Billy Dee Williams' jazz album truly belongs here with us among the clouds

Billy Dee Williams' jazz album truly belongs here with us among the clouds

If the rumours about Donald Glover being cast as a young Lando Calrissian turn out to be true, he won't be the first musician to take on the role. 

In 1961, riding high on his early success as an actor in Broadway plays The Cool World and A Taste of Honey and his debut film role in The Last Angry Man, a dashing young Billy Dee Williams got together with The George Cory Ensemble to record his one and only album. 

Let's Misbehave, released by Prestige Records, saw the 23-year-old Williams try his hand at 10 Broadway tunes, some of which had never actually been recorded by anyone before. 

In fact, his haunting take on A Taste of Honey was the first time a vocal had ever been added to the song, which originally appeared as an instrumental track in the Broadway play of the same name that Williams had starred in.

UPDATE: A representative of Mr Williams has confirmed that the song "was written for Billy" by Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott when the actor appeared in the play, A Taste of Honey, even though the lyrics weren't used there. 

Williams beat Lenny Welch (who is sometimes credited with the first recording of the vocal version of the song) to the punch by a full year, and the song later found its way into the repertoires of Barbra Streisand and, uh, The Beatles.

To paraphrase another famous alcohol pitchman — Billy Dee Williams doesn't always record albums, but when he does, he ends up influencing The Beatles.  

It probably won't surprise you to learn that Williams' vocal delivery is smooth as hell. It's unmistakably Billy Dee — some actors disappear into their roles, and some bend roles to their will through sheer force of personality, and Williams definitely falls into the latter group.

Whether he's playing a Cloud City administrator, a barnstorming baseball star or a Gotham City district attorney (or just slinging Colt 45 malt liquor), Billy Dee's charisma always shines through, and that applied to his short-lived career as a jazz singer, too. 

It sounds like the sort of music you might expect to hear in a Cloud City lounge bar, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

Let's Misbehave enjoyed some commercial success at the time of its release, but with no sophomore album on the horizon, and with Williams mostly relegated to bit parts on television throughout the '60s, it fell out of the public consciousness.

By the time Williams truly 'broke through' as an actor (in 1971's Brian's Song), Let's Misbehave had been almost entirely forgotten. 

Luckily, it was re-issued in 2014 to tie in with the renewed interest in anything remotely related to Star Wars, and is now easily accessible on iTunes, Amazon and most music streaming services. 

Of course, Williams is still active in the entertainment industry (as anyone who watches Star Wars Rebels can attest to), and he's not ruling out another album. 

"I often find myself thinking about releasing new music," he told Soul Train in 2013. "I have been thinking of releasing some of the old romantic songs or standards, but we'll see."

It's only been 55 years between releases so far, so he may as well take his time...

Hey, remember that time Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian teamed up to play baseball and fight segregation?

Hey, remember that time Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian teamed up to play baseball and fight segregation?

The Force is strong with Battle Beyond the Stars

The Force is strong with Battle Beyond the Stars