Actor Jeff Daniels will be in town this weekend, performing comedy and blues/Americana songs from his trio of releases, including his stellar latest, “Keep it Right Here.” Daniels, who will play at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, has been honing his musical and songwriting craft for 30 years, well before he put any of his music to record. He told me in a phone interview last week that “It’s always something I’ve done because I’ve loved doing it.”
But he is well aware of the tradition he is inheriting from folks like William Shatner: Sometimes, actors just shouldn’t sing, especially when it’s clear they’re only in it for the money. So he often opens his shows with his disclaimer song “If William Shatner Can, I Can Too,”a funny ditty about other actors who followed the same musical tradition, some without the most melodious results.
But how lousy are the actors-turned-musicians referenced in Daniels’ song? Here’s a look at a few of them and their musical output.
Russell Crowe: The volatile Aussie Oscar winner began his musical career in the 1980s under the unwieldy band name 30 Foot Odd of Grunts. That group dissolved in 1995, and Crowe now croons in with a backing band called The Ordinary Fear of God. It’s alternately sweet and propulsive, but disposable, blues-tinged pop-rock.
Kathie Lee Gifford: Music has been more than a phase for the former morning-show host; she released 15 albums of easy-listening tunes between 1993 and 2004. Fine, sentimental love songs appropriate for moms everywhere.
Billy Bob Thornton: The caustic “Sling Blade” star released three bluesy roots-rock albums from 2001 to 2004. He has performed at South by Southwest, and he has great taste, having covered Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash for tribute albums. But his original music is, by and large, unimpressive radio-friendly songcraft.
Jennifer Love Hewitt: Hewitt has a longer, if spottier, career than most, and it’s one that predates her acting life. She became a pop star in Japan (who doesn’t?) at the age of 13 and has continued to perform intermittently, mostly in the form of soundtrack contributions to her films. Diving her time between pop, easy listening and, recently, country, she has accrued a devoted fan base.
Adam Sandler: I could care less for most of his acting work, but there’s no denying the talent here. Sandler’s work is dismissed in a heartbeat in Daniels’ song, but Sandler has written the most enduring Chanukah and Thanksgiving songs of his generation, and that’s nothing to scoff at. His musical outlet has allowed him to be funnier than any of the crap Hollywood writers have thrown at him in the past 20 years, which makes up for his rudimentary guitar playing.