Zealous “Roseanne”-loving friends recently pointed out to me that there’s actually an episode of the show in which John Goodman sings. They were right, and it was delightful. It made me wonder: Had Goodman — a fairly intense actor whose goofy charm belies serious skill — sung on other occasions? And the answer was… yes! From best to worst:
“People Like Us,” from “True Stories” (1986)
Goodman’s on-screen singing career peaked early, bringing down the house at the climax of David Byrne’s uneven-but-engaging sole foray in narrative feature film. As shy, roly-poly bachelor Louis Fyne, Goodman waits the whole movie to make his ultimate move in the quest for matrimony, then belts it out. The song, “People Like Us,” is a more ambivalent relative of “The Big Country,” a tribute to those living unseen between the coasts, “people like us, who will answer the telephone,” in Byrne’s part acute, part condescending formulation. Goodman’s rendition removes all condescension.
“Good Golly Miss Molly,” from “King Ralph” (1980)
This long-forgotten snobs-vs.-slobs vehicle was directed by David S. Ward, who wrote “The Sting.” John Goodman inherits the peerage, noble heart vs. antiquated moors, etc. I don’t really understand how it all leads to a duet with Little Richard, who appears as Goodman’s striding down a hallway. Someone asks him who he is. “I’m the king.” No, he’s assured, that’s the king. Cue “Good Golly Miss Molly” with a terrifying, satanically leering Richard, who ends the bit by flicking all the keys off the piano.
“If I Didn’t Have You,” from “Monsters, Inc.” (2001)
This end-credits song from “Monsters, Inc.” isn’t very good. It’s from Randy Newman’s late-period softy phase, and it’s impossible to remember that this same man once wrote, say, “Sail Away.” But it yielded a priceless moment of Goodman and Newman duetting at the Oscars as if they were equals on the musical spectrum.
“Roll Back The Rock (To The Dawn of Time),” from “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story” (1993)
Released the same summer as “Jurassic Park” as a kindlier, friendlier dinosaur flick for the kiddies — Spielberg’s Amblin studios cover all their commercial bases, natch — this is the film where friendly dinos come to New York and enchant children or something. In a big welcoming parade, John Goodman (as a Rex named “Rex’) leads the festivities with a series of bad paleolithic/rock ‘n roll puns (“blow your cool just like a volcano”). But his T.Rex is surprisingly agile and loose on his feet — just like the real Goodman.
“The Bare Necessities,” from “The Jungle Book 2” (2003)
Essentially a desecration of the original version that’s sad and pointless. But again, a limber bear, just like real-life Goodman.
“Let There Be Snow,” from “Frosty Returns” (1992)
One of Goodman’s least enthusiastic performances, this number comes from an ill-conceived TV sequel. Cheap, shoddy and time capsule-ishly fixated on the destruction of the ozone layer, the enterprise did not prosper. In the inane Goodman-and-child duet below, they celebrate the charms of the season — “Let there be snow/let there be snow/this kind of weather brings people together/so friendships can grow” — over a faux-ska beat. Fortunately, Brian Doyle-Murray’s Mr. Twitchell breaks things up with a villainous rap interlude.
“Santa’s Family,” from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie” (1998)
By far the ghastliest object on this list, this song is from a thinly remembered animation cheapie that makes Rudolph save his reindeer love Zoey when she’s imprisoned by evil Ice Queen Stormella. Before all that, Santa Goodman sings about his family system: “Everybody’s a somebody in Santa’s family” is one of the least cringey bits. The musical arrangement sounds like Bob Dylan’s christmas album.
[Photo: “True Stories, Warner Bros., 1989]