Woody Guthrie with "This machine kills fascists" sticker on his guitar.

Look for the Union [Record] Label

With the current SAG-AFTRA strike, there are plenty of actors who are not trodding the proverbial stage but, assuming they are supportive individuals who care about their colleagues (and who are sufficiently self-interested in the union getting a good contract with the studios), walking the picket line.

But it is evidently the case that performers like to perform (which could explain, in part, why there are so many performers, particularly of the musical genre, who continue long after you’d think they’d have wandered off to Del Boca Vista).

For some of them, the answer is fairly straightforward: They can return to a full-throated embrace of where they once belonged.

As musicians.

Here are some:

Dwight Yoakam: Although Yoakam is associated with the Bakersfield Sound, he was born in genre-appropriate Pikesville, Kentucky. Bakersfield is a couple hours north of LA, which is the place where Yoakam moved to in the early ‘80s. The distance from LA to Hollywood is, well, in some cases, nothing. Anyway, Yoakam released Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. in 1986, followed by Hillbilly Deluxe (1987) and Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (1988), which contains the cover of Buck Owens “Streets of Bakersfield” (to close the loop on the opening sentence here). In 1991 Yoakam appeared in an episode of a TV series, “P.S.I. Luv U,” as a stuntman and. . .country singer. Then it was from the small screen to the large, as he played a truck driver in a crime caper with an interesting triumvirate on the bill for Red Rock West: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper and Lara Flynn Boyle. That was released in 1993, the year of YoakamThis Time, which includes “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” which garnered him his first Grammy. His biggest film performance to date was in 1996’s Sling Blade, where he co-stars with Billy Bob Thornton—himself a musician as he was a drummer in a band named Tres Hombres. Yoakam then appeared in The Newton Boys (1998) directed by Richard Linklater, and headed by Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke and Skeet Ulrich, which I mention because “Skeet Ulrich” is such an interesting name. Getting closer to his métier, he appeared in a thriller, The Minus Man (1999)—also starring Sheryl Crow. Perhaps trying to get some sort of EGOT, in 2000 he co-wrote, directed, starred in, and wrote a soundtrack for South of Heaven, West of Hell. 2002 put him in David Fincher’s Panic Room. There were a few more acting rolls, with one of the more notable being in the streaming show “Goliath” (2016), where he was (1) creepy and (2) reunited with Billy Bob Thornton. 2016 was the last year he released an album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars. . . . The time may be right.

Lady Gaga: She is arguably one of the hardest-working performers in show business, and it really seems as though her career is predicated on that in the broadest sense of the word. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta apparently obtained the name she is popularly known by from an ex-boyfriend’s reference to the 1984 Queen song “Radio Ga Ga.” After a brief signing and departure from Def Jam Records, in 2007 Gaga was signed to Interscope Records as a songwriter for other acts on the label including New Kids on the Block and The Pussycat Dolls. She was to open for the Dolls’ 2009 Dolls Domination Tour in Europe and Oceania before headlining her own The Fame Ball Tour, predicated in large part on her debut album, The Fame (2008), which was followed by her second album, The Fame Monster (2009). (It is not clear whether the 1980 film Fame was the predicate; that movie is set in the New York High School for the Performing Arts; Germanotta (as she was still monikered) performed in high school musicals at Regis High in New York.) In 2001 she made her (small) screen debut in an episode of “The Sopranos,” playing a high school student. In 2009 she appeared in an episode of “Gossip Girl.” In 2013 she had a role in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. She played herself in Muppets Most Wanted (2014), in a scene in which Tony Bennett also appears. 2014 is the year that the Gaga-Bennett collaboration Cheek to Cheek was released. She obtained a starring role in “American Horror Story” in 2015-16, appearing in 15 episodes. In 2018 she starred in A Star Is Born. She won an Academy Award for “Shallow,” which she performs in the film with Bradley Cooper; she also took a Golden Globe and Grammy for the song, which is cowritten by Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt. She also was nominated Best Actress for her role, though she didn’t win. (Coincidentally enough, Rami Malek won Best Actor for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody, which brings us back to “Radio Ga Ga.” In 2021 she starred in House of Gucci. She contributed to the soundtrack of Maverick: Top Gun. Next year, assuming that it is released then, she will be Harley Quinn in Joker: Folie à Deux. Notably, in a music career that has began in 2008 she has released just five solo albums and two with Tony Bennett. The musician who is probably now known more as an actress undoubtedly now has an opportunity to reestablish herself as a performer.

Miscellaneous: LL Cool J’s “NCIS: Los Angeles” was cancelled before the strike; perhaps he was somewhat prescient as he is heading up the F.O.R.C.E (Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) tour, which includes DJ Jazzy Jeff (who never got the sort of fame that acting brought to his former sidekick, Will Smith, although Smith may want to kickstart his musical career once again until the strike is over) and will have as a guest Queen Latifah, whose “Equalizer” TV show is not able to be filmed, so good for her. Ice-T can continue to star in ads for CarShield, as those aren’t prohibited by the SAG-AFTRA rules. Similarly, Jennifer Lopez can still shill the “Jen-ergy” she gets from Goli Gummies. Although Marky Mark pretty much ended his musical career in 1997, the year he starred as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights, New Kids on the Block are still touring (e.g., they’ll be at the Choctaw Casio & Resort in Durant, Oklahoma on August 11), so they’d probably be pleased to get the Wahlberg brothers back together, although Mark could probably ride out the actor’s strike by spending time at his various Chevrolet dealerships in Ohio.

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