It is a well-known fact among pop culture trivia addicts that original Star Trek crewmates William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy both stubbornly pursued musical careers in the 1960s and 1970s, despite a notable lack of encouragement. Shatner released his infamous, histrionic The Transformed Man LP in 1968, plus a live album in 1977. (A follow-up, Has Been, wouldn’t be released until 2004.) Nimoy released roughly a half-dozen albums, including repackages of old material, between 1968 and 1976 on at least four different labels. The recordings of Shatner and Nimoy have become camp classics, turning up on novelty compilations like Rhino’s Golden Throats. But the bridge of the Enterprise did contain at least one performer with actual singing chops: Nichelle “Lt. Uhura” Nichols. Over at Dangerous Minds, Ron Kretsch has assembled a mini-history of Nichols’ singing career, which included performing with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, plus a handful of albums of her own, released between 1986 and 1991. Nichols also put her vibrato-heavy voice to good use in the Trek episode “Conscience Of The King,” in which she serenades a doomed crew member with a little number called “Beyond Antares.”
Like Nimoy, who occasionally sang in character as Mr. Spock, Nichols referenced her television fame in her recordings. Her albums had titles like Down To Earth and Out Of This World, and in 1986 she released the obscure, cassette-only Uhura Sings, containing nine songs and poetic verses. Among her strangest, most ill-advised tracks was a disco-style remake of the Star Trek theme with lyrics.
But there are much, much cooler songs in Nichols’ discography. Take, for instance, her sultry 1967 waxing of “Know What I Mean.” Sample lyrics: “I’ve got honey muffins anytime that you want some / Know what I mean? / Know what I mean?”
Nichols took on the standards, too. Here she is, belting out “The Lady Is A Tramp,” a Rodgers & Hart composition from 1937:
But, even though Nichols’ musical allegiance was to jazz, she did not disappoint her Trek fans when it came to recording sci-fi-related material. She even revisited “Beyond Antares”:
When people think about music made by Star Trek veterans, they probably imagine Shatner screaming the lyrics of “Mr. Tambourine Man” or Nimoy croaking out “Proud Mary.” But Nichols’ recordings prove there are other, less obvious musical galaxies to explore, too.