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Remembering The Late David McCallum ('The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,' 'NCIS') And His Oft-Forgotten Recording Career

The former 'Man from U.N.C.L.E.' and 'NCIS' star famously found himself sampled by Dr. Dre

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Source: Capitol Records / Mega

David McCallum during his 1960s music career and as a cast member of NCIS

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When the late David McCallum died of natural causes at age 90 on Monday, September 25, the majority of the world mourned the loss of a fine, upstanding actor, one arguably known best for his roles as super spy Illya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS.

Indeed, having appeared on the latter series for a staggering 20 seasons, it's no wonder that the majority of today's viewers remember him for that role in particular, but during his original U.N.C.L.E heyday, McCallum was able to take his tremendous popularity as a teen idol - true story, look it up - and turn it into a recording career. Even more surprisingly, however, he spent the majority of that career not as a vocalist but, rather, as the conductor of the albums' instrumental pieces, several of which he either co-penned or penned by himself.

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Source: Capitol Records

Two of David McCallum's albums from the late '60s

No matter what you may think of McCallum's recorded output, there's no question that the man was prolific: he released four - count 'em - four albums during the course of the 1966-1967 window.

Of course, it certainly helped that the majority of the material were songs penned by other artists. His debut album, Music: A Part of Me, featured compositions by the Beatles (“Yesterday”) and the Rolling Stones (“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”) as well as tracks made famous by the Byrds (Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”) and the Animals (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), while his sophomore effort, Music: A Bit More Me, featured another Lennon & McCartney number (“Michelle”), a Stevie Wonder song (“Uptight”), and songs from the catalogs of The Supremes (“My World is Empty Without You”) and The Vogues (“Five O’Clock World”).

It's a song on that second album, however, that's become incredibly significant over the course of the decades. It's an unlikely musical collision, a instance where the man who played Dr. Mallard was sampled by a decidedly different physician: Dr. Dre.

Have a listen to a little ditty called... "The Edge." Feel free to listen to it in its entirety, but at the very least, pay close attention to, say, the first 15 seconds.

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Got it? Good. Now listen to, once again, at least the first 15 seconds of Dr. Dre's song, "The Next Episode."

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David Axelrod, who wrote "The Edge" and produced the album for McCallum, spoke about the song in an interview with Wax Poetic and explained how such an amazing track could find its way onto one of McCallum's LPs.

"We could give McCallum anything we wanted, ’cause we knew he was going to sell records," said Axelrod. "For the most part, we were making instrumental versions of hits. But I had to be careful—I had to say, 'Will this song, which is in the top eighty of the Billboard top one hundred, make the top ten?' It was kind of a gamble, that worked out pretty well. On that record, McCallum wrote two tunes, H.B. wrote one, and I wrote one. And we all made out pretty well, ’cause those records really sold."

David McCallum: hip-hop legend? Well, perhaps not. But there's no question that he made his musical on the genre, and it's pretty amazing.


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