Three celebrities with surprising musical aspirations…some of which didn’t quite work out.
The action star and acclaimed film director
While co-starring as a tough guy on the TV western Rawhide in 1962, the tough guy actor, Clint Eastwood, recorded an album called Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites. The songs on the album weren’t pop or rock songs—they were story songs about cowboys and outlaws of the Old West, similar to what Marty Robbins might record. The album was not a hit and failed to expand Eastwood’s fanbase into the younger demographic. Eastwood gave up singing, but not music. He’s composed the score for eight of the movies he’s directed, including Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby.
The Oscar-winning actress
Sissy Spacek was one of the top actresses in Hollywood in the 1970s and early 1980s, starring in movies such as Badlands, Carrie, and Coal Miner’s Daughter, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of country singer Loretta Lynn. Spacek followed up that role with a hit country music album of her own, but that wasn’t her first attempt at music. In the 1960s, she moved to New York with aspirations of becoming a professional musician. Spacek played acoustic guitar and sang at coffeehouses in Greenwich Village, and paid the bills by singing commercial jingles. In 1968, producer Artie Wayne hired Spacek to record a song he’d written to appeal to young people who weren’t caught up in the counterculture—he wanted to create a teen singer who looked like a hippie, but was actually conservative. Billed as “Rainbo,” the 18-year-old Spacek sang “John, You Went Too Far This Time,” which chastised John Lennon and Yoko Ono for appearing nude on the cover of their Two Virgins album. Wayne overestimated the number of people outraged by Lennon and Ono—the song flopped on radio and in record stores. Wayne dropped her from his label, and Spacek decided to give acting a try.
The psychedelic pioneer
Marty Balin went to college to become a painter, but after appearing in a production of West Side Story, he decided to become a singer instead. He got a deal at age 20 with a San Francisco label called Challenge, and in 1962 released two pop singles, directed to the teenage market: “Nobody But You” and “I Specialize in Love.” Both flopped, but not becoming a teen idol didn’t slow Balin down. He got caught up in the San Francisco folk music scene, forming a vocal quartet called the Town Criers. That didn’t go anywhere either, so Balin moved on to yet another musical style then taking root in San Francisco: psychedelic rock. In 1965, he helped form Jefferson Airplane as a guitarist and lead singer. He wrote many of the band’s signature songs, including “Volunteers.” Balin left the band in 1971 to start another psychedelic band called Grootna before returning to Jefferson Airplane in their “Jefferson Starship” era. Taking things full circle, Balin wrote and sang Jefferson Starship’s 1975 song “Miracles.” It was a soft rock ballad, closer to his teen pop days than psychedelia. But it worked—the single reached the top 10. Balin left the band again in 1978 for a solo career, and Jefferson Starship became Starship, a full-time soft rock band. Balin’s biggest solo hit: the syrupy 1982 ballad (and top 10 hit) “Hearts.”