For most of the '60s and '70s, Clint Eastwood was the paragon of manliness, a tough and gritty son of a bitch who has no time for softness. So imagine the surprise of his many macho fans when, in 1969, they went to see the western Paint Your Wagon only to find that The Man With No Name was singing and prancing through nature like a leathery Julie Andrews.
But don't for a moment think that the gritty action star did an awful musical to pay the bills. If anything, Clint got into acting so he could do an awful musical. Since his start in showbiz, Eastwood not-so-secretly yearned to be a crooner. He even used his first big acting break on Rawhide to sneak in several musical acts, putting down wild west tough guys not with a well-placed shot between their shoulders but with a ballad to stir their hearts.
Eventually, Eastwood was offered a record deal (a standard move for pretty starlets) by Cameo Records. In 1961, he recorded a string of singing cowboy singles that culminated in his one and only album: Rawhide's Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites -- in case you were wondering whether the record execs were banking on his fame or his talent.
By now, you're probably catching onto the fact that Clint Eastwood, a man best known for squeezing his lines through gritted teeth, isn't an exceptional vocalist. But that didn't stop him from getting a number one hit. Teaming up with Americana icon Merle Haggard, Eastwood topped the U.S. country charts with the song Bar Room Buddies ... in 1980. By that point, Eastwood was thirty years into a seventy-year quest to perfect the old man snarl, making his contribution sound like Haggard is doing a duet with an alligator who left the swamp to fulfill its dream of becoming a lounge singer.
But despite his singing career having hit its gravelly peak, Eastwood never quit on his love of music. When he transitioned to directing movies, he also started composing his own scores. It's where he found his true musical calling, creating hauntingly beautiful soundtracks that benefit from having absolutely no vocals whatsoever.
… Except for one, and I'll leave you with this dulcet lullaby. At the ripe age of 78, with a voice you can only get by starting every day gargling nails dipped in wood alcohol, Eastwood came out of crooning retirement to sing a love song about a muscle car in the last of his Get Off My Lawn trilogy, Gran Torino. Play us out, Clint.
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Top Image: Cameo Records