Before he was a Hollywood actor, Johnny Depp was a musician. Born June 9, 1963, Depp started playing in bands when he was 12 years old and later joined the band The Kids and Rock City Angels, before launching his acting career.
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All throughout his career, Depp has continued collaborating with a number of artists, including Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Aerosmith, Marilyn Manson, Shane MacGowan, and Oasis, among others, in between his acting duties. In 2012, he co-founded the supergroup The Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry and released two albums with the band, their eponymous 2015 debut and follow-up, Rise, in 2019.
In 2020, Depp also showcased another big collaboration, his union with the late guitarist Jeff Beck. The two released the album, 18, shortly before Beck’s death in 2023.
Throughout the musical ends of his career, Depp has penned or played guitar on songs for a number of artists, in film, and other musical projects.
Here’s a look at five songs Depp has written throughout his career.
1. “Mary,” Rock City Angels (1988)
Written by Johnny Depp, Patrick Watson, Simon Angell, Robert Kuster, Mikhail Stein
Originally formed in Florida in 1981, by the mid-’80s Johnny Depp had joined the Rock City Angels as a guitarist before going off to pursue his acting career in Hollywood.
During his short stint with the band from 1986 through ’87, Depp co-wrote the song “Mary,” which later appeared on the Rock City Angels’ 1988 debut, Young Man’s Blues.
I’d sell my soul just once
Just to have one more chance
No-one could see, ni-one could know
We all loved ya, didn’t it show
We all get tired of life, year, that’s true
But a needle’s no defence
When the tears won’t do
With no money to spend
And only love to begin
2. “St. Germain,” Vanessa Paradis (2000)
Written by Johnny Deep and Vanessa Paradis
When Depp’s former wife, French singer and model Vanessa Paradis, released her fourth album, Bliss, in 2000 the album featured two songs co-written by the couple: “St. Germain” and “Bliss.” He also plays guitar on the song “Firmaman.”
Depp also co-wrote the song “New Year” with Paradis on her 2013 album, Love Songs.
For an exile
This little piece of woman will take you far
Everything is allowed
I put my footsteps in his
She is the sun
Since everything revolves around her
Not so easy
To be so pure in a less pure world
Thousand and one symphonies
That she will invent in nothing
Happiness at last
It’s all the colors
From his heart
3. “Sands (Theme),” Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)
Written by Johnny Depp; credited as Tonto’s Giant Nuts
Though there are no lyrics to “Sands (Theme Song)” Depp composed the instrumental for the 2003 Robert Rodriguez western Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which he starred in along with Antonio Banderas, and Salma Hayek.
Rodriguez asked each of the main actors to give him several notes of a melody for their character for the soundtrack. Instead, Depp presented the director with an entire track.
For his character, CIA agent Sheldon Sands, Depp composed “Sands” (Theme Song) under the pseudonym Tonto’s Giant Nuts.
4. “The Last Vampire,” The Hollywood Vampires (2015)
Written by Johnny Depp, Christopher Lee, and Bob Ezrin
Not only did the late horror film legend Christopher Lee (1922-2015) make a guest appearance on “The Last Vampire,” the opening song on The Hollywood Vampires’ 2015 debut album, but he is also credited as a songwriter on the track along with Depp and producer Bob Ezrin.
The self-titled debut by the supergroup, made up of Depp, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry, and bassist Tommy Henriksen, boasts a collection of covers by The Who (“My Generation”), T. Rex (“Jeepster”), and Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression”), among others. Other featured guests on the album include Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger, Perry Farrell, Dave Grohl, AC/DC‘s Brian Johnson, Kip Winger, Slash, and many others.
On the album, Depp co-wrote several other tracks: “Raise the Dead,” “My Dead Drunk Friends” and a bonus track “As Bad as I Am.”
On the band’s second album, Rise, released in 2019, Depp also co-wrote a majority of its 16 tracks.
He came up to the window, in the mist
As I’d seen him often before
But it was solid then, not a ghost
And his eyes were fierce
Like a man’s when angry
He was laughing
When he turned to look back of the built of trees
Glinting in the moonlight
5. “This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr” Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp (2022)
Written by Johnny Depp and Tony Asher
The 2022 collaborative album between the late Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp, 18, was named in honor of the connection Beck and Depp had since their first meeting in 2016. “When Johnny and I started playing together, it really ignited our youthful spirit and creativity,” said Beck in 2022 of the album title. “We would joke about how we felt 18 again so that just became the album title too.”’
On writing with Beck, Depp said, “It’s an extraordinary honor to play and write music with Jeff—one of the true greats and someone I am now privileged enough to call my brother.”
Together, the two reinterpreted songs by The Beach Boys (“Don’t Talk Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Caroline, No“)”Killing Joke (“Death and Resurrection Show”), The Velvet Underground (“Venus in Furs”), and Janis Ian (“Stars”), among other covers.
On the album were also two original tracks, co-written by Depp: “This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr” and “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade.”
“This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr” is an homage to the silver screen legend and inventor. The muse for Depp’s song, the Austrian-born actress starred in films during the golden age of Hollywood and also helped develop a GPS-like torpedo guidance system during World War II, among several other inventions throughout her life.
More than a decade after she died in 2000 at the age of 85, Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for developing the frequency hopping technology. She is often dubbed “the mother of Wi-Fi” and other wireless communications like GPS and Bluetooth.
In the song, Depp reflects on Lamarr’s more reclusive final decades living at her home in Florida.
This is a song for Miss Hedy Lamarr
Erased by the same world that made her a star
Spun out of beauty, trapped by its web
She’s a perfect cocoon entwined in gold thread
Her beauty is spectacle, the thoughts too pure
The light of her being, her exotic allure
Was torn at the seams for daring to dream
It’s so hard to speak when you’re frozen in scream
Photo by Venla Shalin/Redferns