But his career has always moved along at warp speed. Indeed, the Shatner mystique took a serious hit back in 1968, when he made the move to pop music with the album "The Transformed Man," featuring horrendous sung-spoken versions of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." The latter is often selected among the ranks of worst covers ever.
Decades later, the Shat-man was in on the joke. He titled his 2004 effort "Has Been." And just last month, Shatner received the ultimate validation, performing his spoken-word rendition of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" with none other than Paul McCartney singing the choruses at the Simply Shakespeare benefit in Santa Monica.
Shatner returns to the outer limits of pop music on Tuesday with a new album titled "Ponder the Mystery." It features 15 originals, most of which were co-written by one-time latter-day Yes member Billy Sherwood; and which feature a slew of guests, including Mick Jones of Foreigner, guitar wiz Steve Vai, Edgar Winter, and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger.
In honor of Shat's return, here's a look back at some of his greatest pop music hits and misses.
1. "Rocket Man"
Space-themed songs are a natural for Shatner. Check out his cover of Elton John's classic from the 1978 Science Fiction Awards. Shatner is introduced by John's long-time lyricist, Bernie Taupin — who apparently is OK with the tuxedoed, cigarette-smoking Shatner mangling the words. Be warned, smokers will likely want to light up after viewing this, and non-smokers may consider taking up the habit.
2. "My Way"
In this clip from AFI, Shatner salutes fellow space geek George Lucas for his "Star Wars" legacy with a recitation of the Frank Sinatra classic while fending off threatening stormtroopers, with a nice shout-out to Chewbacca. It might have you screaming like Chewbacca.
3. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"
Here's a fan-made clip for Shatner's interpretation of the Beatles classic. We're not sure what's more horrendous — his version of the song, or the visual. You be the judge.
4. "Mr. Tambourine Man"
Here's Shatner's take on the seminal Dylan tune, which you'll find greatly inferior to the Dylan original and the Byrds' hit cover. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a live performance, so you'll just have to do with this photo of Shatner as Captain Kirk, holding his throat and gagging. It's really quite appropriate.
5. "F--k You"
Lest you think Shatner only does vintage classics, check out his 2010 reading of Cee Lo's profane pop hit during a visit to "Lopez Tonight."
6. "Common People"
This 2011 montage has some frightening footage of Shatner in the studio, as well as him onstage at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles with Ben Folds and Joe Jackson doing Pulp's "Common People." Joe Jackson sounds great!
7. "In Love"
Ben Folds played a major part in the reevaluation of Shatner, collaborating on the star's 1998 "Fear of Pop" project. Here Shatner, Folds & Co. perform "In Love" in a 1999 performance on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."
8. "It Hasn't Happened Yet"
Here's another of Shatner's collaborations with Folds from 2004's "Has Been," performed live. This is actually rather a touching song (no joke) with haunting backing vocals courtesy of Fleming McWilliams.
9. This Thing
This isn't a Shatner musical performance, but a mash-up a "Star Trek" episode with Miley Cyrus's recent explosive VMA performance that's good for a few laughs.
If you haven't had enough of Shatner yet, you can always check out this pseudo-documentary. Don't say we didn't warn you.
- Arts & Entertainment
- William Shatner