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Remembering Don Johnson’s music career

Don Johnson had a problem. It was 1986, and Johnson was one of the hottest television stars of the era, playing as Miami cop Sonny Crockett in the hit NBC drama Miami Vice. With his pastel shirts and white suits, Johnson was a new generation of authority figures on television. He had a gun, but he also had a fashion sense.

Johnson’s problem wasn’t with the show or his shoulder pads, it was the fact that he started talking about his music career and debut album. Heartbeat. Johnson was already feeling the heat from actors trying to sing. It was made worse by the fact that Philip Michael Thomas, his co-star on Miami Vicehad also recorded an album Live the book of my life, that had come and gone without further ado. Johnson wanted to be taken seriously as a singer. He wasn̵

7;t sure if the media or his audience would let him try.

Before ever aspiring to be an actor, Johnson played solos for choral anthems at the Baptist Church in his small hometown of Galena, Missouri. The attention – and the occasional neighborhood – he received could later have piqued his interest in becoming an entertainer. Impressive with a leading role in a production of West Side StoryEventually he won an acting scholarship from the University of Kansas and received a scholarship from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, which took him to Hollywood. From there he took on small roles, including one in the 1975s Return to Macon County, in which Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers, also appeared.

Johnson had always kept an eye on the music scene and used a portion of the proceeds from his acting jobs to pay for demo recordings. (He could sing, play a little guitar, and write.) He wrote two songs with Betts, “Blind Love” and “Can’t Take It With You,” for the band’s 1979 album. Enlightened villains. In the 1970s, he’d also hung out with The Doors and befriended Frank Zappa in order to get a self-admitted training in the music scene’s hedonism without actually being on stage.

Johnson filmed a number of failed television pilots before scoring a goal Miami Vice After the show was a certifiable hit, he went to a party with CBS Records boss Walter Yetnikoff. The two began to discuss Johnson’s interest in music. Yetnikoff believed Johnson’s fame and enthusiastic fan base could help make an album a hit. He signed the then 36-year-old Johnson on a local deal.

There were some obstacles. For one thing, Johnson didn’t have a band. To guide him through the process, he hired manager and record manager Danny Goldberg, who in turn hired Chas Sandford, a songwriter who had worked with Stevie Nicks and John Waite. Soon a group of session players showed up, including bassist Mark Leonard and keyboardist Bill Champlin. Johnson and Sandford began pitching songwriters, many of whom seemed too dependent on Johnson’s connection Miami Vice. Songs called “Mr. Miami ”and“ Miami Don ”were quickly discarded. Instead, Johnson followed a contemporary rock playlist and received contributions from Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Dickey Betts. (Johnson recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami and even caught up with friend Whoopi Goldberg to appear on a track called “Streetwise”.) Johnson himself wrote lyrics for “Heartbeat,” originally composed by drummer Curly Smith has been. It eventually became the title of the album.

With the help of media advisor Elliot Mintz, Johnson managed to avoid some of the luggage this accompanied actors who recorded albums by giving up on them Entertainment tonight in favor of Rolling Stone and other media that focused on music. He stressed that the music ran parallel to his acting career and charmed journalists by selflessly pursuing his ambitions.

“People will say that [record] is bullsh * t and ‘the idiot should stick with what he does,’ “Johnson told the Los Angeles times. “But I’m someone who likes to take risks.”

“Heartbeat” quickly won airplay on top 40 radio stations; The song’s popularity was helped by the fact that Johnson could actually sing. A writer for that Los Angeles times played the album for people without telling them it was Johnson. Everyone was impressed and then in disbelief when told who they were listening to.

Johnsons Miami Vice The schedule made it almost impossible to tour to support the album. Instead, he filmed an hour-long musical that was released on VHS and included all 10 tracks of Heartbeat. (It also shows an appearance by Giancarlo Esposito, who later portrays Gus Fring breaking BadMost of the songs focused on love, with tracks like “Heartache Away”, “The Last Sound Love Makes” and “Can’t Take Your Memory” showing Johnson’s singing talents.

“Heartbeat” made it to number five Billboard Hot 100 chart in October 1986, and Johnson experienced virtually none of the contempt reserved for actors who dared try something different. In 1988 he even played a duet with then girlfriend Barbra Streisand, “Till I Loved You”, and released a second album, Let it rollJohnson appeared as Nathan Detroit in 2007 Boys and dolls. Most of the time, however, he was content to keep his musical interests private.

Heartbeat was ultimately a respectable endeavor for Johnson, although he couldn’t completely separate himself from the reality of being a television star. On some versions of the album, a slogan made this extremely clear. It read: “Don Johnson: The Star of Miami Vice. ”

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