To paraphrase The Shaggs, the skinny people want what the skinny people’s got and the fat people want what the skinny people’s got. That seems to explain actors and actresses as well as athletes who, having gained notoriety in their field, often take a stab at music.
And, there have been musicians who have opted to treat us to their skills as thespians.
However, I was pondering notable musicians who might have once held promise or harbored dreams of being a professional athlete.
This question marinated in my head while I was watching part of an NBA playoff game. In the late ’70s/early ’80s, I was a devout fan of professional basketball, something that was not always easy to do before Bird and Magic entered the league and put games into American households on a regular basis.
(I distinctly recall tuning into games during the ’78 finals between Washington and Seattle at 11:30pm as they were slotted into those late-night times as tape delayed offerings)
Anyhow, now I rarely watch pro hoops aside from catching some of the playoff games. The one the other night proved unspectacular enough to hold my interest.
I picked up a Jim Carroll album which Paloma had recently purchased. Carroll, best known for his song People Who Died, had seen his journals published as The Basketball Diaries, which chronicled his double life as a high school basketball star/heroin addict.
It spurred me to wonder what other musicians might have considered or had the ability to pursue an athletic career.
It’s been told of how when touring Bob Marley & The Wailers much of their down time was spent playing football. Had the stars aligned differently might Bob or Peter Tosh have led a Jamaican national team to glory in the World Cup?
I remembered that Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger had been a minor league baseball player and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich had been a ranked tennis player as a teen in Sweden.
It made me wonder if Tom Petty had been a natural at shortstop in junior high and is, perhaps, still a force on the softball field when his clan gathers for family reunions.
It amuses me to think that the members of Cheap Trick might be the nucleus of a hoops juggernaut, dominating all-comers at some rec center in Rockford – Robin Zander running the point, Bun E. Carlos down in the low post, and Rick Nielsen manning the wing.
A few songs by acts who I know have had some connection to sports…
Fountains Of Wayne – Radiation Vibe
I remember how popular (or, at least how critically acclaimed with critics) Radiation Vibe was back in the mid-’90s. I suppose most people best know Fountains Of Wayne for Stacy’s Mom, but that one wore thin with me rather quickly.
Each time Radiation Vibe pops up on shuffle, I make a mental note (which I promptly lose) to delve deeper into Fountains Of Wayne’s catalog.
Blue Oyster Cult – Perfect Water
I could have sworn I had People Who Died on some compilation disc (but I don’t) and I haven’t yet ripped the Jim Carroll record Paloma bought…
However, I seem to be on some subconscious wavelength to ensure the world gets its RDA of BOC. The last album of theirs I bought was Club Ninja in ’86. It was not a good album, but Perfect Water was one of the few songs that were worthy and it was written by Mr. Carroll.
Chris Isaak – Somebody’s Crying
I’ve always thought Chris Isaak’s music to be pleasant and good-natured and he always seemed to be pleasant and good-natured. He wandered into a record store where I worked once and he was, yeah, pleasant and good-natured.
He was also – and uncharacteristic for most musicians I’ve met – a big guy. It was quite easy to envision him as a Golden Gloves champion (which he was).
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
My all-time greatest arch-enemy had to have been my third-grade teacher. More days than not, the two of us were at odds. I was (mostly) indifferent to music and she was an Alice Cooper fan.
I’m not sure if that was why I never bothered with Alice Cooper’s music or rather because during the ’80s – my musically formative years – he wasn’t on top of his game. Since Paloma and I have been buying vinyl, one of my favorite revelations has been how very, very good Cooper was in the first half of the ’70s.