Hundreds of celebrities have been “Simpsonized” over the past 20 years. Our recent post about Joanna Newsom got me thinking – exactly how many musicians have made cameos or been depicted on this long running cartoon. Leave it to an obsessive mind such as my own to lay it all out for you! Let us know if we’ve forgotten anyone.
The Color Awesome’s Guide to Musicians appearing on The Simpsons
Season 1-11 data gathered from The Simpson’s Archive Guest Star Guide
Michael Jackson (Season Three)
The first big name musician was Jackson, who appeared in the third season premiere under the pseudonym John Jay Smith. On the episode, Homer is sent to an asylum and befriends his large, white cellmate Leon, who just so happens to believe he’s Michael Jackson, and sound just like him, thanks to Jackson himself providing Leon’s voice.
Spinal Tap in “The Otto Show” (Season Three)
After he kills Spinal Tap in a bus crash, it’s revealed that Otto the bus driver doesn’t have a license, forcing him to lose his job and reevaluate his life. Tap bassist Derek Smalls is played by Harry Shearer, who does a ton of voices on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Smithers and Ned Flanders.
This was the first time a band played themselves, as they begin hanging out and performing at Moe’s, after the introduction of the Flaming Moe drink makes the bar a huge success.
Red Hot Chili Peppers in “Krusty Gets Kancelled” (Season Four)
After Krusty the Klown’s show gets canceled, the Simpsons recruit his celebrity friends, including The Chilis, to appear on a comeback special. In reference to their occasional nude antics, the band is shown in their underwear throughout the episode.
The Ramones in “Rosebud” (Season Five)
Mr. Matt Groening has listed this guest appearance by the influential punk group, as his favorite among all the Simpsons guest stars. Burns discovers that his beloved childhood teddy bear Bobo, whom he lost years ago, has fallen into the possession of Maggie. He does everything in his evil power to get Bobo back from the baby. At the show’s opening, The Ramones play a birthday party for Mr. Burns, performing a punk rock version of “Happy Birthday to You.” In less than a minute of screen time, the band deliver a flurry of great jokes, as their performance of “Happy Birthday” for Mr. Burns is added to with lines like, “Hey, up yours Springfield!” and “Go to hell, you old bastard!”, all capped off with the clueless Burns ordering, “Have the Rolling Stones killed.”
Smashing Pumpkins in “Homerpalooza” (Season Seven)
Determined to prove he’s still hip, Homer takes his kids to an alternative-rock festival show. His ability to survive being shot in the stomach with a cannon lands him a spot on the festival bill, where he befriends the Pumpkins.
Sonic Youth in “Homerpalooza” (Season Seven)
Sonic Youth appeared alongside smashing Pumpkins and Cypress Hill in the ‘Homerpalooza episode’ (May 1996)
Cypress Hill in “Homerpalooza” (Season Seven)
Appearing alongside Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth in the ‘Homerpalooza episode’ (May 1996), Cypress Hill performed ‘Insane In The Brain’, only this time with the London Symphony Orchestra (which they had accidentally ordered while high)
U2 in “Trash of the Titans” (Season Nine)
Homer decides to run for sanitation commissioner. As part of his hapless campaign, he hijacks a U2 concert to get his message across. Spoofing his self-serious, socially-conscious persona, Bono demands that the band’s fans listen to Homer’s crackpot message because trash “affects the whole damn planet.” The Edge, looking annoyed, murmurs, “Oh, here we go …”
The Who in “A Tale of Two Springfields” (Season 12)
Angered that the city now has two area codes, Homer leads a rebellious faction that splits from Springfield, forming their own (poorly run) town known as New Springfield. As a way to make Springfield jealous, Homer tricks The Who into playing New Springfield.
R.E.M. in “Homer the Moe” (Season 13)
Moe decides his bar needs to be revamped into a snooty, upscale establishment. Annoyed, Homer starts his own bar in his garage, inviting REM to perform. In another great example of a band tweaking its image, Michael Stipe gets angry and breaks a bottle in half, preparing to use it as a weapon. The other band members restrain him, as guitarist Peter Buck says, “That’s not the R.E.M. way.” Embarrassed, Stipe replies, “You’re right. Let’s recycle those shards and get out of here.”
The Rolling Stones in “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” (Season 14)
Depressed that his family has sucked the spontaneity from his life, Homer goes to a rock fantasy camp run by the Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. They get big laughs playing the aging-songwriting version of an adorable old married couple. This episode also featured Elvis Costello and Lenny Kravitz.
Metallica in “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer” (Season 18)
Metallica appearance had nothing to do with the actual plot: Otto drives by the band as they stand by their broken-down tour bus. When he offers them a lift, James Hetfield responds warily, “We don’t take rides from strangers.” Also, we learn that if you have ever waved a lighter during a Metallica concert, the band members will instantly recognize you and remember your exact seat number.
The White Stripes in “Jazzy and the Pussycats” (Season 18)
Bart becomes a world-class drummer, joining a jazz ensemble and hanging out with the White Stripes The rock showdown between Bart and the White Stripes mimics the group’s stop-motion video for “The Hardest Button to Button.”
The leader of Talking Heads produces and co-records Homer’s song “Everybody Hates Ned Flanders”, he then sings the extended salsa mix of the song and gets thrown onto Moe’s car, at that Moe says “You ever see the movie Misery?” “No.” “Then this’ll be a whole new experience for ya.”
Weird Al has been on the show 3 times. My favorite is when he parodies Homer’s grunge song in the episode “That 90’s Show”.
Tom Jones as Himself in Marge Gets a Job , where Mr. Burns attempts to seduce Marge with the help of the kidnapped singer, after Marge states the Welshman is her favourite.
When Springfield made it to the silver screen in 2007’s ‘The Simpsons Movie’, Green Day did a cameo. They are killed early on, when the polluted Lake Springfield corrodes the stage during their performance – but at least they got to record a version of the theme song, which was also released as a single.
Oh, that Homer. In an episode that aired just after the turn of the millennium, Homer, saddened to learn that he may only have four more years to live, meets up with some rowdy Spring Breakers during a trip to Florida to “recover.” There, all fears of mortality aside, Homer attends that undisputed king of white-dude rap-metal’s concert.
Way back in January 2000 (yes, she has been famous for over a decade now), Britney Spears popped up on The Simpsons to present an award to the city’s oldest man, Cornelius Chapman. Sure, she may have subsequently killed him with her kiss, but at least he died happy.
Before he broke free from the pack for a surprisingly interesting solo career, Britney’s then-beau Justin Timberlake was just another member of pubescent boy band ‘N Sync. In retrospect, we should have known that the group’s appearance on an episode meant to send up their whole embarrassing genre was a sign of good things to come.
The Dixie Chicks
Listen, we’ll never stop being happy that the Dixie Chicks were brave enough to stand up against George W. Bush. But nothing could make us love their pop-country balladry. Still, they’re an essential part of the plot in an episode of the show that features Springfield’s local fallen country star, Lurleen Lumpkin.
Earlier this year, The Simpsons celebrated their 20th anniversary on air by bestowing upon Homer a million-dollar lottery windfall. We’re kind of disappointed that he spent his money by choosing Coldplay, of all bands, to serenade his his family. But at least Chris Martin, et. al., seemed to have fun recording for the show.
On a 2005 episode called “Pranksta Rap,” in which Bart gets himself into trouble at hip-hop show, he runs into Fitty. The uninspiring pop rapper, who’s seen his share of juvenile delinquent behavior, waxes philosophical and advises the pint-size troublemaker to stay in school.
Cyndi Lauper as Herself in Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken, where she sings The Star Spangled Banner to the tune of her 1984 hit Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Paul and Linda McCartney
Episode: Lisa the Vegetarian. This is my favorite episode of all time! Paul and Linda McCartney talk with Lisa about the benefits of going veg. She sees the light and has been veg on the series ever since. Of course Apu still has disdain for her because she is not vegan.
OK. So compiling this list is a lot bigger project than I anticipated. From now on, pix only!
$pringfield (Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
The Moody Blues
Alas, I couldn’t find images of Hank Williams, Jr, The B-52’s , Fred Turner but they have also had cameos.
Please let us know if there’s anyone we forgot!
Daniel Radcliff from the Tree House of Horror, and Tom Hanks from the Simpsons movie.