Johnny plays guitar! Johnny directs two music videos! Johnny narrates a film about a legendary rock band! Johnny is a Grammy nominee! All this and more occurred in 2009, showing much to look forward to in 2010, as well.
First, the Grammy nomination. Johnny and Douglas Brinkley were nominated for their extensive liner notes to Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson – Music From The Film. This marks Johnny’s first official Grammy nomination, to my knowledge. The Sweeney Todd soundtrack was nominated last year; while the Mamma Mia! soundtrack was listed as by “Meryl Streep (& Various Artists)”, Sweeney Todd‘s soundtrack was only denoted as by “Various Artists,” so there was no specific nod to Johnny. (Bah!) Even though Johnny is not now being nominated as a musician, it’s cool that since his first love is music, he is being recognized by the music industry. Not everyone takes this nomination seriously- fellow nominees Susan and Lloyd Ecker, who wrote the notes for Sophie Tucker: Origins of the Red-Hot Mama, 1910-1922, say in a Marketwire news item that they are “conceding the ‘Pirate’ vote.” I suppose this is the Eckers’ attempt at a joke, perhaps in the vein of Sophie Tucker herself. But I feel that they’re insinuating that Johnny might win based on popularity of a film character rather than on merit. Bah again! At any rate, whether you feel the Gonzo notes are worthy of an award or not, we will find out who wins the Grammy on January 31.
In 2009, Johnny also provided the narration for the Tom DiCillo-directed Doors documentary, When You’re Strange. After premiering at Sundance and screening a second time in Berlin with a temporary narration by DiCillo, Johnny recorded his narration in the spring of 2009, and the film screened for the first time with his narration on June 21 at the LA Film Festival. The film screened at numerous film festivals worldwide during the summer and fall of 2009, and has picked up distribution deals in France, UK, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia, with a US deal hopefully coming any time now. Of Johnny’s contribution, DiCillo says, “[Johnny] had been my first choice. My sense was always that the film needed a real actor to perform the narration, someone who could genuinely relate to the Doors and tell the story as if it really meant something to him. He has succeeded.” As someone who grew up with The Doors in the 60’s, I can’t wait for the film’s release!
Johnny also found time in his busy schedule to direct two music videos during the year. The first, Vanessa Paradis’ Il y a, was released in October to promote her new Best Of CD (which also features a Paradis/Depp-penned song, St. Germain, which originally appeared on her 2000 album, Bliss). The second, Babybird’s Unloveable, was filmed in September and will be released in conjunction with Babybird’s upcoming CD, Ex-Maniac, in March of 2010. It has also been announced that Johnny played guitar on the song, which will be the lead single for the album. While in 2009 we were treated to Johnny’s appearance on Glenn Tilbrook’s Too Close To The Sun from the Pandemonium Ensues CD, that participation was spoken word. Having a guest appearance as a guitarist to look forward to is even better!
Some things I wrote about in my 2008 year-end blog did not end up happening in 2009. The follow-up to the 2006 Rogue’s Gallery CD is apparently still on, and according to producer Hal Willner, will be released in 2010, and will indeed feature Johnny as a musician. We’ll see! We also have not yet seen theatrical or DVD releases of Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora or Do It For Johnny, but I am still hoping for progress on both of these films in 2010. One other possibility for the coming year is for Johnny to contribute to an upcoming Patti Smith album. In a June BBC interview with Edith Bowman, Johnny divulged, “I think I might play on Patti Smith’s next record… just a bit, a song or something.” Since the two were spotted together several times throughout the year, I’m hoping that they’re planning such a collaboration. As of now, however, I don’t know of any specific plans on Patti’s part to release an album. Let’s hope!
Here’s to Johnny Depp continuing to Rock in 2010!