As if his myriad of tattoos or swaggering, Keith Richards-indebted performances as Captain Jack Sparrow weren’t proof enough, Johnny Depp’s MTV Movie Awards jam session with the Black Keys definitely served notice that the Hollywood icon knows a thing or two about rock.
Of course, that Sunday-night performance — in lieu of a traditional acceptance speech for his MTV Generation Award , Depp opted instead to tear through a pair of tunes with the Keys — was just his latest rock and roll moment. Long before he was a big-screen star, music was Depp’s first passion … not to mention the reason he moved to Los Angeles in the first place.
During a 2002 appearance on “Inside the Actors Studio,” Depp told host James Lipton that he received his first guitar when he was 12 years old and stole a Mel Bay chord book from a department store to learn how to play it. And during his hectic teenage years, the instrument took on near mythic proportions to him.
“At that age … things are going haywire inside, so the guitar sort of saved me,” he said. “You begin to go through puberty and I was so into my guitar, into playing, I didn’t notice puberty.”
He’d start playing backyard parties and snuck into nightclubs to play with his band, the Kids. Eventually Depp would drop out of high school to follow his dreams of being a professional musician and head to Los Angeles in search of a record deal, but when it didn’t pan out — he was making ends meet selling pens over the telephone — the Kids broke up, and Depp began his acting career with a role in Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (though the band would reunite in 2008 at a Florida benefit show for an area manager and promoter).
But his love affair with music never really went away. He’d appear in iconic videos for Tom Petty and the Lemonheads, and formed the short-lived alt-rock band P along with Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes, who would release an eponymous album in 1995 that featured guest appearances from the likes of Flea and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones (and exactly one ABBA cover). He was also part owner of the notorious Sunset Strip club the Viper Room, and has performed on albums by Oasis — he’s credited with slide guitar on the Be Here Now track “Fade In-Out” — and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan’s first solo album.
In recent years, he’s also recorded with Marilyn Manson (he plays guitar and drums on a cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” that appears as a bonus track on Manson’s Born Villain album) and performed alongside him at the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Awards, and has shared the stage with legends like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Alice Cooper. And, in a bit of destiny, he’s also jammed out with Keith Richards at an afterparty for Depp’s 2011 film “The Rum Diary.” So, if he looked like a natural up on the Movie Awards stage Sunday night, well, you can certainly understand why … he’s had a lifetime of practice.
Jaw-dropping, heart-pounding, gut-busting moments galore. See what went down at the 21st annual MTV Movie Awards!