Brittany Murphy: The Music Career That Might Have Been

On a Paul Oakenfold collaboration and as singing penguin in 'Happy Feet,' actress showed off powerful pipes.

Brittany Murphy may have been known primarily as the star of such movies as “Sin City,” “Clueless” and “Just Married,” but when the 32-year-old actress died suddenly Sunday morning, she also left behind a great appreciation for music. From mysterious appearances on hip-hop albums to covers of Carly Simon songs, from flirting with Janis Joplin to providing the pipes for a penguin, Murphy showed she had a potential for a music career that, unfortunately, was never fulfilled.

If fans want a real glimpse at where Murphy’s career could have been headed, the best place to see it is “Faster Kill Pussycat,” a 2006 trance-rock track that had her singing over some [artist id="502636"]Paul Oakenfold[/artist] beats. The accompanying video featured a scantily clad Murphy singing her praises to campy director Russ Meyer, interspersed with footage of a street rave and a black cat scampering around her. A minor hit, the song was later used in an episode of “The O.C.” and the pilot episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

When the track dropped, a lot of people thought “Faster Kill Pussycat” was Murphy’s music debut, but in fact she had been making “secret” guest appearances as a backup singer on hip-hop and R&B records for years. In 2006, Murphy revealed that she had plans to release her own album .

“My singing voice isn’t like my speaking voice,” she explained. “I’ve just always kept it a secret and never taken credit because I wanted to learn how to work behind the microphone in a recording studio, and some of the singers don’t even know it was me recording on their albums.”

Murphy also wasn’t afraid to show off her pipes on the big screen. One of the standout moments in the 2004 romantic comedy “Little Black Book” was when her barely clothed, emotionally bare character belted out a soulful cover of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.”

Continuing along the lines of what might have been, Murphy was briefly attached to a Janis Joplin biopic to be directed by Gary Fleder (“Kiss the Girls”) in the early part of the decade.

Oddly enough, the greatest musical performances Murphy left behind may have been in the form of Gloria, her penguin character in the 2006 blockbuster animated film “Happy Feet.” In the flick, Murphy covered Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and the Earth, Wind and Fire song “Boogie Wonderland.” At the end of that year, she spoke to MTV News about how she had a hand in creating one of its most memorable scenes . “Oddly enough, of all the characters I’ve played, Gloria is the most like me. And she’s a penguin! [Director] George [Miller] always wanted one person to do both [the speaking and the singing]. I said, ‘I can sing,’ and I asked him to give me a shot,” she explained. “I don’t think he took me very seriously because most actors say they can do most things.

“I played him some CDs of some jazz things I had done, and he saw that I could sing,” she continued. “I was able to do an homage to ‘Somebody to Love.’ I grew up in a Baptist church, and I mentioned to [composer] John [Powell], ‘What about doing a gospel version?’ The next time I was there he had a full men’s gospel choir laid down in the background, so I sang as Gloria over them. It’s the most universal film that I’ve ever been a part of. If you’re 2 or 202, this film is for you.”

Murphy appeared on “TRL” in 2005 and cited a modern pop icon and fellow blond bombshell as the inspiration for her entire career. “My dreams and aspirations when I was a child for as long as I can remember was to be an entertainer,” she explained. “I started out in dance classes, and I’ve always [sung] for as long as I can remember. When I was 9, I started doing musical theater in the New Jersey area, where I’m from. The quickest way to entertain more people was to audition for commercials, and that was the first thing available since it was right over the Hudson River. Madonna had a quote, ‘I’m going to change the world’ — that was a huge inspiration to me, so I decided I was going to be my own version of Madonna when I grew up.”