – “Two Lane Blacktop”

    The Monkees – Their series and “Head”—This is an interesting one because here we have two musicians acting (Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork) and two actors playing music and singing (Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz.) Granted both Davy and Mickey had backgrounds in music as well, they were more on the acting side of things pre-Monkees, I believe.

    • groovyrick says:

      I totally forgot Sinatra…I really liked him in Von Ryan’s Express too. And Mac Davis is AWESOME in North Dallas Forty…I can still picture him in the hot tub saying in his Texas drawl “Then she brings out one of them fake dicks? Now here comes the weird part…”
      And you KNOW I’m a major Monkees fan. I was at a record show last week and bought a DVD set with all 58 episodes PLUS Head.

  6. mike white says:

    sissy spacek sings pretty convincingly in coal miner’s daughter.john schneider actually is a very good country singer.jerry reed gives a solid performance in his film roles although they are all basically him playing himself.cher is a great actress although i always thought musically she was just acting like a singer rather than really singing.

  7. Themer says:

    Ah! I’m so glad to see some people making comments about people who are multi-talented. I have to say, I think there are a ton of people who are talented singers as well as actors. Many, many people who are on Broadway (ha…and I hate to say it, but Glee!), of course, fit this category, but so do a ton of others. Have you never seen a Queen Latifah movie? I’m not kidding…I actually love her. Here are a couple others I think are great:

    LL Cool J
    Ice Cube (didn’t you see Boys in the Hood??)
    Jennifer Lopez (can’t help it…I really do like her)
    Joe Pesci (seriously…he started out as a crooner ala Sinatra and he really is good…he goes by another name in his singing now just to avoid comparisons, I think)
    Jeff Bridges
    John Denver
    Steve Martin (more musician than actor but still)
    Olivia Newton John

    I totally agree with Mike White on Sissy Spacek and Cher, and Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson, and Frank Sinatra all occurred to me as well. And I’m sure there are many more I’m forgetting (Linda Lavin!). I would love to have a portion of the acting or musical talent of any of these folks.

    I do think that people like Billy Bob Thornton create these kinds of stereotypes, and no matter what you say, I will always like “Party All the Time.” Great post, Rick!

  8. Themer says:

    Paul Simon
    Justin Timberlake
    Bette Midler
    Will Smith
    Mark and Donny Walberg
    Jack Black
    Hoyt Axton (surely you saw his WKRP episode…ha!)
    Why do I keep thinking about this??? 🙂

    Also, I meant that Steve Martin was more of a musical instrument player than singer. Clearly, that’s not what I said. And I think that Ice T is a terrible actor. Ok. I have to stop obsessing over this, Rick. I might need meds.

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