I love William Shatner’s “musical” performances. I was happy to see him devote some pages in his autobiography to his famous “Rocket Man” rendition. He’s very coy about whether or not he seriously thought this was a good performance, but he accurately sums up the audience’s reaction: they were stunned, wondering if he’d lost his mind. Shatner is a complete ham, and the good side of being a ham is that he gives his all, no matter what he’s doing. That’s why his insane talk-singing is so mesmerizing: like the audience for “Rocket Man,” we’re constantly wondering if he’s serious, if he will at any point betray any knowledge that this is ridiculous. He never does. Not for a second.
All this is prelude to a great time-filler clip, Shatner in his ’70s prime — his prime as a has-been, I mean, when Star Trek hadn’t been revived for the movies yet and he was doing some very strange projects — “singing” the song “Taxi” by Harry Chapin. It’s a long song and you keep thinking he’s going to crack at some point, show some hint of ironic self-knowledge, but he. Never. Does. I’d like to think that he really, really believes he’s a great singer, but the point is, even if he doesn’t believe that, he never lets on.