Bruce Willis is known for many classic movie roles: reluctant hero John McClane in Die Hard; an on-the-run boxer in Pulp Fiction; a (spoiler alert) dead therapist in The Sixth Sense; heck, he’s even the voice of a baby in Look Who’s Talking. But many casual fans may not know the actor is also quite the accomplished musician, too.
On Sunday (March 19), Demi Moore shared a heartwarming video of the star’s family celebrating his 68th birthday with an enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
“Happy birthday, BW! So glad we could celebrate you today. Love you and love our family. Thank you to everyone for the love and warm wishes – we all feel them,” the actress — who was married to Willis from 1987 to 2000 — wrote alongside the song.
The moment was made all the more precious by the fact that Willis is battling frontotemporal dementia, a progression from his earlier diagnosis of aphasia. As a result, the Willis family shared a public statement last month that the prolific actor would be stepping away from his career, as the disease had begun affecting his cognition and ability to work on a film set.
In the birthday video, Willis sings vigorously along with his family, reminding fans of the vocal chops hiding behind his action-star persona.
Billboard has rounded up seven of Willis’ best musical moments — from soundtrack contributions and collaborations to the stage of Saturday Night Live and the Motown album you might not remember he released in the late ’80s. Scroll through Willis’ most memorable musical moments below.
While starring in the ABC TV series Moonlighting from 1985 to 1989, Willis contributed to the show’s official 1987 soundtrack by covering “Good Lovin’,” the Young Rascals’ Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit from 1966. His co-star Cybill Shepherd also performed on a pair tracks on the album: the late ’40s jazz tune “I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out!” and Rodgers and Hart’s 1934 ballad “Blue Moon.”
Scoring Billboard Hits
In 1987, Willis released his debut album, The Return of Bruno. Not only did the soulful Motown Records’ release feature an all-star roster of backing musicians — including Booker T. Jones, The Pointer Sisters and The Temptations — but it peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and spawned a Hot 100 top five hit with “Respect Yourself,” a duet with June Pointer.
The album was also accompanied by an HBO mockumentary of the same name, in which Willis leans fully into his blues alter-ego Bruno Radolini. Two years later, he followed the album up with his sophomore effort, If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.
Willis’ 1991 Razzie-winning action/comedy Hudson Hawk may have been a box office bomb, but the movie’s surrealist humor allowed him to flex his vocal chops in a running musical gag with co-star Danny Aiello. (Over the course of the film, the two thieves duet on Bing Crosby’s “Swinging On a Star” and Paul Anka’s “Side By Side,” both of which were featured on the film’s official soundtrack.) Plus, Willis and Robert Kraft penned not only the movie’s story, but its Dr. John-performed theme song, too.
'The Whole Nine Yards'
Willis headlined 2000’s The Whole Nine Yards opposite Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan and Amanda Peet. The crime comedy, featuring the Die Hard star as a former hitman hiding from his old mob boss, gave the actor yet another chance to hop on a soundtrack — this time via the bluesy instrumental jam “Tenth Avenue Tango,” which hailed from his 1989 sophomore studio album.
'Rugrats Go Wild'
“Hey man, don’t forget my rawhide!” One of the most delightful credits in Willis’ decades-long filmography is his turn as the voice of Spike, the Pickles family’s trusty dog, in the 2003 big-screen adventure Rugrats Go Wild. While the animated flick found Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica and co. teaming up with The Wild Thornberrys on a deserted island, Eliza Thornberry’s ability to hear animals gave Willis-as-Spike the perfectly bonkers excuse to put a hilariously howling spin on Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life.”
Collaborating with Blues Traveler
Blues Traveler enlisted Willis for a memorable guest feature on their 2008 album North Hollywood Shootout. The jam band included a scorching spoken word piece featuring the actor, titled “Free Willis (Ruminations from Behind Uncle Bob’s Machine Shop),” as the closing track on the studio set.
'Saturday Night Live'
Willis has hosted Saturday Night Live twice over the course of his career — once in Sept. 1989 and again in Oct. 2013. Though more than two decades separate his two appearances on the late-night sketch series, the actor used both shows to flaunt his skills on the harmonica. During his opening monologue the second time around, the actor poked fun at the existence of five Die Hard movies before finding himself in a harmonica battle with then-cast member Bobby Moynihan. And in case you’re wondering, yes, he absolutely dominated.