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Unscripted: Top 10 Actor/Musician Collaborations

Unscripted: Top 10 Actor/Musician Collaborations

Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson have been hanging out a lot lately. The actor joined the antichrist onstage a couple of weeks ago at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show in L.A., and played guitar on "Sweet Dreams" and "Beautiful People."

Depp also collaborated with Manson on a cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" that'll be included on the shock-rocker's new album, Born Villain. He even seems to have borrowed a few style cues from Marilyn in putting together his Native Amerigoth Tonto costume for the upcoming Lone Ranger film.

Obviously, the two are pals, and it's nice to see a famous actor having fun with his superstar musical buddies without embarrassing himself or his fans. Musicians dabbling in acting is pretty common these days, but it's still fairly rare for actors to pick up a guitar or a microphone.

With the right collaborators, though, actors can become convincing rock stars. Some are even good enough to make it a second career, as long as they surround themselves with talented performers.

Don't believe us? We were prepared for that possibility. That's why we went through the trouble of putting together the following list of our 10 favorite actor/musician collaborations.

10. Eddie Murphy & Rick James: Eddie Murphy was such a big star in 1985 that when he announced he was recording an album of music called How Could It Be, nobody laughed at him. Not until it was released, anyway. That impeccably forgettable effort's highlight by far is "Party All the Time," Murphy's hit single featuring the inimitable Rick James.

Co-written by the Superfreak, "Party" had just the right blend of contemporary '80s pop R&B and astonishing hubris to work. A timeless tale of heartbreak, the song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Murphy might have been a one-hit wonder, but at least he was still a hit. We're pretty sure Billy Bob Thornton would run somebody over for a hit song.

9. Jeff Bridges & Elton John: Crazy Heart not only netted Jeff Bridges an Oscar, it also kick-started a new recording career. The actor signed a contract with Blue Note Records in 2011 and released an album, Jeff Bridges, the same year.

Before all that, though, Bridges got to jam with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. In 2010, the actor was performing songs from Crazy Heart alongside T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham at a private showcase at an L.A. supper club owned by music mogul Herb Alpert. The invitation-only crowd, which included Bridges's co-stars Robert Duvall and Maggie Gyllenhaal, was stunned when Sir Elton himself joined the band on piano for a rendition of "I Don't Know" from the Crazy Heart soundtrack. The Rocket Man laid down some bright boogie-woogie licks that make us wish he'd dabbled in honky-tonk a little more often over the years.

8. Steve Martin & Earl Scruggs: Steve Martin's banjo playing is no gag -- he's been practicing the instrument since he was 17, and he's pretty damn good at it. The beloved actor/comedian proved his chops in 2001 when he guested on a new version of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by the late bluegrass master Earl Scruggs. The recording went on to win the Best Country Instrumental Performance category at the 2002 Grammys.

The collabo with Scruggs was just the start of Martin's bluegrass career, though. In 2009, he released his first all-music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. It won him another Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album in 2010.

 

7. Tyrin Turner & the Geto Boys Remember Tyrin Turner? Sure you do. He played Caine, the main character in the early-'90s thugsploitation flick Menace II Society. He was so good at portraying a ghetto-made hoodlum, in fact, that he decided he could do it on wax as well as he had on film.

Rap-A-Lot agreed, signing him to a deal as Caine just in case nobody in the whole world knew who Tyrin Turner was. A Caine album never materialized, but he did manage to make an appearance on the track "Dawn 2 Dusk" from the Geto Boys' 1996 LP Da Good Da Bad & Da Ugly.

Turner delivers a pretty legit verse for a guy who was basically never heard from again, and we happen to be big Geto Boys fans. With an absolute dearth of non-hilarious rapping actors out there, that's good enough to make this list.

6. Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn: The Avengers star Scarlett Johansson first made waves in the music world with her 2008 album Anywhere I Lay My Head, a collection of Tom Waits covers.

In case that wasn't weird enough for you, the actress returned to the studio in 2009 to record a collaborative album with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, Break Up, that was apparently inspired by Serge Gainsbourg's late-'60s duets with Brigitte Bardot. The record's lead single, "Relator," isn't half bad. It even managed to hit No. 10 on the singles chart in Belgium, for whatever that's worth.

5. Jack Black & Kyle Gass: Actor Jack Black first met his musical partner Kyle Gass in 1989 when they were both members of the Actors' Gang, an L.A.-based theater troupe. Gass agreed to teach Black guitar in exchange for tutoring on his acting, and the little arrangement worked out pretty well for both of them.

As the acoustic mock-rockers Tenacious D, the pair has released two albums, with a third, Rize of the Fenix, slated to come out next month. Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl played the drums on the new disc.

4. Robert Englund & the Fat Boys: In the 1980s, Freddy Krueger was pop-culture money in the bank. The horror icon was everywhere, and Nightmare on Elm Street star Robert Englund was game for all sorts of offbeat promotions. Few made the lasting impression that this 1988 collaboration with the Fat Boys did.

"Are You Ready for Freddy" was recorded for the soundtrack to the fourth Nightmare installment and made it onto the Boys' Coming Back Harder Again album. To his credit, Englund's hardly the worst actor-turned-rapper of all time, and he manages to deliver his lines with about as much menace as possible when the Fat Boys are involved.

The track's status as a hip-hop classic may be debatable, but this was one of the first rap songs a lot of kids heard on the playground in the late '80s.

 

3. Woody Allen & the Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Woody Allen is a major-league jazz fan from way back. He's such an admirer of Dixieland and traditional New Orleans jazz, in fact, that he decided it'd make the perfect soundtrack to his 1973 slapstick sci-fi film Sleeper.

Not known for his half-stepping, Allen invited the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to record the score and sat in himself on clarinet. The lively, loose tracks add a goofy energy to his homages to Benny Hill and silent-era comedies.

2. Gwyneth Paltrow & Cee-Lo Green: Gwyneth Paltrow has always harbored a pretty major interest in music. Remember when she married the guy from Coldplay? The recording industry started to take her seriously as a vocalist in her own right after the success of her 2010 film Country Strong, but her highest-profile musical turn came when she sang a cleaned-up version of Cee-Lo Green's "Fuck You" on Glee.

Paltrow's version of the tune was none too shabby and it was seen by a tremendous number of white people, so Green invited her to perform the song with him at the 2011 Grammys. Gwyneth managed to hold her own onstage alongside not only Green, but an army of Muppet musicians, too. How's that for star power?

1. Jamie Foxx & Kanye West: For a long time, Jamie Foxx was the guy from In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show. Then he scored the role of a lifetime in Ray and everybody realized how incredibly talented the guy really was. Foxx made the leap from A-list actor to A-list recording artist with an assist to Kanye West on "Gold Digger" in 2005. The song went No. 1 and netted the duo a Grammy.


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