Soundtrack Of My Life: Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy

The first song I remember hearing

Ricky Nelson – ‘Fools Rush In’

“My sister, who is slightly older than me, started buying records before I did. She bought ‘Fools Rush In’ by Ricky Nelson – and I remember thinking ‘this is perfect’. She’d play it all the time and it seemed like it was from another planet. It was the first time I’d really paid attention to a pop record.”

The first album I ever owned

Georgie Fame – ‘Fame At Last’

“My sister bought it for me… I used to know every single word of every single Georgie Fame album. Later in life, I met Georgie Fame on a few occasions ‘cos I used to go to Ronnie Scott’s [jazz bar in London] a lot. Once a year, he would do a week at Ronnie’s and [my friends and I] would always go. We weren’t scooter mods but we liked to think of ourselves as modernists. When you get to my age, ‘mod’ is lengthened to modernists, you see.”

The song that reminds me of Charlie Watts

The Rolling Stones – ‘Monkey Man’

“I met him once in Bond Street, London. I had a suit on and somebody behind me called out my name (‘Bill!’) and I turned around and it was Charlie Watts [from The Rolling Stones]. There are very few people in the world that completely stop me in my tracks and Charlie Watts is one of them. I was instantly, profoundly flattered that he knew my name and that he’d said it. Anyway, he was immaculately dressed in a bespoke suit. He reached forward and felt the lapel of my jacket and he said: ‘You’re an actor, you’re supposed to be skint.’ And I said ‘well you know, things looked up’ – and he said ‘well, glad to hear it’. Then he got in the car and he drove away.”

The song that makes me think of home

Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra – ‘Well Did You Evah?’ (from High Society)

“My dad, Alfred, was a Bing Crosby fan and my elder brother, Martin, is a singer. He didn’t make his life about singing, but he’s always had a band and he won The X Factor of his day in a national television contest. Anyway, he was a Frank Sinatra fan and my dad was a Bing Crosby fan – so this song fits both. My father thought it was the most perfect bit of popular entertainment. He just used to sit there listening, loving it.”

The song I wish I’d written

Frank Sinatra – ‘One For My Baby (and One More For The Road)’

“When I was 11 or 12, usually just before I went to bed, my dad and I would have a snack. He’d have dripping (collected from all of the roasts) ladled onto a big lump of bread and I would have butter and golden syrup. I’d do my own and he’d do his own. It was perfect. And I remember saying to him one night while making the snacks: ‘If i’d have written ‘One For My Baby (and One More For The Road)’ by Frank Sinatra I would die happy.’ I just think it’s a perfect song.”

The song that reminds me of actor Ian Holm

‘The Fall Of Gil-Galad’, sung by Bill Nighy (as Samwise Gamgee) in the 1981 BBC Radio dramatisation of The Lord Of The Rings

“This was such a great job and what a cast! John Le Mesurier as Bilbo and Ian Holm as Frodo. What a cast. I remember the first time I met John Le Mesurier was at the BBC music studio in Maida Vale where all the big concerts were [recorded]. They had an orchestra and Ian and I had to sing [along]. I was very nervous about it. [Ian] talked his way through his bit. I remember he always wore red socks. He was a very nice man.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Anita Baker – ‘Giving You The Best That I Got’

“I sing compulsively when I’m walking around in the street. Not loud, just under my breath. I know the first two lines to everything, if I’m lucky. Sometimes it’s just one line so I’ve been trying to learn songs. Lately I’ve been learning ‘Giving You The Best That I Got’ by Anita Baker, so I can now sing all of that, nearly all of that. And various other things.”

The song that I can no longer listen to

Bob Dylan – ‘Most Of The Time’

“There have been periods in my life where there were specific songs that I just couldn’t listen to because of the way things turned out. There was a time when I couldn’t listen to ‘Most Of The Time’ by Bob Dylan without fucking smashing the room up. I’m not gonna tell you why but you can put that together.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Marvin Gaye – ‘Turn On Some Music’

“I like to dance. I get very self-conscious though. I was asked to go on the Christmas Strictly Come Dancing special once. I said no. I would’ve messed it all up. But if you leave me in a corner when the lights are low… if I close my eyes, I’m doing alright. I suppose you’d call it ‘soul dancing’.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Nick Cave – ‘Into My Arms’ 

“Can I have two? I’ve already been buried to ‘Into My Arms’ by Nick Cave in a film called About Time, which is hard to beat. I hope Richard [Curtis, the director] won’t mind me saying but there were other options for that slot. One of them was ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)’ by Stevie Wonder which just made me laugh. The coffin was supposed to be coming in and Stevie would be singing ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ which was quite funny. But I wanted Richard to go with Nick Cave. And he did. I did meet Nick backstage at something once and he was very charming. I’m a huge, huge fan.

Van Morrison – ‘Crazy Face’

“I think he’s one of the greatest singers in the history of singers. This is quite a romantic song to have played at your funeral. And the saxophone solo is all one note, it’s so radical and so cool. And then maybe at the end we should play ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ by James Brown so I can be dancing in my coffin. It’s going to be a loooooong funeral!”

Bill Nighy stars in ‘Living’, which is released in cinemas today (November 4)

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