Has your interest in Depp’s musical output been peaked by his recent appearances in the public eye, for good or bad? Does Johnny Depp play guitar? And is he any good?
All this and more will be the subject of today’s article as we take a dive into Depp’s musical history that runs parallel to that of his acting artistry.
Before meeting the likes of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, and Jeff Beck, Depp was born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, living an early life that was marred by his family’s struggle with divorce and eventual homelessness. His academic career did not fair much better, and he eventually ended up dropping out of high school entirely.
Around this time, Depp was already playing guitar and so joined a local garage band called the Kids (remarkable that no one had already taken such an obvious name). Johnny Depp’s guitar playing quickly became his first love, and he played guitar with this band wholeheartedly for a number of years, even opening up for contemporarily important and retrospectively influential bands like Talking Heads and the B-52’s.
Despite such high profile support slots, the band struggled financially and thus failed to make ends meet enough to the point where he and others were forced to live out of their car for a few months at a time.
Though romanticized heavily in films and books, this kind of lifestyle simply is not sustainable, and so he eventually sought, after a few years of playing with the band, to move with his wife at the time to Los Angeles.
This, of course, became an immense turning point in his life, for it was there that he discovered acting, both his love of it and his more than keen knack for it. It was here that his legacy was forged, though it is near impossible to say whether it was also here that his penchant for domestic abuse was likewise forged.
Who’s to say? And who would really want to pry, especially when the whole world has done more than enough of that in the past however many months?
The Next Step
Depp’s reputation and notoriety as an actor is not open for debate. You would struggle to find a person passing in the street who does not at least know of the actor even if they have not necessarily seen anything that he is in. He might not be as big as some other film stars, but he is certainly known throughout the western world. Even still his status as a rock star is scarcely comprehended by these same people.
Some years after the beginning of his acting career he purchased the Viper Club in L.A., which he used as a way to showcase his latest musical project, P. Both the club and the band were short lived, for a teen heart throb died from a drug overdose right outside the club not long afterward.
Depp’s involvement in music over the next decades was varied and sporadic. He contributed supposedly ‘weird’ guitar noises for punk blues bands and even featured on a few tracks by Shane MacGowan and the Popes. He also, believe it or not, appeared on an Oasis song, though thankfully not that forbidden riff ‘Wonderwall’.
Among his credits, as well, is his collaboration with Iggy Pop, appearing on the B side to the single ‘Hollywood Affair’, ‘Corruption’. I know a fair amount of us would kill for a gig like that, which goes some way to proving his credentials.
Despite performing, he also provided compositions to several films that he also featured in – credited as composer, performer, and actor – starting with the film Chocolat in which he contributed three songs in a jazz style.
These days, when he can catch a breath between his various appearances in court he is still an avid performer, continuing to dabble in the music world with artists like Patty Smith, Marilyn Manson, and Ryan Adams.
His current band Hollywood Vampires was originally formed in 2015 and has been touring on and off ever since, again in relation to Depp’s various appearances in court and speaking before the media about allegations of domestic abuse. The central members are Depp himself, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry, though they have welcomed additional members like Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney over the years.
Though their allegedly controversial performance at the 2016 Grammy’s has left a bit of a bad taste in some mouths, they are still warmly admired and appreciated by some.
Anyone is likely to criticize anyone for anything these days, and Depp has received his fair share of criticism for playing guitar over the years (including from his own band mate Alice Cooper) – even despite the fact that this was his first love and his first passion.
None of this really matters, though, if Johnny Depp loves what he is doing, and this is quite clearly the case whenever he plays. Many have actually accused him of focusing ‘way too much on trying to look cool rather than his accuracy’ when in reality this could simply be him enjoying what he is doing so much that it is to his playing’s detriment.
Alice Cooper has said himself that Depp would rather play guitar than act, so his admiration for the instrument should be wholly clear by now. All of his aesthetic choices – the leather, the studs, the whisky, the cigars, the slicked back hair, and eyeliner – all point towards the rock and roll iconography of days gone by.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, your curiosity regarding the big man himself has been satiated and that you are now better able to ascertain that, yes, Johnny Depp does indeed play guitar, though whether he is any good remains to be seen by you.
FAQs Does Johnny Depp Play Guitar
You could say so, yes. In fact, his original calling was being a musician, and he often plays guitar instead of acting, or at least that is how he would rather the hierarchy went. Yet, he is far better known for this acting, something that he got into only after moving to Los Angeles with his wife at the time, and after he had been playing in a band called the Kids. So, if we are considering Depp a professional actor from the fact that he has been doing so for so long, then we ought to consider him a professional guitarist.
Indeed he does, and in fact he has been doing so for longer than he has been acting by at least a few years. This was his first love, one that will always stay with him. Yet, he is far better known for this acting, something that he got into only after moving to Los Angeles with his wife at the time, and after he had been playing in a band called the Kids. So, if we are considering Depp a professional actor from the fact that he has been doing so for so long, then we ought to consider him a professional guitarist.
Depp’s mother gifted him a guitar when he was 12 years old and he learned to play guitar by playing in a whole host of local bands, usually formed in garages. Like the best of them, he learned of his own accord and at his own behest, using mimicry and questions to ascertain and absorb the techniques of others in order to feel out his own style for himself. In this way, he would have mastered the guitar in an apophatic sense, bouncing his own self off of others until he could feel the negative impression.
Indeed he does. Though he is far better known for acting and then slightly less so for playing guitar, he can play a whole variety of different rock band instruments. In the liner notes of the various projects he has contributed to he has been noted as performing: vocals, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums, backing vocals, keyboards, and sound design, all while acting as composer and producer on several tracks of his own devising with none other than Jeff Beck. It remains to be seen how true his bass playing is, or whether it is another classic example of a guitarist playing bass.