Billy Bob Thornton

Back when glamour ruled Hollywood and gossip wasn't yet an industry, stars were expected to do it all. If you couldn't sing, dance and act, brother, you were out. This kind of jack-of-all-trades approach to stardom has returned somewhat in recent years (the High School Musical music/TV/movie franchise, for example), but for a long time, Americans seem to prefer their celebrities in neat little boxes. So when Billy Bob Thornton released his first album, 2001's Private Radio, the reception was lots of head-scratching and snarky indignation. Some detected a hint of glad-handed industry back-­scratching in Thornton's leap from sound stage to recording studio, understandable given the lineup of high-powered studio musicians who were persuaded to join him, but he's actually been musically active since his high-school days in Arkansas. (He even lived in Houston for a spell in the early '80s, playing in the ZZ Top tribute band Tres Hombres.) Now, with three more albums under his belt — covering artsy spoken word, conceptual country and balls-out rock — Thornton is proving that he's no mere Hollywood celeb playing rock-star, but a genuinely talented performer on all sorts of stages.


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