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*This mailbag originally posted Dec. 6, 2010.
We’re featuring just one question this week, since it’s such a good one that invites extensive, and fun, rummaging through Billboard‘s chart archives.
With Gwyneth Paltrow assisting the Glee cast the past two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Forget You” and “Singing in the Rain / Umbrella,” I was wondering if you could provide a list of songs by actors/actresses-turned-singers that have charted on Billboard lists.
Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Paltrow is merely the latest in a long line of such renaissance men and women, while the Glee cast is combining music and acting like few others before. The troupe has totaled 97 Hot 100 hits in the past 18 months.
In addition to Paltrow, the Glee cast has previously brought a screen star to the Hot 100. “Dream On,” featuring Neil Patrick Harris, reached No. 26 in June.
Here is but a partial list, in no particular order, of other celebrated actors and actresses that have impacted Billboard charts. In the spirit of Paltrow’s acting résumé sporting abundantly more credits than her musical output, we’ll stick to those known primarily for their acting talents, as opposed to those more synonymous with both music and acting (a la Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, to name a Disney-related few).
Jennifer Love Hewitt
The film and TV star reached the Pop Airplay chart in 1999 with “How Do I Deal” (No. 36) and in 2002 with “Barenaked” (No. 35), the latter cut the title song from her fourth album.
Bo Duke of The Dukes of Hazzard sped to 17 Hot Country Songs hits between 1981 and 1987, including four No. 1s.
… Cousin Luke Duke, meanwhile, placed 11 titles on Hot Country Songs between 1986 and 1991.
Starring in TV’s My So-Called Life and films including How to Make an American Quilt, Girl, Interrupted and Panic Room, Leto has racked three No. 1s on Alternative Airplay in his role as frontman for Thirty Seconds to Mars: “From Yesterday” (2007) and “Kings and Queens” and “This Is War” (2010).
TV’s beloved Wonder Woman leapt to No. 10 on Jazz Albums last year with At Last.
With a Hot 100 discography that makes 10-year-old Willow Smith seem of a certain age, the former Cosby Show star climbed to No. 68 on the Hot 100 in 1993 with “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” She knew of what she sang, reaching the chart at age 7.
The star of The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with Speak in 2004, while A Little More Personal (Raw) bowed at No. 20 a year later. She also charted two songs on Pop Airplay: “Rumors” (No. 23, 2004) and “Over” (No. 39, 2005).
The Golden Globe-nominated star topped Heatseekers Albums in 2008 with Anywhere I Lay My Head. Her Pete Yorn duets album Break Up reached the top 10 on Top Rock Albums a year later.
Known for roles in Ally McBeal and, currently, 30 Rock, Krakowski made her film debut as Cousin Vicki in National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983. (Her character’s signature deadpan line about her kissing skills was edited for TV as “My science teacher says I’m the best at it” …) Long after leaving Cousin Eddie’s family farm, she provided the vocals for, and scored a featured artist credit on, Jim Brickman‘s No. 4 Adult Contemporary ballad “You” in 2003.
The actor moonlighted as a singer, exhibiting a sixth sense for hit-making. He made two Hot 100 visits in 1987: “Respect Yourself” (No. 5) and “Under the Boardwalk” (No. 59).
The legendary star of films including the 1980 movie Bronco Billy turned a song from that film – “Bar Room Buddies,” with Merle Haggard – into a No. 1 hit on Hot Country Songs.
While playing goofy and good-natured Joey Russo on Blossom, the then-amply-coiffed actor singer enjoyed two Hot 100 hits in 1993, including the No. 19 “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix.”
The accomplished late Irish actor, known best to younger viewers as paternal Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies, tallied four Hot 100 hits, including 1968’s No. 2 “MacArthur Park.”
The Bonanza TV star galloped to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1964 with “Ringo.”
Even before his popularity exploded with roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Travolta, then a not-so-studious student on Welcome Back, Kotter, reached No. 10 on the Hot 100 in 1976 with “Let Her In.” He added five more chart entries through 1978.
Two years after the 1984 debut of Miami Vice, Johnson rode the wave of the TV show’s popularity to No. 5 on the Hot 100 with “Heartbeat.”
The multi-talented talk show host/improv actor has resided on Billboard charts repeatedly since 2005. His 2008 set A Long Time Coming peaked at No. 20 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
The Fifth Element actress (and one-time hilarious guest on Married…With Children as a French exchange student whom the Bundys welcomed only for the stipend that accompanied her presence) rose to No. 21 on Alternative Airplay in 1994 with “Gentlemen Who Fell.”
Peg Bundy herself vacated her favorite place – the living room couch – long enough to reach No. 33 on Heatseekers Albums with Well… in 1994 (the same week that Jovovich peaked with her sole entry on Alternative Airplay).
The Wings comedienne took flight on Adult Contemporary in 1995 with “Forever Tonight,” a duet with Peter Cetera (No. 22), and on Hot Country Singles Sales two years later with “State of Mind” (No. 14).
HBO’s Meadow Soprano strolled to a No. 32 peak on Heatseekers Albums in 2001 with Here to Heaven. (She has since expressed regret over the pop album’s quality. How much regret? “I hated every moment of it.”)
As the Black Eyed Peas return the chorus of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” to the Hot 100’s top 10 in “The Time (Dirty Bit)” (13-9), fellow Dirty Dancing smash “She’s Like the Wind” reached No. 3 on the chart for Swayze in 1988.