In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we asked: “What’s your favorite song sung by an actor?”
I’m not sure when or how I became aware of “The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins.” I was never a Star Trek fan, and I was born well after 1970, so I’d have no real reason to be familiar with Leonard Nimoy’s musical career. And while the song had an Internet-fueled revival a few years back, my awareness of the tune stretches back well before then, into the fuzzy realm of childhood. (Perhaps my childhood best friend’s Trek-loving family is to blame?) It’s just one of those songs that’s woven into the fabric of my memory, and into my perception of Nimoy: My mental pie chart of the actor comprises roughly 40 percent pointy ears, 30 percent The Simpsons episode “Marge Vs. The Monorail,” and 30 percent “The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins.” I don’t know if it’s fair to say I love the song; it’s too campy and singular to inspire that sort of devotion. But I certainly have a lot of affection for it as a strange, indistinct nostalgia item, the kind of thing you bond over with fellow in-the-know types, giggling over your shared knowledge of this oddity. (In the age of the Internet, that’s become a lot more common, especially once the indescribably strange video, part of a guest appearance on variety show Malibu U in 1967, was uploaded to YouTube.) It’s also just kind of loveably great on its own terms, a childlike story-song that provides a Cliff’s Notes version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit over bouncy, vaguely psychedelic instrumentation that marks the song as a product of the late ’60s. Nimoy should be remembered for the many, many things he’s done other than this silly little song, both before and since, but a part of me will always hear him crooning about the “brave little Hobbit whom we all admire” whenever his name is uttered.