Harry Dean Stanton's Best Musical Moments: From 'Cool Hand Luke' to a Telethon With Bob Dylan

Harry Dean Stanton
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Harry Dean Stanton stands outside of his home on Feb. 23, 2015 in Los Angeles. 

"I had to decide if I wanted to be a singer or an actor," Harry Dean Stanton once said. "I was always singing. I thought if I could be an actor, I could do all of it." 

Stanton died on Friday of natural causes at the age of 91. The late entertainer --  known by most for his exceptional character roles in film and television, from his breakout part in 1984's Paris, Texas to his portrayals of self-proclaimed Mormon prophet Roman Grant in Big Love and Twin Peaks' Carl Rodd -- will also be remembered for his soothing tenor voice, heard on film and on the live stage. He performed with his own band, as well as with peers like Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson.

As Jason Isbell pointed out, after Stanton's death: "Harry Dean was a truly great actor and he had a beautiful singing voice. If you never heard it, sounded exactly as you'd imagine."

Below, enjoy a selection of his most memorable musical moments.

His Emotional "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" on the Cool Hand Luke Set

"If I fall, dear lord, who cares?" Stanton croons as he strums the guitar in Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 film where he plays the character of Tramp. His performance of the traditional "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" is one of several songs he can be heard singing in the movie, the others including "Midnight Special" and "Ain't No Grave Can Keep My Body Down," though they were not part of the soundtrack album.

His Beautiful Cover of "Canción Mixteca"

Stanton's version of the traditional Mexican folk song was featured in Paris, Texas, and he later performed it live with is own band. Here, enjoy a video of him singing the ballad in a clip that aired in 1997, for the series Access All Areas.

With Art Garfunkel Singing "All I Have to Do Is Dream"

Speaking in tribute to Jack Nicholson, who received an AFI Life Achievement Award in 1994, Stanton was joined by Art Garfunkel to perform The Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream." Stanton started the pair off in tune with a note from the harmonica -- "I just happened to have this with me," he joked -- and they harmonized a capella to the 1958 tune. The impromptu performance at the ceremony inspired some memorable facial expressions from Nicholson, an A-list crowd sing-along and a standing ovation.

He Joins Dylan Onstage at a 1989 Telethon

Thanks to the treasure trove that is YouTube, there is (somewhat fuzzy) footage of Bob Dylan performing alongside his son-in-law Peter Himmelman and Stanton at a 1989 Chabad telethon. The trio took on spirited versions of ?"Hava Nagila" and "Adelita," the latter on which Dylan appears to be playing the recorder while Stanton covers harmonica.

His Twin Peaks Season 3 "Red River Valley" Scene

Stanton delivered a sweet performance of the folk standard as the character of Carl in the season 3 revival of David Lynch's Twin Peaks in 2017. The moment showed him playing the tune alone, in front of his trailer.

Dueting With ?Kris Kristofferson on "Lovin' Her Was Easier"

Kris Kristofferson and Stanton treated an audience to an understated performance of the country singer's 1971 hit "Lovin' Her Was Easier" at Los Angeles' Cinefamily in 2013. The track was featured on the soundtrack for the 1972 film Cisco Pike, which starred the two of them and marked the country singer's first leading role. Stanton actually recommended his pal for the part.

Jamming Together With Kristofferson & Johnny Depp

Another one-time trio performance for Stanton, this cover of "Everybody's Talkin'" (which became a hit by Harry Nilsson in 1969) was played with his friend Kristofferson and Depp in 2016, at the Harry Dean Stanton Award Show, where Stanton received the inaugural award in his name. Stanton sang here, as the other two were on guitar to the side.

The Whole Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction Soundtrack

For the 2012 documentary about Stanton directed by Sophie Huber, the actor recorded a soundtrack released by Omnivore Recordings, featuring renditions of various folk songs. One highlight of many is his poignant cover of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."