Johnny Depp has released a new self-penned song performed with Jeff Beck, This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarrtaken from the pair’s forthcoming collaborative album, entitled 18.
A trudging rock ballad sung by Depp interspersed with solo vocals from Beck, it hymns the 1940s film star (and innovative electrical engineer) Hedy Lamarr, though this lament about fame will inevitably be read as a reaction to the high-profile, frequently ugly defamation case he recently brought against his ex-wife Amber Heard.
“I don’t believe, I can’t believe, I won’t believe humans any more,” Depp sings in the chorus, with another lyric complaining: “It’s so hard to talk when no one will hear, and everyone stars as you quiver in fear.”
The opening verse, ostensibly about Lamarr, is a portrait of the difficulties of film stardom: “Erased by the same world who made her a star,” it begins, Depp adding: “The light of her being, her exotic allure / was torn at the seams for daring to dream / it’s so hard to speak when you’re frozen in scream … Feels like a dream, but it’s life and it’s death.”
He sings on the climatic verse: “Stripped of belief, a thief is a thief / who’s going to stand up to give you relief / of all dispossessed, it’s so hard to digest / you’ve no right to sit down if you’re nobody’s guest.”
The song is the second track Depp and Beck have released. The first was a cover of John Lennon’s Isolation, released in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic for its lyrical resonances with the lockdowns happening around the world.
The rest of the album’s tracklist has been announced, with plenty of other cover versions, including Caroline No and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) by the Beach Boys, plus Time by their late drummer Dennis Wilson; Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground; tracks by artists as varied as Janis Ian, Killing Joke and the Everly Brothers; and, in what will be seen as a rather hubristic choice, Marvin Gaye’s lament for social injustice, What’s Going On.
There is also another song written by Depp, titled Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade.
Beck heralded Depp in an accompanying statement, saying: “I haven’t had another creative partner like him for ages. He was a major force on this record. I just hope people will take him seriously as a musician because it’s a hard thing for some people to accept that Johnny Depp can sing rock’n’roll.”
Depp has been touring with Beck across the UK in recent weeks, where he heard the result of his trial against Heard. A jury found in favor of Depp, deciding that he had been defamed by a Washington Post article that Heard wrote, describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” without naming Depp.
Heard said the jury decision “sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously”. She has not yet announced whether she will appeal against the verdict.
18 is released on 15 July, with a vinyl version on 30 September.