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.
Wow, I actually learned something tonight
Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space. I always thought that was just a photoshopped Internet joke.
I loved William Shatner’s Has Been album. The Shat’s poetry is actually pretty good, but Ben Folds really made it great.
Has Been actually has some good material on it. Particularly “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” which sounds very conventional and even moving. Ben Folds knows how to take Shatner’s singing/speaking style and turn it into something you can listen to.
I have all of the Nimoy albums, they were enjoyed by me when I was younger. The song “Once I Smiled” was Spock singing about Leila Kalomi, and was quite moving. There is much to be enjoyed on then, but more from a nostalgic standpoint. I think I’ll go put mine on CD now.
The Nichelle CD is horrendous, but it’s the producer’s fault, not hers. I love her singing but the CD sounds terrible.
I remember reading the Gene Roddenberry was infuriated by Nimoy using the Spock image onthe LP cover, and the fact he was making money off his Star Trek character did not sit well with him.
Knew about most of those.
I’ve got both of Picardo’s CDs and most the Trek related tracks stuff Darren sang in DS9) from his CD (via Amazon download) and downloaded several of Bakula’s. I’ve got a lot of the others as well.
All these trek actors doing albums cool !! I have heard horror stories about Shatners The Transformed man, god id love to own a copy of that one!
I dunno why the “Don’t laugh” remark about Bakula would occur to anyone – other than James Darren, he probably has had the most well-known and successful musical career of any Trek actor mentioned above.
I Can’t Get Behind That changed my life.
Rollins and Shatner…best combo ever…like Kirk and Spock really…
11- I Can’t Get Behind That is great, some funny stuff there….and so true!
Has Been is a great CD, Shatner’s delivery and Ben Folds music really compliment each other.
This is great! And, while highly entertaining, none of them are very good, with few exceptions. I heard Nimoy once talking about how Shatner pressured him into recording those albums, but he never really wanted to.
I pride myself on my collection of Star Trek music, especially vinyl. My two latest prizes: two Nichelle Nichols 7″ inch singles, both with picture sleeves, one being a gatefold!
Patrick Stewart also did a fantastic recording of “Peter And The Wolf” for Decca recordings, I believe.
I vividly remember Tim Russ going toe-to-toe with Howard Stern in a battle of the bands. Mr. Russ had a country-rock hybrid that was a bit forgettable, a Charley Pride kind of a thing. In the end, Mr. Stern and his band, The Losers, made short work of Voyager’s top Vulcan.
I heart Trek music!
If not for the Transformed Man, we would never have seen Paul Heriot’s brilliant video adaptation:
Dig around and you might find Scott Bakula singing the Star Spangled Banner — no mean feat, and he pulls it off damn well. I couldn’t find a link, but did find this…Volare!
I always wished a TNG episode had started on the bridge and had Data suddenly break into song, with Picard & co eventually dancing chorus, until a comm message came in. Data would then exit the holodeck while the rest kept dancing, until Data poked back in to “end program.” Shame it didn’t happen.
I’ve always found the Nimoy albums genuinely charming, and that Picard clip never fails to make me smile :)
I’ve talked about this for years. All you musicians out there – Nimoy does a version of “Sunny” on one of his albums where the arrangement is terrific. I mean a great arrangement. Down to the back ground vocals to the orchestration and instrumental performance. I have to believe it was just some great, ready made, arrangement sitting on the shelf for a Mel Torme, Tony Bennett or Tom Jones, and someone said, “Let’s get Leonard Nimoy to do it. No, really. Are you serious? Yeah, Leonard Nimoy. Uh,..I’m kind of holding out for Jack Jones or Robert Goulet. I mean, I’m really proud of that arrangement.” But anyway Nimoy has it on his album and again it’s such a well done arrangement . . . .and then you’ve got Nimoy’s vocals on it and all the over emoting he does on it.
Even with the problems in his vocal performance I’ve listened to that thing maybe 100 hundred times. I love it.
My sister, who was 23 when Star Trek began in 1966, has all of Nimoy’s albums and I also know all the songs. To this day I still sing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”. When LOTR first came out I played it for my friend who is a Tolkien freak (and a Star Trek freak) and she loved it!!
Still love the song “Billy Don’t Play The Banjo Anymore”:
See the black wagon
Stopped — just outside our door
Heard my mother cryin’
A mournful song
Billy don’t play the banjo
[wipes a tear from her cheek and keeps typing…]
Think I’ll go find my copy of it. I’d love to get the CDs. I’m off to HMV tomorrow!! Woo-hoo!
Casey Diggs is also a credible singer.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
I’ve been to James Darren concerts, and would highly recommend it. He is such a class act.
Also, that vocalist, Maude Maggart, from Brent’s new album is a cutie.
Brent Spiner’s “Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back” and William Shatner’s “Has Been” are amazing albums, and I’m a proud owner of both.
After the decades of teasing Shatner’s had to endure for his earlier albums, I was shocked to learn he’d recorded “Has Been.” TV Land aired a documentary about the making of the album, and watching made me want to hear it. My wife found it at a local music store and it just floored us both. The tracks range from the bitingly funny “I Can’t Get Behind That” to the deeply moving “What Have You Done?” The CD is a must for any fan of his. If you think you know the man because of his roles or his public persona, “Has Been” will make you realize you don’t know a thing.
Find it, buy it, and listen. You’ll come away with a very different view of William Shatner.
That was Shatner’s Living in TVLand special. They featured quite a bit of “Hasbeen” on the show, along with the various artists that performed on the album. Each one had some remarkable things to say about Shat as a musical artist. Never will be my cup of tea, but I was quite impressed. It’s a far, far cry from “Rocketman” or “Lucy in the Sky.”
Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|
Bakula also sang (and played the piano) in his episode of Boston Legal. He did a very good job, I might add.
After rereading #21, No. 22 edited to add: But you already knew that, didn’t you? :-)
Every time I talk to John Tenuto I come away learning something
…but was this the first article on this site where you learned something? Really? if so can I have a copy of the script for the new movie and a full cast list?
I must say that I do not have any of the above albums….but the new Spiner album seems intriguing. Regardless I am happy John can share his vast storehouse of ‘stuff’ knowledge with us.
I always thought it was the height of cheese (how high is cheese?) to capitalize on Trek fame with cobbled together Trek-themed songs on an album. Then I heard the soft-rock schlock that is the Enterprise theme song. I sort of gave up on the show, but when I did tune in that faux Journey drek never grew on me in the least, never once sending one lone tentacle into my skin which was usually crawling by the first warble. If they foisted that kind of music onto the new Trek movie I would burn the theater down. Fortunately it looks like the music is in capable hands (though they did borrow heavily from Enterprise for the teaser it seems,–which is okay sans music–just wish they would internationalize it as, to me, that is what Trek was about. Not all space accomplishments are American. Besides given Americans poor knowledge of history I doubt most cinemagoers, excluding many Trek fans, would know the difference between a CCCP helmeted Yuri Gargarin and John Glenn anyway).
#25 “if so can I have a copy of the script for the new movie and a full cast list?”
And while you’re at it, a downloadable version, please! :D
Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|
And Scott Bakula *does* have a lovely voice. He even sang to Shirley on “BL.” It was quite sweet.
Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|
Agreed to all your positive comments on “Has Been”. Listening to that record can put things into perspective, if you want to and allow for it.
And I’ve always enjoyed Uhura’s singing in TOS, particularly “Beyond Antares”.
I have both of the Enterprise Blues Band albums and even seen the preform live , Vaughn Armstrong and Casey Biggs at least, on stage at Quark’s in Vegas at last year’s convention . They are talented performers that sing some pretty comical and catchy tunes that us trek fans would understand , and they are a pleasure to meet as well.
“Now I’m Enterprising On!!!!!!”
i got nichells “out of this world” i was a little dissapointed as i thought it was a re-release of the 1967 album.
she has a nice voice- saw her sing in person- she was wonderful.
# 9, Garovorkin, you can dowload ” The Transformed Man” from Wal-Mart.com
Does anyone know where I could download Spiner’s CD…It’s selling for no less than $74.99 on Amazon.com right now.
Looks like I answered my own question. Found this web page; however, I’m not sure of the legality of the downloads.
That Picard video is possibly the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen!!!!
I gotta admit Bakula’s voice is spectacular. I actually own the Quantum Leap soundtrack in which he performs Somewhere In The Night and a few others. Plus i really enjoyed the song he also performed in the recent Boston Legal episode “Glow in the Dark”
That scene from the episode “The Leap Home, Part I” from Quantum Leap shown above has gotta be one of the most moving scenes of Quantum Leap to date. It’s just a shame that Dean Stockwell jumped in on the final chorus.
I have Brent’s “Ol Yellow Eyes”; yes, he really can sing. “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” (BTW, you have a typo in the story, eh?) is great, especially with Burton, Dorn, Stewart, and Frakes on backup, not to mention Stewart’s little monologue in the middle. Well worth finding on eBay (and here’s hoping it gets at least a downloadable wide-release on iTunes or Amazon).
– Scott Bakula is a great singer…now i remember why i like Star Trek so much..
I have Brent Spiner as John Adam in ‘1776’. Incredible vocals. I also had a couple of the Nimoy albums when I was younger.
# 32 Adam thanks
None of the videos on this page seem to be working for me… I have no idea why, though.
Anyway, people always go on about Shatner’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” song, but it’s his rendition of “Rocketman” that is the real slambanger…absolutely hysterical. “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” is even worse, if that’s imaginable. As for Spiner, I’ve never heard any of his songs, but they sound good from what I’ve heard about them; oh, and James Darren was great on DS9. I’ll bet his album is good…
I must be the only Nimoy fan that does not like The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. I have his album A Touch of Leonard Nimoy which I feel is his best. I was listening to it on my ipod earlier on too:)
I also have Nichelle Nichols Out of this World.
Nope; I don’t like it either, and I’m a *huge* Nimoy fan. I caught him in “Fiddler on the Roof” when I was a teenager, and enjoyed that quite a bit, although it was odd to see such a skinny Tevye after seeing Topol’s and Theodore Bikel’s performances.
Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|
#42 and #43
No, don’t like it either……. Also profoundly disturbing……
As a Niner, I couldn’t afford not buying Darren’s. True, it doesn’t have Brooks, true, it’s not the original songs. But it’s the memories, the feeling of DS9 it makes you feel, and the title of the album, taken straight from the last episode. And Darren’s dedication to the fans on it.
Makes me feel good every time I listen to it.
The best IS yet to come.
Necessary Family Guy flashbacks:
Shatner as Kirk in Fiddler on the Roof, and Stewie Griffin doing Shatner doing Rocketman, cigarette and all after telling Meg “I know what it takes to be cool.”
Vulcanista#43- You were able to see Nimoy in Fiddler? Man, that is something worth bragging about! Do you still have the program?
I’m still tellin’ ya. . .gotta check out Nimoy’s “Sunny”. Nothing groovier out there.
No, unfortunately, don’t have the original program. Wish I did, tho.
Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|
Virtually all of these people have no signing talent whatsoever – at least none ay greater than a random person selected off the street. If it were not for the Star Trek fanboys who buy these non-chart sellers to cover studio costs no one would ever hear them screetch.
Except Nichelle Nichols. She sang commercially before she put on the mini skirt. Bakula is OK, I guess. He sold out crowds at Ford’s Theatre last year.
But Chase Masterson? C’mon. Gimme a break.