Musicians Turned Actors

With the upcoming Foo Fighters movie Studio 666 coming out this week, the Popradio77 blog is going to look back at a list of musicians turned actors. This list will include what films they starred in and how successful each of them are in acting in comparison to their careers in music.


#1 Sting

Before the role will get recast in the long-awaited sequel, Gordon Sumner was cast as Feyd Rautha Harkonnen in Dune. Despite selling millions of records both solo and with the Police, Sting made a name for himself in film. He also appeared in The Who’s Quadrophenia movie as the King of the Mods. Since then, Sting has stuck to the world of songwriting as many of his other films he appeared in fell by the wayside.


#2 David Bowie

One of the more prolific filmographies of any musician, Bowie managed to star in several successful film and TV roles. His most notable role on film is Labyrinth, starring opposite of Jennifer Connelly. He has since then appeared in animated features such as Arthur and the Invisibles and SpongeBob SquarePants. Other notable appearances include his roles in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and a cameo appearance in Zoolander. Despite an impressive resume, Labyrinth is what David Bowie is remembered for in comparison to his other cinematic works.


#3 Rick Springfield

Rick Springfield as Dr. Noah Drake

Already blessed with great songs, Springfield made each of his TV and film appearances as memorable as the timeless hits he crafted. For Rick Springfield his fame as an actor came about when he starred as Dr. Noah Drake. A role he took because he thought no one would buy the Working-Class Dog album. Springfield however was proven wrong when Jessie’s Girl became a hit. He played the role of Noah Drake for 2 years while subsequently touring behind the record he had one point written off. He also starred as a twisted version of himself in the David Duchovney series Californication. He even had a recurring role on True Detective in which he played a psychiatrist during season 2. Each of Rick Springfield’s roles received recognition for his acting abilities, making Rick Springfield one of the more talented rock stars turned actors.


#4 Madonna

Madonna in A League of Their Own

Despite being in over 27 movies and having married both actors and directors, Madonna’s film career never got the praise or recognition she wanted. Madonna starred in high profile films such as Dick Tracy and A League of Their Own in which she received critical praise. However, for her roles in Body of Evidence, her performance was critically panned, and the film was a box office flop. Other reviews have cited Madonna’s acting abilities as “wooden” or that she comes off as “trying to hard”. She may have more volume in terms of movies made, though her success in film is few and in between.



#5 Ice Cube

While not an artist at the station, Ice Cube is a prolific musician turned actor. Having appeared in the influential rap group N.W.A., Ice Cube tried his luck at acting following the groups breakup. Appearing in hits such as Friday,Anaconda, Barbershop, and 21 Jump Street. Ice Cubes films have been both box office success’s and critically praised. Compared to his musical output, Ice Cube works better as an actor than as a solo artist.



#6 Flea

Flea as Douglas Needles

For bassist Flea of the 90’s supergroup The Red Hot Chili Peppers, he has appeared on some of the most successful films of all time. Call it luck or just having a good agent, the Chilis bass player has appeared in several high-profile films. For Flea, he is known as Douglas J Needles, Marty Mcfly’s rival in the Back to the Future film series. He appeared in The Big Lebowski as one of the Nihilists that harassed The Dude throughout the film. Recently he appeared in Baby Driver as Eddie No- Nose. On the animated side of things, he had a recurring role on the Nickelodeon series The Wild Thornberry’s. Critically, every film Flea has been in has been a box office success and The Wild Thornberry’s went on for 6 seasons and it has had two spin-off movies. This makes Flea the second most successful actor turned musician on this list.


#7 Meat Loaf

The Bat Out of Hell singer is also a prolific actor in his own right. He first appeared onscreen as an actor in the Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975, giving the world the song “Hot Patooti”. His most notable work includes his role as Robert Paulson from Fight Club. While his filmography may not compare to the likes of the other stars on this list, Meat Loaf always makes his roles stand out.


#8 Elvis Presley

The musician turned actor had string of successful films in the 1950’s and 60’s. For the King the films he starred in initially focused on incorporating his music and aspects of Elvis’s larger than life persona into his movies. Gradually Elvis fell into a groove starred in more mature films. This process involved phasing out his music and letting Elvis play a character rather than just a version of himself. Elvis’s movies largely did will from a critical and box office standpoint making him a star onscreen and off.


Honorable mentions

#9 Ozzy Osbourne



Does it count if the actor plays himself? Well, for Ozzy Osbourne the exception is made as each of his cameos across multiple movies have been nothing short of memorable. Most notably he appeared in Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky in which he appeared at the last second to save the day. Of course, who can forget his appearance in Austin Powers. The Blizzard always gets straight to the point with his cameos.


#10 Keith Richards

Keith Richards, the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow.

The real-life basis for Captain Jack Sparrow. Keith Richards was brought on to the Pirates franchise in the third film as Sparrow’s father. Richards would go on to play Sparrows father in 3 other subsequent Pirates sequels offering sage advice to Jack prior to the start of his adventures.

Top Ten Infamous Front Men in Rock and Roll

This past week saw the news regarding the departure of 76ers point guard Ben Simmons. Simmons brought a lot of baggage with him this season when he did not play a single game with the team. This decision brought out frustrations amongst Philadelphia sports fans, commentators, and players as a result.

With Simmons departure, this caused me to think about all the front men in rock and roll who took similar stances on not playing. This turmoil is usually caused by singers inflated egos and their own selfish desires to be the alpha in the group. These instances created problems for the bands, tensions amongst members, and even in some cases, breakups of the group they played in.

Here is my definitive list of the most problematic front men in rock and the problems that caused the groups to erupt.


#10 Chris and Rich Robinson- The Black Crowes

Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes

Having to deal with the ego of one talented singer is a challenge. Though when dealing with the duo of Chris and Rich Robinson, it becomes twice as hard. The duo was quoted by the Gallagher brothers as “having surprised them with their fights”. Chris and Rich would often make decisions that not only harmed themselves but affected everyone in the band. The group once turned down an offer to record a cover of “It’s Only Rock and Roll” for the Armageddon soundtrack due to wanting to focus on recording the By Your Side record. The record charted in the 40’s on the top 100 hundred charts around the world. Armageddon went on to sell over 4 million copies.

More egregiously, the band toured with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. While working on songs for the Lions Page offered his assistance to the Robinsons to help write a song for the record. Chris Robinson turned him down saying that everything was going great. The record charted 20th in the US on the Top 100 and Jimmy Page never spoke with the Robinsons again.


#9 It Ain’t Easy Living Like a Member of Aerosmith

The Toxic Twins- Steven Tyler and Joe Perry

Front man Steven Tyler may have one of the most recognizable voices in rock music. However, he isn’t easy to get along with. Joe Perry knows this because he left the band due to his inability to tolerate Tyler. When Steven and Joe Perry’s girlfriends got into a fight while on tour, Steven according to his biography asked for Joe Perry to “control his woman”. Joe Perry didn’t take that well at all and as a result the two got into an argument over them. Perry would leave the band who were about to record the Night in the Ruts album. Perry came back to the band in 1984 and the rest is history.



#8 George Michael Wants Freedom

While not quite problematic, creative freedom often leads to singer’s departures. Despite Wham’s success, George Michael was growing as a musician. He wanted to make music that reflected where he was currently in life. While making music for teenagers was an easy way to make money, George Michael wanted to make introspective and honest songs that older audiences could relate to. Despite claims that the duo was not getting along, Michael assured that his split with Andrew Ridgley was completely amicable. While not problematic, this shows that when done right, bands can break up for the right reasons.

#7 Mark Knopfler’s So Far Away

A lot of musicians have a lot of opinions on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson didn’t think the ceremony was a big deal. Though he may change his tune if the rock hall ever decides to induct him. There have been many cases of band members being noticeably absent from the induction ceremony. However, Mark Knopfler makes this one a particularly tragic case. As is the case with being in a touring band with a family member, tensions always arise. Mark and David Knopfler were a case of such notorious sibling rivalries. They now no longer speak to each other. David walked away during the Making Movies record to pursue a solo career, though Mark refused to credit him on the record. Mark was rumored to have even said his brother didn’t have the commitment to make the Dire Straits the band he had always envisioned it could be. This rivalry resulted in ceremony in which none of the Knopfler brothers attended and no one inducted them.


#6 “Diamond” David Lee Roth’s Living in Paradise

David Lee Roth, known to the world as the guy who wanted only the brown M&M’s as part of his tour rider, left the band over the direction of the music. Despite being in one of the biggest bands in the world with Van Halen, David Lee Roth was not a fan of the group’s current musical direction. During this time, the band was no longer as close as they used to be. Having become different people because of their superstar status, David Lee Roth didn’t want the groups sound to change. Having experimented with keyboards on their smash hit 1984, Eddie Van Halen wanted to double down with that sound on the next record.

“Diamond” David Lee Roth

David Lee Roth was done with the egos in the band, as well as the change in direction that would be prominent on their next record, 5150. David quit and recorded the album Eat Em’ and Smile, a guitar driven rock record that featured songs like “Yankee Rose”. Lee Roth continued to have a lengthy solo career and recorded other songs such as “Living in Paradise” and a cover of “Just a Gigalo”. David Lee Roth was now truly living in paradise as a solo artist.


#5 Motley Crue’s Tensions are Getting Red Hot

You think that when being in a band like Motley Crue, the antics that they would get into on tour alone would be enough to make anyone want to quit. A band whose singer described the accidental killing of Hanoi Rocks Razzle as “one of the worst days of his life. The key words in that sentence include “one of”, meaning Vince Neil’s dealt with worse when in this band. Despite all the hair-raising antics, fights, near death experiences, a solo career is ultimately what killed Motley Crue. Following Vince Neils departure for a solo career, Motley Crue were in a difficult position. Grunge had taken over as the mainstream musical sound and hair metal was on its way out. Attempting to capitalize on the moment, the band hired John Corrabi as Neil’s replacement and focused on a grunge type of sound for their record. The resulting record saw poor sales and ultimately led to Tommy Lee’s departure in 1999 in pursuit of a solo career. Though the band was able to make things up over time as several reunions were held over the years including one taking place this year.


#4 A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon and Garfunkel

Despite starting out as friends who shared a passion for music in Queens, it would be the same love of music that ultimately would tear Simon and Garfunkel apart. For Art Garfunkel, he had always felt underappreciated in the band. This sentiment had come to a boiling point when he discovered that Paul Simone recorded a record without him in the fifties. The surprise hurt Garfunkel and would eventually sow the seeds for the tension between them over the years. The two would envy each other over the years. This came to a head when Simon was recording solo material and Garfunkel had started an acting career. The duo would break up once again and Paul Simon would describe the situation as “something being broken between them.”


#3 George Harrison quits the Beatles

George Harrison contemplates quitting the Beatles

During the Let It Be sessions captured on the documentary, Get Back, George Harrison had had enough of being in the Beatles. The group was working on Get Back with McCartney finishing the lyrics that day. George Harrison walked out of rehearsals and remained silent for most of the day. Harrison told the band and crew that he would “see them at the clubs”. Following that, he left the band. It wasn’t until negotiations with the groups manager that Harrison would come back and finish recording.


#2 Axl Rose Dines on Turtle Soup

The Greatest Movie of All Time According to Axl Rose.

Even Axl Rose is not resistant to Turtle Power. The heroes in a half shell managed to captivate the singer’s imagination, at the worst possible time. Known for being late to his own concerts, Rose decided that the night of a show was the ideal time to watch a movie. The film in question was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of The Ooze. Axl’s attention that night was given to watching the turtles fight the Foot Clan, and he could not be bothered during the movies nearly two hour run length. If this doesn’t sum up who Axl Rose is as a performer, then I don’t know what will.

#1 Derek St. Hubbins causes Spinal Taps fallout

The Patron Saint Of Men’s Quality Footwear

The Patron Saint of Men’s Footwear and front man of 80’s metal group Spinal Tap, is the lists most notorious offender. St. Hubbins caused Nigel Tufnel to leave the group after bringing Tufnel’s crush along for a tour. Along with that incident, he forced an unfortunate audience attending a local puppet show to suffer through “Jazz Odyssey” in its entirety. That alone puts him at the number one spot. Thankfully though, the members of Spinal Tap were able to reunite and patch things up when “Sex Farm” broke into the top ten charts in Japan.


Do Movies Make Music More Memorable

Having amassed a large library of music, I have realized that a lot of it came from watching movies. When I was first introduced to AC/DC, it was through the use of “Back in Back” in the 2008 movie Iron Man.  Having discovered the band through the movie I went on to discover their discography and eventually sought out other bands and artists from the 70’s and 80’s. Through discovering classic rock through movies, it made me wonder whether films really do make music more memorable.

For kids who grew up in the late 90’s and 2000’s, we no longer look to record stores to find our music. For a lot of us, we discover classic rock on social media as well as in movies and TV shows. A lot of people I know have heard the King Harvest song “Dancing in the Moonlight” through its use in movies and TV, rather than their parents album collection.

The reason why so many artists from the “classic rock” era have lasting power is through the shared experience of audiences across decades enjoying these movies  and TV shows with scenes set to their songs. People of my generation know the relatively obscure track, “Brandy You’re a Fine Girl” from shows like Ozark and movies like Guardians of The Galaxy, which help keep the song relevant nearly 40 years after its’ initial release.

As to why we latch onto songs in movies, it is all dependent on how the song effects the mood of the scene. If the song is just delegated to being in the background, the song would become forgettable. For example, in the movie Baby Driver, The song “Hocus Pocus” By Focus is used to convey the chaos of the scene.

This scene is an example of why people would seek out the song used in it. The clip is fast paced, intense, character driven, and well edited to allow for objects in the movie to match beat of the song. The combination of these elements make what would be an otherwise obscure song stand out and allow new audiences to discover it through its use in the film.


For those new to the blog, what is a song that you associate with a particular movie or scene? Leave your examples in the comment section below.

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