Fact Check

Did Bruce Willis Release an R&B Album?

According to some reports, portions of the actor's debut album were "surprisingly okay."

Published May 28, 2023

Updated June 5, 2023
 (Motown Records)
Image Via Motown Records
Actor Bruce Willis once released an R&B album.

The recently retired Bruce Willis had a prodigious acting career that left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Based on emails from our readers asking if Willis had released an R&B album — as well as a post in the subreddit Today I Learned — it is apparent that his musical career may not have had that same reach. 

In fact, Willis released two albums. His platinum-certified debut album, "The Return of Bruno," was released in January 1987. He released a second album — "If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger" — in 1989. Both albums include a variety of musical genres, but the most notable musical style in each is R&B.

One negative review described the first single off the "Bruno" track as "an obvious attempt to cash in on the rhythm/blues/jazz/soul/funk musical preferences of [his character on the television series 'Moonlighting'] David Addison," and argued the endeavor was attempt to cash in on his acting popularity:

Bruce Willis is not a singer. He is an actor who has crossed over to rock music on the strength of his acting popularity rather than on the strength of his musical ability. Willis currently has enough popularity to allow him to sell an album full of nursery rhymes set to music.

People Magazine praised that album's most popular track, a cover of The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk," as "surprisingly okay." 

The album was released alongside a mockumentary-style HBO special in which Willis played "an imaginary rock legend named Bruno":

Bruno has done it all: He brought the Beatles together. He made Woodstock free. He was Bruce Lee. The guy has more famed friends than Robin Leach, and they all come to praise him: Michael J. Fox, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Phil Collins, Bon Jovi, Brian Wilson and, of course, Dick Clark. 

Because the "Bruno" work is dominated by R&B sounds and covers, we rate this claim as "True."


Bruce Willis - If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger Album Reviews, Songs & More | AllMusic. www.allmusic.com, https://www.allmusic.com/album/if-it-dont-kill-you-it-just-makes-you-stronger-mw0000199430. Accessed 24 May 2023.

"How to Win Friends, Influence People, and Make Money without Really Trying." Newspapers.Com, 5 Apr. 1989, https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-newton-record-how-to-win-friends-in/125208391/.

Picks and Pans Review: Bruce Willis: The Return of Bruno : People.Com. 14 Sept. 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20160914221418/https://people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20095672,00.html.

YourLovelyMan. "TIL Bruce Willis Put out Two Albums Back in the 80's. One of His Most Played Tracks Is a Cover of Under the Boardwalk." R/Todayilearned, 9 Mar. 2023, www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/11mkv5x/til_bruce_willis_put_out_two_albums_back_in_the/.


Correction [June 5, 2023]: A previous version misstated the group that originally recorded "Under The Boardwalk."

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.