Bruce Willis, R&B star?
It nearly happened!
Well, actually, it didn’t come close to happening but it wasn’t for lack of trying. In 1987, when Willis was still best known for co-starring on Moonlighting, Motown records released The Return of Bruno, an album that featured Willis and a host of well-respected musicians performing 10 R&B classics.
The Return of Bruno is actually a concept album, with Willis taking on the role of Bruno Radolini, a legendary soul singer who influenced everyone from Elton John to The Bee Gees. The Return of Bruno peaked at number 14 on the US Billboard 2000 chart and was later named the 4th worst album ever recorded by Q Magazine. It has since become a collector’s item. (My father owns a copy!) Willis performed the songs in his own style, which means that despite the presence of Booker T. Jones, The Pointer Sisters, and The Temptations performing backing vocals, this is still the smirkiest R&B album of all time. The best way to describe it would be to say that it sounds like John McClane performing karaoke.
There’s an idea! Die Hard 6: Sing For Your Life.
Heard you the first time, Bruce!
The biggest hit to come off the album was a cover of Respect Yourself, a duet with June Pointer that featured backing vocals from the other Pointer Sisters. The music video for Respect Yourself plays to what was then considered to be Bruce’s main strengths as an actor: blue collar cockiness and a refusal to let something like a lack of any real musical talent hold him back.
Two years after The Return of Bruno, Willis released one final album, another collection of R&B covers called If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes Your Stronger. Considering Willis went from The Return of Bruno to starring in Die Hard, it was an appropriate title.