The Collective: Star Tracks – Trek Stars Sing February 24, 2008by John Tenuto , Filed under: Merchandise,Music,Trek Franchise , trackback
Actors often have to sing for their supper, yet Star Trek actors have a tendency go above and beyond that. There is something about being on Trek that brings their inner Dion and Sinatra. While easy to mock these actors for "trying" to be singers, many have extensive singing and Broadway musical experiences. The latest effort is a new album, Dreamland, from TNG’s Brent Spiner. This has inspired this special Sunday edition of ‘The Collective,’ where we take a listen to some of the more memorable efforts offered from the Trek stars turned singers.
Possibly the best known Trek actor turned musical performer is Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner who began his spoken word style singing career in 1968 with The Transformed Man (which includes his legendary version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"). While some of individual songs sound silly, try listening to the entire album with context. Shatner alternates between classics like scenes from Shakespearean dramas or other plays, with a modern songs. It isn’t a great album, yet it isn’t the travesty most make it out to be. Shatner’s musical career picked back up in the 90s with a single on a Ben Folds album as well songs on a couple of soundtracks. However it was his famous turn as a spoken word performer in a series of Priceline commercials that really put him into the big time. This new musical stardom culminated in the 2004 album Has Been featuring the talents of Henry Rollins, Brad Paisley, Joe Jackson, and Ben Folds. The album is full of fun topics, serious personal issues, social commentary, and media concern. Has Been featured on many best of lists in 2004 and there was even talk of a Grammy nomination. Since then Shatner has featured on other albums, such as Brian Evans’s concert album and soundtrack albums. Has Been at Amazon
Shatner performing a song from "Has Been" on the Tonight Show
Unlike William Shatner’s spoken word style, Leonard Nimoy actually sings on his 1960s albums, Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space (1967), Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy (1968), and The Touch of Leonard Nimoy (1969). These albums have been re-released under various names over the years. Remember, that Nimoy sings on stage and while not the best of the Star Trek singers, his style was not unusual for 1960s and early 1970s singers. The famous "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" from Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy is usually the one people remember, yet listen to "Highly Illogical" from Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space for a funny commentary on modern times. Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata is recorded as "Spock Thoughts" on Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy. The famous advice found in the Desiderata is rephrased by Spock when talking to Valeris about the universe unfolding as it should in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. More on Nimoy’s music at maidenwine.com.
"Highly Illogical" from "Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space"
A genuine singer, Nichols has performed with Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington before Star Trek. Her two most famous albums are Down to Earth (1967) and Out of This World (1991). The modern CD release of Down to Earth features Star Trek themed songs not on the 1967 version. The album features popular songs such as "That’s Life." Out of This World features a poem about Gene Roddenberry, "Beyond Antares" which was sung by Uhura in the "Conscience of the King" episode. There is also "Uhura’s Theme" a new melody celebrating everyone’s favorite communicator.
Nichols singing in "Charlie X," the song also features on her album "Down to Earth"
Grace Lee Whitney
Like Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney sang with popular orchestras before Star Trek. She wrote and sang Star Trek themed songs such as "Disco Trekkin’ in 1976. Her most recent album is 1999′s Yeoman Rand Sings! featuring songs based from episodes of the show.
Another legitimate Broadway singer, Brent Spiner has two albums to his credit, along with cast recordings from plays. The album Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back (1988) is a collection of Spiner’s favorite standards which even got some radio airplay. A real treat is "It’s a Sin to Tell A Lie" which features the back up vocals of the Sun Spots (LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, and Patrick Stewart). Spiner’s new album, Dreamland, is a concept album with naration and music. Working with Spiner is Maude Maggart (Fiona Apple’s big sister) and Mark Hammill (doing voice acting). Like Shatner, Spiner is also featured singing on soundtracks of his films. Dreamland will be released very soon. Visit his website The Real Brent Spiner for more details.
Some behind the scenes of Spiner recording "Dreamland"
While not an album, it is worth mentioning that Patrick Stewart sings "A You’re Adorable" to Gene Roddenberry on the bonus features DVD from the Season 5′s Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard himself sings with Worf in the movie Star Trek Insurrection. Stewart did provide narration to the Arnie Roth CD version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (1995).
Stewart sings to Roddenberry
TNG (as well as Voyager and Enterprise) guest star Suzie Plakson expresses her art with various styles, from poetry to music. Good Luck Charm (2007) features an eclectic mix of various genres. Plakson has an incredible strong voice and you can hear some of her songs at her website www.suzieplakson.com The styles are as diverse as the characters she portrays from Star Trek.
A veteran of theater, Nana Visitor has extensive singing experience, including performing in Broadway musicals. In 2001 Visitor performed in the musical Chicago on Broadway. She appears in some musical cast records and also features in The Best of Star Trek Volume 2 (2000). Fans may best remember the hologram Kira singing "Fever" in the episode "His Way".
Visitor gets “Fever”
Before playing Vic Fontaine of Deep Space Nine, James Darren was a singer with popular songs in the 1960s. Like Nichols, he is a legitimate singer. His album This One’s from the Heart (1999) was recorded for Star Trek fans and features the songs that Vic sang on DS9. The only wish would be if Avery Brooks had accompanied Darren on "The Best if Yet to Come" as he did as the character of Benjamin Sisko on the show. This is an excellent album of musical standards.
Darren sings a duet with Avery Brooks
Entertaining, the Chase Masterson CDs Thrill of the Chase (2005) and the recent Ad Astra offer listeners music from the 1930s and 40s, along with jazz greats. Masterson is a talented person, with producer, writing, acting, and music credits. The best songs are her version of "Fever" which is a tribute to Nana Visitor and the funny "Latinum is a Girl’s Best Friend." Most songs, though are not from Star Trek, and are very good renditions of musical standards. More info and audio clips on Chase’s CDs available at her website.
Tim Russ has been writing songs and singing for years before Star Trek. Russ has something else in common with Leonard Nimoy beside playing Star Trek’s most famous Vulcans. With Nimoy, he is the Star Trek actor who has released or re-released the most music. His singing and song writing is featured on Tim Russ (2000), Kushangaza (2003), Extreme Bob by Robert Picardo (2003), Brave New World (2006), and he sings on two story CDs for Bugsters (2001, 2004). His song "Kushangaza" is very beautiful and he weaves social commentary on songs like "We Are More Than Machine" with good melodies. His albums are recommended. More info on Tim’s music at his site.
Russ covers Beatles’ "Let it Be"
When the character of the Doctor often sang on various episodes of Voyager, it was often Picardo himself singing. Picardo offers some of the best Star Trek actor albums with his Basic Bob (2001) and Extreme Bob (2003) parody albums. Most of the songs featured are parodies of popular music with Star Trek themes. "What’s My Name?" and "Will You Still Love Me, Tomorrow" are classics. These are very funny albums, although a few of the songs might be too ribald for younger fans, most are family friendly and very enjoyable. More at his site.
Picardo singing "La Donna E’Immobile," also on "Extreme Bob"
Don’t laugh. Bakula was a Broadway singing sensation before his television career and he continues to sing on stage. In 1994, his singing is featured on the album Somewhere in the Night from the television show Quantum Leap. Bakula is also featured on many cast recordings from plays.
Bakula sings Lennons’ "Imagine" on "Quantum Leap"
Anthony Montgomery is a versatile performer, a dancer, choreographer, musician, and actor. Being the grandson of jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery, a musical career seems perfect for the actor. He has recently signed a record deal with AGR Television Records. His four song demo CD is entitled What You Know About and is available at Roddenberry.com. For more about Anthony Montgomery, check out his website
Vaughn Armstrong, along with DS9′s Casey Biggs, visual effects artist Ron B. Moore, Admiral Paris actor Richard Herd, Steve Rankin, and William Jones, have formed The Enterprise Blues Band. They have two albums, The Enterprise Blues Band Experience (2005) and Intergalactic Roots Music (2006). The band often plays at conventions. Find out more at the band’s official site.
While not complete, this list provides a picture of the albums available from Star Trek actors. Most of these albums are available from Amazon.com, or the websites of the actors.