3 Songs You Didn’t Know William Shatner Wrote

Starting out in small roles in the 1950s, William Shatner later embodied the role of Captain James T. Kirk on the USS Enterprise from 1966 to 1969 on the original Star Trek series. He later starred as the veteran Los Angeles police officer on the 1980s TV crime drama T.J. Hooker and continued jumping into assorted roles in film and television throughout his 70-plus-year career.

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In the middle of starring on Star Trek, Shatner also started his music career and released his debut album, The Transformed Man, which featured musical monologues pulled from classical literature.

Throughout his musical career, Shatner has covered a diverse space of genres and only began writing a large portion of his own songs later in his career through his 2021 album, Bill. Now in his 90s, Shatner continues to prosper in music. In 2023, Shatner was the subject of the documentary, You Can Call Me Bill. Just days before his 92nd birthday, Shatner gave a Keynote address at the SXSW, and he is set to embark on a tour in later 2023.

In honor of Shatner’s exploratory career in music, here’s a look at three songs he wrote from the early 2000s through the 2020s.

1. “Has Been” (2004)
Written by William Shatner and Ben Folds

After releasing his 1977 live album, Shatner took a long hiatus from music, only releasing a compilation album of his and former Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy’s recorded songs in 1996.

Following the form of his debut, The Transformed Man, Shatner’s 2004 album, Has Been, featured a new collection of songs as monologues, written by the actor and set to music. A majority of the tracks on Has Been were co-written by him and his producer Ben Folds, including “It Hasn’t Happened Yet,” “You’ll Have Time,” “Familiar Love,” “Ideal Woman,” and “I Can’t Get Behind That,” along with “What Have You Done,” which was penned entirely by Shatner, and “Together,” co-written with his ex-wife Elizabeth Shatner and the British electronic duo Lemon Jelly.

Shatner and Folds also co-penned the title track, set to a spaghetti western arrangement about three wandering characters. Has Been also features guest appearances by Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, and Henry Rollins, along with Brad Paisley who is also featured on “Real,” a song he wrote specifically for Shatner.

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?
You calling me has been?
What’d you say your name is?

Glad to meet ya. Who’s your friend?

What do ya know. And you friend,
what’s your handle?

Riding on their armchairs,
they dream of wealth and fame.
Fear is their companion,
Nintendo is their game.
Never Done Jack and Two-Thumbs Don
and side-kick Don’t Say Dick
will laugh at others failures
though they have not done shit

2. “So Far From the Moon,” featuring Brad Paisley (2021)
Written by William Shatner, Daniel Miller, and Robert Sharenow

In 2021, Shatner experienced a full-circle moment when he became the oldest man to ever go into space, at 90, aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle flight. That same year, he released an autobiographical album that also made him reminisce about his earlier Star Trek days.

Shatner’s 2021 album, Bill, chronicles key moments in his 90 years, including his obsessions in “Love, Death, and Horses,” a school bully on “Toughie,” and other pivotal memories. “It’s such a work of heart,” said Shatner describing the deeply personal album, along with Joe Walsh, John Lurie, Joan as Policewoman, Joe Jonas, and more.

Released to commemorate his 90th birthday, Shatner co-wrote the tracks with They Might Be Giants’ Dan Miller and television producer Robert Sharenow and worked on the album remotely during the pandemic. On Bill, Shatner also shares one of the lowest moments in his life, following the cancellation of Star Trek in 1969, when his 13-year marriage to Gloria Rand also came to an end, and he was nearly broke, living in a truck on “So Far From the Moon.”

“My marriage was canceled, so was my show,” said Shatner, elaborating on the country-bent track, which also features recurring guest Brad Paisley, who also appeared on his 2004 album, Has Been. “I was divorced. I lost my children, and even though I’d been in ‘Star Trek,’ I didn’t have any money.”

Booking some summer theater performances on the east coast, Shatner decided to get there by driving and living in his truck with his dog. “One evening, I was playing in Montauk in the Hamptons,” said Shatner. “I was parked in the pasture, lying down and looking up at the moon. It was a clear night, and I’ve got a four-inch television set on my chest. I’m looking at the guys landing on the moon and thinking about the teeny contributions we made.”

Shatner added, “Our ratings went up and Congress voted for more money for the space program. In a way, I had been associated with the very people who were on the moon, and there I was lying in a truck bed out in a pasture in the Hamptons, broke and broken.”

The Apollo Mission took off
The planet watched, enthralled
But man’s greatest achievement
Made this man feel so small
I stared up at the sky
Stars like little pins
Armstrong took a giant leap
While I fell down again

3. “Where Does Time Go?” (2023)
Written by William Shatner

Originally released on Shatner’s 2013 album, Ponder the Mystery, “Where Does Time Go?” questions the passing of time. Does it go into space? No one really knows.

A decade after releasing the song, featuring the late jazz musician and composer, George Duke—who also appeared in the original version—Shatner revisited the reflective track.

Time is no more
I plan for the weekend
I drive to sea
Lunch at the deli
No time for tea
Where does time go
?

With only you, is is peace?
And everything slows down

At last, my mind rest
And I see, if profound

Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage

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