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SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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  Alumni & FriendsAlumnus David Carradine blocks a martial arts move from an opponent on the set of  “Kill Bill.” Photo by Jamie Kibben

'Bill's' Flirtation with Opera

Quentin Tarantino has orchestrated another comeback. This time, for actor David Carradine, who, with the title roll in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series, makes his first big screen appearance in five years and has the critics raving.

Carradine is probably best known for his role as the taciturn Caine on the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu." What is less well-known about this hard-working actor with more than 140 movies and television series under his belt, is that he is also a skilled musician and composer. In fact, it was while studying music at SF State in 1956 that Carradine first caught the acting bug. "I was a music major, there to learn how to write operas, but the drama department was in the same building. As an actor's son, I naturally gravitated down the hall," he said recently in an e-mail interview.

Soon after arriving at State, Carradine met the legendary Jules Irving. Carradine credits Irving, who eventually went on to become the artistic director of Lincoln Center in New York, with ridding him of the bad habit of "acting." Irving's favorite criticism of student performances was "interesting, but not believable," a concept that was drilled into the young Carradine.

During his crossover from music to drama, Carradine studied jazz piano under Dave Brubeck, audited a semantics course taught by English Professor S. I. Hayakawa, wrote the music for a student ballet, and was cast in a College production of "Julius Caesar." These last two efforts never came to fruition, however. Carradine left to pursue his acting career.

These days, when Carradine isn't walking the red carpet at Cannes or immersed in a flurry of interviews, he sculpts, writes, practices kung-fu (he was inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2001) and continues to compose and perform music with his band, The Soul Dogs. He has yet to write an opera.


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