From Bruce Willis to William Shatner, we all know about the many actors who’ve tried their hand at music with varying degrees of success. But with the recent news that Pope Francis is releasing a rock record entitled Wake Up! (he must be a big Arcade Fire fan), we started thinking about forgotten albums from non-actor celebrities to enter the world and, invariably, disappear into the depths of history.
Here are five albums from public figures other than actors we’re guessing you didn’t know about.
Pope John Paul II, Abba Pater (1999)
Pope Francis (i.e., “the cool Pope”) won’t be the first pontiff to drop an LP. Pope John Paul II actually did so twice during his papacy — first in 1979 and then in 1999 with the devotional album Abba Pater (Good Father). While the music was original (although he didn’t compose it), the lyrics were mostly based on the Bible and things you’d hear during Catholic mass.
L. Ron Hubbard, Space Jazz (1982)
What is it about being the unquestioned head of a religion that makes people think they can do anything, including music? Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — with special appearances from jazz legend Chick Corea and his wife, Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Gayle Moran — created the first soundtrack for a book, that being his own sci-fi opus Battlefield Earth. Hubbard is listed as “composer and lyricist for the album” and has a writing credit on most of the tracks.
Maya Angelou, Miss Calypso (1957)
Twelve years before the release of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou recorded an album of (actually good) calypso music amidst the national craze for Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Angelou sings on all of the tracks and is the sole composer of five Miss Calypso songs. While surprising in lieu of her later career, Angelou experienced some success as a singer-dancer before her work in poetry and writing took her to national acclaim.
Allen Ginsberg, Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake (1970)
Another album from a famous poet — although unlike Angelou, Allen Ginsberg recorded this after becoming a nationally renowned writer. While U2‘s surprise album was inspired by the same collection of William Blake poetry, Ginsberg’s album is a direct musical reading of Blake’s two most famous poetry collections. Ginsberg sings on the album in addition to playing the harmonium and finger cymbals. If it sounds goofy, that’s because it is. Do yourself a favor and listen to at least one minute of this bizarre curio.
Muhammad Ali, Ali & His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay (1976)
World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali embarked on his mostly forgotten crusade for children’s dental hygiene in the ’70s. This album is a musical journey starring Ali and featuring Frank Sinatra and sports announcer Howard Cosell, who describes Mr. Tooth Decay as “tougher than Joe Frazier and George Foreman.” Ali leaves the singing to the children but is surprisingly committed to his role as a cavity K.O.-ing crusader.