Though he's rightfully thought of as an actor and comedian first, Bill Murray's musical career predated either, fronting a Chicago garage rock band as a teenager. And while he chose not to devote himself to rock stardom, he inadvertently achieved it anyway. From his recurring crooner skits on Saturday Night Live in the '70s through his more recent guerrilla karaoke drop-ins, it's clear that music moves the man.
Now, he's taking a more serious show on the road. Following a chance meeting on an airplane, Murray and cellist Jan Vogler collaborated on New Worlds, an album of literary readings, standards and a West Side Story medley, and decided to bring it to live audiences. In celebration of this limited engagement, we surveyed and ranked 10 of Bill Murray's most memorable (and often outrageous) musical "happenings."
1. "Star Wars," Saturday Night Live
There may be no more quintessential character in Murray's oeuvre than Nick the Lounge Singer from the early days of SNL. He took seedy disco-show tune stabs at "Stairway to Heaven" and the theme from Jaws, but it's his bawdy send-up of Star Wars that's truly unforgettable.
2. "More Than This," Lost In Translation
Sofia Coppola gave Murray a role that turned another page in his ever-evolving career. He sang Roxy Music's "More Than This" to Scarlett Johansson with vulnerability and pathos and secured his place in the hearts of yet another generation.
3. "The Best Thing," Polyester
John Waters' transitional film proved the cult director knew what to do with a million-dollar budget. Some of that money was spent recording a short vocal inspirational—penned by Debbie Harry and Michael Kamen—that finds Murray uplifting Divine's troubled housewife, Francine Fishpaw.
4. "It Just Doesn't Matter," Meatballs
While not technically a song, Murray's impassioned (and improvised) speech to a young group of real campers does feature chanting, rhythmic chops and some of the deepest insight into the futility of existence that's ever been shared in a kids' cable-comedy staple.
5. The Dutch Masters
Murray was allegedly in a garage-rock band as a suburban Chicago youth, who named themselves after a commercial for a brand of cigars and performed Rolling Stones and Smokey Robinson covers at parties. Young Murray quit the band in 1967 and no recordings seem to exist, but the mere idea warrants inclusion.
6. "Do You Hear What I Hear? (featuring Chris Rock)," A Very Murray Christmas
For unknown reasons, in 2015 Murray shot a holiday musical for Netflix. This song proves just how well Murray can sing when he wants to—and that Chris Rock can't hope to keep up.
7. "The Bare Necessities," The Jungle Book
Even Murray can't avoid drinking from the Disney teat, as evidenced by his portrayal of a CGI Baloo the Bear in the 2016 live-action version of The Jungle Book. He delivers an off-key version of "The Bare Necessities," including a truly uncalled for bit of scat.
8. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
Murray is a huge Cubs fan, but the national anthem isn't really his style. Instead, he frequently tackles "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in a style that pitches bluster over panache, and occasionally slips in a Daffy Duck impression for some reason.
9. "Smoke on the Water," Rock the Kasbah
In this ill-conceived 2015 comedy, Murray portrays a has-been rock manager who serenades Afghan villagers with the Deep Purple classic. His reckless attempt to play the famous guitar riff on a native instrument is particularly—and purposely—offensive.
10. "I Will Always Love You," The Late Show with David Letterman
Murray was a guest on the first-ever Letterman episode back in 1982. Nearly 30 years later, he made one final appearance, this time dressed as Liberace, and ended his performance with a cacophonous bit of "I Will Always Love You," in the style of Whitney Houston and a wounded water buffalo.
SEE IT: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends play Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, on Tuesday, Nov. 28. 7:30 pm. Sold out. All ages.