Roundup: Musicians who can act, really

Tom Petty as Lucky
Tom Petty as “Lucky”

Buck Owens may have sang it first, but musicians often dip their toes momentarily into the acting world. Some do it well, some don’t and they come up with some really creative roles to play. I’m not talking about walk-ons where they play themselves but honest-to-goodness roles.

Tom Petty

Yes, I’m talking about Tom again. But there’s so much to say about him. For instance, he’s got a recurring voice role in “King of the Hill” as “Lucky,” the fortunately unfortunate guy who lives off an injury settlement seen kneeling in the picture above. He fits in perfectly and it’s absolutely hilarious.

To be fair, as much as I love Tom, his role in “The Postman” wasn’t as great. Though his music videos usually rock, but that’s another topic.

Dolly Parton

Nine to Five

Wow. She’s a BUSY lady, between all the music and charity she does she’s got time to act.

Currently she’s playing Miley’s aunt on “Hannah Montana” and while this does come super close to qualifying as a walk-on there’s enough basis for having the character be Dolly Parton that it counts. It is a show about a pop star.

Not into the Disney channel? No problem, Dolly’s been on “Reba” as a real estate agent, and if I’m not mistaken she had a role on Bette Midler’s sitcom.

And then there’s the movies. She started as Doralee Rhodes, secretary and co-conspirator with Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda) and Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) in the boss-napping escapades in “9 to 5“.

She played the brothel owner, Mona Stangley, in “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas,” she was Shirlee Kenyon, a wildly popular talk radio personality in “Straight Talk,” and the hairdressing cut-up Truvey Jones in “Steel Magnolias.”

I won’t count the more true-to-life (as in she plays some sort of musician/singer) roles she had in “Rhinestone,” “A Smokey Mountain Christmas,” or “Unlikely Angel.” Her cameo on “Beverly Hillbillies” also doesn’t count, sorry.

Bette Midler

The Rose

Like Dolly, Bette usually does the music for the films she’s in. And like Dolly, she’s incredibly talented and absolutely side-splittingly funny. Unlike Dolly, she doesn’t portray herself or a character like herself very often.

She started a string of fantastic movies in 1979 with “The Rose,” loosely based on Janis Joplin, and really I don’t think anyone else at the time would have been capable of capturing that role, which excuses it from the aforementioned playing herself rule.

She plays Barbara Whiteman in Disney’s first ever “R” rated release, “Down and Out In Beverly Hills,” and that same year she was the “kidnapped by K-Mart” Barbara Stone in “Ruthless People.”

In 1987 as Sandy Brozinsky, she and Shelley Long were chased by every government agency and a variety of other bad-guys in “Outrageous Fortunes” before playing Lily Tomlin’s twin, Sadie Ratliff (and Lily Tomlin’s twin, Sadie Shelton) in “Big Business” the next year. Of course, there’s “Beaches,” but as C.C. Bloom she essentially plays herself with a different name. However, this does not take away from the fact it’s a funny then sad classic with one of those theme songs that everyone knows.

In the 90’s her plan for eternal life was foiled by meddling children in “Hocus Pocus,” she traveled overseas entertaining troops as Dixie Leonhard in “For The Boys” and she schemed with Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn in “First Wives Club.” Finally, she’s the dead Mona Dearly in “Drowning Mona” and writer Bobbie Markowitz who becomes an unlikely convert in the remake of “Stepford Wives.”

Some honorable mentions:

Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis in
“Troop Beverly Hills”

Child-star turned rocker without all the drama? Can it be? Yup, she managed.

She’s got a ton of TV roles, she played Shelley Long’s daughter in “Troop Beverly Hills,” and she was Haley in “The Wizard.” Here she is in “Big Girls Don’t Cry, They Get Even.
Photo from “Troop Beverly Hills”

Lyle Lovett

He’s in the Texas Film Hall of Fame right alongside Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey and Sissy Spacek. Who knew? It was actually for his soundtracks, but he does act, kinda.

He had a small role on “Mad About You,” was Sheriff Carl Tippett in “The Opposite of Sex,” Wade in “Bastard Out of Carolina” and Detective DeLongpre in “The Player.” He had a handful of small parts in films like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Cookie’s Fortune.”

Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi as Sylvia Pickel

She’s not the world’s most notable actress, but her accent and hair alone make her great. And she’s got an Emmy in 1995 for her role as Marianne Lugasso on “Mad About You.”

In her first real film, “Vibes” she played Sylvia Pickel, a crazy psychic hired to find a hidden treasure. If you get past the ’80s special effects it’s a funny movie. She was in “Life with Mikey” and “The Opportunists” and has a bunch of voice roles in kid’s shows. They’re pretty cute.
Photo from “Vibes”

Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin in Signed First Edition
Patty in “Signed First Edition”

Yes, I had to mention her too. But with good reason. Her resume isn’t as long as the other people on this list but there’s hope with her role in “Baghdad, Texas” set to come out… well, soon. Maybe.

Until then, she’s got one whole line as Sharon in “Elizabethtown” (though “Long Ride Home” and her version of “Moon River” are featured) and she played Nicole Baker in Matthew Barney’s super weird art film, “Cremaster 2.”

Finally, she has a starring role in the short film, “Signed First Edition” which is not only funny but it has a twist at the end.
Photo from “Signed First Edition”

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