Comedians In Rock – Part One

Comedians In Rock – Part One


Flight Of The Conchords, Tim Minchin, The Lonely Island and Doug Anthony Allstars have all shown us how comedy and music can mix in hilarious fashion, but what about comedians who have dabbled in serious musical efforts in between their lauded humorous moments? In honour of Steve Martin’s 72nd birthday today, here are six comics who have also proven to be dab hands in the music realm.

Chevy Chase Gets Psychedelic

Before he broke through as a comedy writer on The Smothers Brothers and Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase not only performed “bad jazz” with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in a university band, he also drummed with trippy also-rans Chamaeleon Church. With the full self-titled album available to listen to on Spotify, if you’re a fan of The Byrds, you’ll find the folky psychedelic sounds of Chamaeleon Church offer an interesting time capsule. Chevy also released a weird eponymous solo album from 1980 (featuring covers of The Beatles, Bob Marley and The Troggs – you can listen to it here) before he arrived at arguably his finest musical moment – appearing in Paul Simon’s "You Can Call Me Al" video.

Lenny Henry Collaborates With Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s 1993’s The Red Shoes album featured a surreal guestlist including Prince, Eric Clapton and traditional Bulgarian folk ensemble Trio Bulgarka, but it was perhaps the appearance of comic Lenny Henry in the liner notes which was the most surprising. Singing soulful backing vocals on the song "Why Should I Love You", Henry arrived in the studio to find Prince had already laid down guitar for the track. “I sang my heart out,” Lenny wrote in The Guardian last year after Prince’s death. “I couldn’t believe it. I was performing on a song with two of my heroes.” Showing her penchant for funny folk remains undimmed, Kate Bush worked with comic Stephen Fry on the title track for her most recent studio album, 50 Words For Snow.

Eddie Murphy Parties

Before he started popping up on Shrek soundtracks as a talking donkey, Eddie Murphy tried his hand at R&B pop. After 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places pitched him as one of the 1980s’ biggest breakout stars, Murphy took a detour into the musical realm with 1985’s Rick James collaboration "Party All The Time". A certified banger, the first single from debut album How Could It Be went to 21 in the Australian charts. It was a feat he couldn’t repeat, despite a guest appearance by none other than Michael Jackson on his 1993 single Whatzupwitu. Never mind – we’ll always have the "Party All The Time" music video starring two of Dave Chappelle’s favourite gurus.

Bill Murray Walks Down Happy Street

Not to be outdone by fellow Saturday Night Live veterans Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, earlier this year Bill Murray appeared on the album from former SNL musician Paul Schaffer’s with The World’s Most Dangerous Band. Whether it was due to the positive reception he received for his work on Happy Street or not, Murray has now announced he’ll be releasing the album New Worlds in September. The classical album will see Murray, who memorably sang Roxy Music’s "More Than This" in the cult classic Lost In Translation and fronted a rock band named The Dutch Masters as a teen, paired with cellist Jan Vogler.

Billy Connolly Gets Stuck In the Middle With Gerry

While ‘60s folk band The Humblebums never made a dent on the music world beyond Scotland, however without them we’d not have been introduced to two major talents. While guitarist Gerry Rafferty later found acclaim (and an ultimately fatal love of the bottle) when Stealers Wheel’s "Stuck In The Middle With You" and his solo sax-tastic "Baker Street" became global hits, his banjo-playing sidekick Billy Connolly swapped pubs for stand-up. The rest is history, with Connolly’s early training ground of witty banter between Humblebums songs standing him in good stead when he became a comedic success story in the late ‘70s. While Connolly would still pull out his banjo on occasion in interviews, live shows and in his various television series, his only chart hit was the 1975 UK comedy single "D-I-V-O-R-C-E".


Steve Martin Racks Up The Grammys

Steve Martin, the star of Three Amigos, Father Of The Bride and Parenthood, may well be the most respected musician on this list, having won Grammys for his Americana albums as well as his comedy albums. His banjo playing of roots songs might not offer the laughs of Ruprecht in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but his musical output in the last decade has taken over film as his preferred medium. After taking up the banjo as a teenager, recent years have seen Martin perform with revered artists such as Earl Scruggs, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John McEuen and Edie Brickell. Happy birthday, Steve – we hope it’s finger-pickin’ good! 


Of course, if Steve’s music doesn’t cut it for you, there are always his classic comedy recordings on Spotify to keep you happy!

- SM

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