Special Report

Actors You Don’t Know Are Also Musicians

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Sometimes actors take on roles that involve singing. For some of them, playing a musician on the big screen is about more than just playing a part. For these actors, it comes quite naturally because they are talented musicians in real life.

Many actors double as singers in their spare time and have released their own albums. Some have even enjoyed critical acclaim.

To compile a list of 27 actors who are also musicians, 24/7 Tempo reviewed biographies and discographies of several dozens of actors. We have only included who have released music separately as recording artists. Actors who have released songs only as part of a movie’s soundtrack, such as Bradley Cooper, were excluded.

Several notable superstars first became famous as musicians and gradually transitioned into making movies for a living. Some music icons have even been featured in movies where they can rely on their acting skills, not their singing  — these are 25 pop stars who have played dramatic roles in movies.

Click here to see actors you don’t know are also musicians

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Alyssa Milano

The “Who’s the Boss?” and “Charmed” star signed a singing contract with a Japanese record label in the late 1980s. She recorded four albums in four years, and they were a huge success there.

But Milano refused to release any music in the U.S. In a 1991 interview for the Los Angeles Times, Milano said she didn’t want to be seen as a joke. “A lot of actors who release albums here are laughed at,” she said. “I’m not interested in crossing over. I’d much rather have it released where it’s appreciated than laughed at.”

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Billy Bob Thornton

Considering how long Billy Bob Thornton’s career is, it may be hard to imagine that the legendary actor has had time to be a blues rock singer. He was part of a band in the 1980s and has also released four solo albums between 2001 and 2007. Since that year, he has been part of the rock and roll band The Boxmasters. Thornton is going on tour again this summer.

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Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis released a pop-blues album before the first movie of the Die Hard franchise. His debut studio album, “The Return of Bruno,” came out in 1987, a year prior to “Die Hard.” All but one of the songs on the album were covers. Willis’ second album, “If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger,” was released in 1989.

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Donald Glover

Donald Glover is the name he uses for acting credits. The name he uses as a hip-hop superstar is Childish Gambino. He has been nominated for a Grammy 12 times, winning five. Four of those awards were in 2018 for his hit song “This is America.”

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Emmy Rossum

“Shameless” star Emmy Rossum’s breakout musical performance was, arguably, as Christine Daaé in the 2004 film adaptation of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Rossum is a classically trained singer and has performed with opera singers Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera. She released her debut pop album “Inside Out” in 2007. Her second album, “Sentimental Journey,” came out in 2013.

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Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie was often seen singing on his hit show “House.” After the show ended, he added blues musician to his resume. The British actor has two blues albums to his name. The first one, “Let Them Talk,” was released in 2011. Two years later he released his second, “Didn’t It Rain.”

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Idris Elba

British actor Idris Elba, before becoming famous, was also known by his DJ name, DJ Big Driis. He has been part of the DJing industry since his teenage years, long before he started to focus his career on acting, and has performed throughout the U.K. (Elba was also the DJ at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding reception in 2018.) He was on the 2019 Coachella lineup.

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Jack Black

Before Jack Black was an actor and the leader of the School of Rock, he was already a rock musician. Black was part of the comedic rock duo, Tenacious D, which was formed in 1994. The other half of the duo was Kyle Gass. As of 2021, the group has released six albums. The two starred together in the 2006 movie “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” about two wanna-be rockers who want to become the best rock band ever formed.

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Jada Pinkett-Smith

Jada Pinkett-Smith is better known these days as a talk show host and an actor, but for a few years she played metal. Back in 2002, Pinkett-Smith formed the nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom. The group released two albums — one in 2004 and another two year later. Though Wicked Wisdom has been inactive for several years now, they did open for Britney Spears once in 2004.

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Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for playing the Genius musician Ray Charles. Foxx has released five R&B albums. The first one came out in 1994, long before Foxx made it big in Hollywood. Foxx was also featured on Kanye West’s Grammy award-winning “Gold Digger” single in 2005.

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Jared Leto

The Oscar-winning actor has been the lead singer and guitarist for alternative rockers Thirty Seconds to Mars since 1998. The other member is his brother, Shannon, who plays the drums. The band has released five albums and has been on many tours.

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Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges’s singing abilities are no secret. The actor won an Oscar for his performance in the 2009 movie “Crazy Heart,” where he played a country musician. Bridges’ first album, “Be Here Soon,” is pop rock and came out about a decade earlier. His second album, a self-titled country record, came in 2011, after the actor signed with Blue Note Records.

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Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum is famous around the world as the actor from the hugely popular Jurassic Park and Independence Day franchises. Fewer people know him as a musician, but he is a critically-acclaimed jazz pianist. Goldblum has played with his own jazz ensemble, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra and has released two albums — “The Capitol Studios Sessions” in 2018 and “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This” a year later.

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Juliette Lewis

From 2003 to 2009, Juliette Lewis was the frontwoman of the Juliette & the Licks rock band. They released three albums. In 2006, Lewis later formed a new band, called The New Romantiques, with the purpose of releasing a new album. “Because this album is so sonically different than anything I’ve done before and captures many flavors of my emotional life and voice, it needed an entirely new name,” she said in a statement.

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Katey Sagal

Before she was the star of the famous family comedy “Married… With Children,” Katey Sagal worked as a backup singer for artists including Bob Dylan and Bette Midler. Segal has released three albums in her solo career. The first one “Well…” in 1994 and “Room” a decade later. Her third album “Covered” came out in 2013.

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Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves played bass guitar and also sang backup vocals for his grunge band Dogstar, along with his friends Bret Domrose and actor Robert Mailhouse. The trio started performing in the early 1990s and dissolved in 2002.

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Kevin Bacon

Award-winning actor Kevin Bacon formed a band with his brother, Michael and Emmy-winning composer, fittingly called The Bacon Brothers. They started making music in the 1990s and have since released 10 albums. They also go on tours.

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Kiefer Sutherland

Golden Globe-winning actor Kiefer Sutherland, best known for portraying counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer on the hit series “24,” has reinvented himself as a country singer. He released his first album “Down in a Hole” in 2016. His second album “Reckless & Me” came out three years later.

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Michael Shannon

Twice Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon has been a member of the indie rock band Corporal since its formation in 2007. In addition to singing, he plays the guitar and keys. The band has released one self-titled album, and Shannon has written all the songs in it.

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Naomi Campbell

Former supermodel and currently an actor Naomi Campbell has released one album. Back in 1994, she released the R&B and pop album “Baby Woman.” It was mostly unsuccessful in the U.K., with critics mostly panning it, but it sold well in Japan.

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Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr., better known as Iron Man from the Avengers franchise, released his debut studio album “The Futurist,” which contained eight pop ballads and two cover songs, in 2004. Back then he told The New York Times, “Clearly, I have some hesitation in being an actor who puts out an album. But after years of writing songs, it gradually became more real.”

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Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe started out as a rock singer before he became a Hollywood icon. In the 1980s, in his native New Zealand, he performed under the name Russ le Roq. In his teenage years, he released a single called “I Just Wanna Be Like Marlon Brando.” In 1992, he formed a band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, releasing three albums, the latest of which came out in 2003. After 2005, when the band split, Crow has released two solo albums.

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Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling started out in The Mickey Mouse Club along with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake. He also starred in the hit musical “La La Land.” In 2009, he and his friend Zach Shields, with whom he formed the rock duo Dead Man’s Bones, released an album with the same name. The two also played all the instruments on the album.

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Scarlett Johansson

These days, Scarlett Johansson is better known as the Black Widow, one of the Avengers in the hugely popular Marvel superheroes franchise. But she also sings. Johansson released her debut album “Anywhere I Lay My Head” in 2008. The album featured Tom Waits songs and one original track. Since 2015, Johansson has been part of a pop band called The Singles.

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Seth MacFarlane

“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, known for his people impressions and voice imitations, has been nominated for five Grammys, most recently in 2017 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. All in all, MacFarlane has released six albums between 2011 and 2020. His 2014 Christmas album “Holiday for Swing” peaked at 51 on the Billboard 200.

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Zoë Kravitz

Zoë Kravitz, the daughter of famous rock musician Lenny Kravitz, is the frontwoman of an R&B and electro-pop group called Lolawolf. The other member is Jimmy Giannopoulos on drums. Their debut album “Calm Down” was released in 2014.

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Zooey Deschanel

“New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel is part of a folk-rock duo She & Him along with M. Ward. In addition to singing, Deschanel plays the piano and ukulele. The duo released their first album, “Volume One,” in 2008.

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