BLOG: Sports stars who rock

The athletes who've turned their hand to music

An outrageously gifted footballer he may be, but Manchester United star Wayne Rooney has discovered that playing the guitar isn’t as easy as running rings around Premiership defences. In fact, we heard this week that he’s decided to give up on learning the instrument and start playing the drums instead.

The Sun – which has mocked-up a truly magnificent image to accompany the story – reports that Rooney has been struggling to “get his fingers right for the chords” and is finding it difficult to read music.

Of course, Rooney isn’t the first sports start to work on a musical side project. Here, MusicRadar charts the chequered history of athletes who’ve tried to rock…

1. Glenn and Chris
We’ve ignored the countless cup final football songs – which means there’s no place for the horrific Anfield Rap – on the basis that they were made for a bit of a laugh. When, in 1987, Tottenham Hotspur stars Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle got together to produce Diamond Lights, though, they looked deadly serious.

A mid-tempo ballad of almost unbelievable banality, this single says more about the 80s than time-hopping TV drama Ashes To Ashes ever could. Shamefully, it was only when both Hoddle and Waddle moved to France (to Monaco and Olympique de Marseille respectively) that their considerable footballing gifts were fully appreciated, but the British public chose to endorse their musical talents by sending Diamond Lights to number 12 in the charts. Go figure.

2. John Daly
We’d never actually heard that the US PGA golf tour’s maverick-in-residence had embarked on a recording career, but it sounded like his sort of thing, so we Googled it.

Sure enough, Daly (and friends) produced My Life -  a country album - in 2007. Featuring contributions from the likes of Hootie & The Blowfish and – impressive, this – Willie Nelson, songs include the charm-free All My Ex’s Wear Rolexes and I’m Drunk, Damn Bloke.

You can listen to all of the tracks here. Be warned, though – the urge to bludgeon yourself to death with a sand wedge may prove to be overwhelming.

3. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq is undoubtedly one of the finest players ever to grace the NBA, but did anyone really want him to get behind a microphone? Remarkably, yes – the Pheonix Suns center has released several albums, notably Shaq Diesel, Respect and Shaq-Fu: Da Return. In fact, he’s managed to create enough material to fill a dubiously titled ‘Best Of’.

Our US Editor Joe Bosso reminds us that Shaq also stared in Kazaam, Disney’s particularly lame contribution to the under-populated ‘rapping genie movie’ genre (it doesn't get any better when you see it dubbed in Spanish). If we were granted three wishes, the first would be that O’Neal stops making records immediately.

4. Damon Hill
In 1996, Damon Hill won the Formula 1 World Championship and the hearts of the British public. Then he blew it by picking up a guitar.

Actually, word has it that Hill can actually play, and you might argue that watching his band is considerably more entertaining than watching him drive round a racetrack for a couple of hours. He’s no Jonny-come-lately to the music scene, either, having been in a punk outfit called Sex, Hitler and the Hormones while at school. That must have gone down well when they printed the posters for the end-of-term concert.

5. John McEnroe
The enfant terrible of the tennis world has always fancied himself as a bit of a rock star. Never one to lack chutzpah or ambition, he’s even had a crack at playing the odd bit of Hendrix, though, given his penchant for headbands, maybe something by Bruce Springsteen or Dire Straits would be more appropriate.

Curiously, McEnroe isn’t the only tennis-playing guitarist – fellow Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has also been known to pick up the instrument. It must have something to do with the shape of the racket…

What do you think of our list? Do you know of any other sports stars who’ve turned their hand to music? Let us know…

By Ben Rogerson

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