V for vocals on TV theme songs

It was recommended by Zach Braff to Bill Lawrence to be used as the show’s theme.

rawhideHere’s a continuation of my favorite TV theme songs. These ones have words.

20. The Courtship of Eddie’s Father
“Best Friend”, written and performed by Harry Nilsson. I was a sucker for Harry Nilsson songs, and Bill Bixby TV shows such as My Favorite Martian, The Hulk, and The Magician.
Listen here or here

19. Moonlighting – Music – Lee Holdridge, lyrics – Al Jarreau. Produced by Nile Rodgers
Performer – Al Jarreau. The single released in 1987 reached #23 pop, #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards
Listen here or here or here (full length)

18. Mister Ed – Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Opening theme sung by Jay Livingston, with Rocky Lane as Mister Ed
Listen here or here or here (end theme)

17. Rawhide – Ned Washington (lyrics) and Dimitri Tiomkin (music)
Sung by Frankie Laine. The series featured a young Clint Eastwood (above, right)
Could the tune have come from an old Russian tune?
Listen here or here or here (full length)

16. Happy Days -Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox
Jim Haas with a group of session singers, version only in closing credits, with an updated version of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets used as the opening theme. “Re-recorded in 1975 with different lyrics for both the opening and closing credits for Seasons 3 through 10.”
Listen here or here; this must be a REALLY late version, after I stopped watching

15. Sesame Street Music by Joe Raposo, lyrics by Raposo, Jon Stone, Bruce Hart
“Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?” Raposo enlisted jazz harmonica player Jean “Toots” Thielemans, as well as a mixed choir of children, to record the opening and closing themes.
Listen here or here

14. WKRP in Cincinnati – written by series co-creator Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson
Sung by Steve Carlisle; long version got to #65 on pop charts in 1981
Listen here or here or here (long version)

13. The Golden Girls – written by Andrew Gold, who had previously recorded it
“Thank You for Being a Friend” sung by Cynthia Fee
Listen here or here

12. Friends – co-written by Friends producers David Serrato and Marta Kauffman; composer Michael Skloff (Kauffman’s husband); songwriter Allee Willis; Phil Sōlem and Danny Wilde (both of the Rembrandts)
“I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts. Single got to #17 in 1995
Listen here or here or here (single)

11. Scrubs – “(I’m No) Superman” written and performed by Lazlo Bane.
It was recommended by Zach Braff to Bill Lawrence to be used as the show’s theme.
Listen here or here or here (multiple versions)
10. Gilligan’s Island – “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle
One of those perfect story/songs for a very lightly-regarded show
Listen here (1st season) or here (later opening/closing) or here (later opening/closing)

9. The Muppet Show – Jim Henson and Sam Pottle
I loved that show.
Listen here or here

8. Batman – lyric and music by Neal Hefti
Performed by The Ron Hicklin Singers, a chorus of four tenors and four sopranos
Listen here or here

7. The Monkees – written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Theme from the Monkees performed by The Monkees, lead vocals by Micky Dolenz.
Listen here or here or here, full length

6. The Beverly Hillbillies – Paul Henning
“The Ballad of Jed Clampett” -vocal by Jerry Scroggins, instruments by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs
Listen here or here (tag to Winston cigarettes) or here, single with Flatt on vocals, which went to #44 pop, #14 adult contemporary, and #1 for three weeks country

5. Maude – written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman and Dave Grusin
“And Then There’s Maude” performed by the late, great Donny Hathaway. Picture above features Bea Arthur (center) as Maude.
Listen here or here

4. All in the Family – Lee Adams and Charles Strouse
“Those Were the Days” performed by series stars Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton
Listen here (earlier iteration) or here (later version, when “Didn’t no welfare state” sounded more resigned and “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great” was more precisely enunciated)

3. Cheers – written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” performed by Gary Portnoy. Rather melancholy.
Listen here or here or here (the full song, which is not an improvement)

2. The Addams Family – written by Vic Mizzy
Actor Ted Cassidy, in his “Lurch” voice, punctuated the lyrics with words like neat, sweet, and petite.
Listen here or here

1. The Jeffersons – Ja’net Dubois and Jeff Barry
“Movin’ On Up” – performed by Ja’net Dubois, from another Norman Lear show, Good Times.
Listen here or here

The Addams Family and The Beverly Hillbillies en espanol

See also here or here for others’ best TV theme songs.

Related: Almost a TV theme

Take Two of These and Call the Bank in the Morning

T is for TV opening themes

fugitiveWhen I saw that Chuck Miller listed ten iconic TV opening themes, I knew I had to do likewise. I LOVE opening TV themes; I have SEVEN CDs with 65 themes each, plus some soundtracks. And I’ve obsessed on the topic before.

This list features those themes without words, mostly because the roster became SO long, I had to split it up.

20. I Love Lucy- H. Adamson/E. Daniel. A staple of my childhood.
Listen here or here  Listen also to the song sung by Desi Arnaz

19. The Office (U.S.) – Jay Ferguson. A jaunty tune which ends up rocking out
Listen here or here, long version by The Scrantones
The show almost had a different theme.

18. The Dick Van Dyke Show – music by Earle Hagen. Possibly my favorite TV show of all time.
Listen here or here. Dick Van Dyke sings the theme with friends; lyrics by Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrell on the show)

17. The Rockford Files – Pete Carpenter and Mike Post. Mike Post will show up again on this list.
Listen here or here

16. Bonanza – Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, featuring orchestration by David Rose
Back when we still had a black and white TV, we ‘d go over to my grandma’s next-door neighbor’s house to watch that burning Ponderosa map in color
Listen here or here or here (12 different versions)

15. Get Smart – Irving Szathmary
That clever spy spoof created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry.
Listen here or here

14. The Simpsons – Danny Elfman
It’s a flexible form. I have a Simpsons soundtrack and the theme is wonderfully manipulated.
Listen here or here

13. The Fugitive – Peter Rugolo
My mother’s favorite show, maybe because she had a crush on David Janssen.
Listen here or here, including musical themes and cues

12. Miami Vice – Jan Hammer
The extended version went to #1 on the pop charts in 1985.
Listen here or here, extended
11. Night Court – Jack Elliot
Listen here or here (intro and outro)

10. Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini
I barely remember the show, but the song must have gotten radio play.
Listen here or here (different iteration)

9. Sanford & Son – Quincy Jones
Called The Streetbeater
Listen here or here (long version)

8. The Andy Griffith Show – Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer and Everett Sloane
Called The Fishin’ Hole. It’s hard to whistle in tune, especially in harmony.
Listen here or here (opening & closing)

7. Barney Miller – Jack Elliott & Allyn Ferguson
It was actually the theme that got me to watch the comedy cop show.
Listen here or here

6. MAS*H by Johnny Mandel
“Suicide Is Painless” was used in the movie
Listen here or here

5. Hawaii Five-O – Morton Stevens
The extended version by the Ventures got to #4 in 1969
Listen here or here (long)

4. Mission: Impossible – Lalo Schifrin
A show I watched religiously with my dad.
Listen here or here

3. Hill Street Blues – Mike Post
Possibly my favorite show of the 1980s.
Listen here or here (extended)

2. Law & Order – Mike Post
I have an LP of Mike Post-composed themes
Listen here or here (extended)

1. Perry Mason – Fred Steiner
I think it’s the closing theme, an extension of the opening, that makes me love this song.
Listen here or here or here (closing)

There are a couple of instrumentals that belong on the list, but I can’t divorce the voiceover from the music

* The Twilight Zone – Marius Constant
The Rod Serling narration I find intertwined.
Listen here or here or here (all instrumental). Also,
Bernard Hermann music, from season 1

* Star Trek – Alexander Courage
Theme from Star Trek” (originally scored under the title “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) I always hear with William Shatner’s voice
Listen here or here

Closing TV themes that are DIFFERENT than the opening theme

The show Tayo The Little Bus has a different opening and closing theme.

Frasier_LogoMy daughter wanted breakfast one morning recently. I thought to give her the tossed salad I had made the night before, which she merely nibbled at. Instead, I went with her request of scrambled eggs; the egg carton was under the salad bowl.

That made me think, naturally, of Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs, the end theme for the TV show Frasier [LISTEN to the extended version] . But what was the opening theme of that show? Seems that it varies a bit; LISTEN to this compilation.

What other shows have distinctive different opening and closing themes? By “distinctive”, I mean a totally different song. This eliminates tunes that are continuations of the opening (The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island), or slower versions (The Jeffersons) or weirder versions (Addams Family).

I’ve been told that some cable shows, such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and Girls end with different songs for each episode; not what I’m looking for.

The first show I thought of was All in the Family, which opens with Those Were The Days, sung by “Archie and “Edith”, [LISTEN to an extended version] and ends with the instrumental Remembering You [LISTEN].

The other that came to mind was WKRP in Cincinnati, with a sad, mellow song as the intro [LISTEN to an extended version] and that intentionally incomprehensible rocker at the end [LISTEN].

A colleague reminded me of The Monkees program, which, of course, starts with The Monkees Theme. It ends with some song I must say I didn’t know – I remember the “I wanna be free” part – but is For Pete’s Sake [LISTEN] from the Headquarters album. But Headquarters was their third album. In the first season of the show, did it start and end with the same song, as this clip [LISTEN] suggests? And did the ending get changed for syndication?

Another colleague mentioned Tayo The Little Bus, a program I had never heard of. But yes, here’s the opening theme [LISTEN] and the closer [LISTEN].

I found online a reference to Land of the Lost [LISTEN to opening and closing]. Wasn’t a show I watched.

Nor was I familiar with one found by fellow blogger Chuck Miller:

The original broadcast of the Vietnam drama Tour of Duty (CBS, 1988-91) had a generic drum and flute music at the end, but the opening credits were the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black.” That music was removed from the syndicated and DVD episodes, but there’s still a reference to the opening credits as written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

I took advantage of Ken Levine’s Friday Questions, one of which was about TV themes, to ask the question. Here are some of the responses:
Bosom Buddies (it’s “one show where the theme song (Billy Joel) had to be replaced because of Rights Issues”)
Happy Days’ first season
Gidget (“Ken’s favorite theme”)
The Monkees’ second season
Remington Steele after the first season
The Judy Garland Show
Captain and Tennille (“I’m pretty sure it was ‘Love will Keep Us Together’ at the opening and ‘A Song of Joy’ at the end.”)

What else, people? I’m probably talking about older shows, since, as Chuck correctly notes:

Unfortunately, today we don’t know a lot of the closing theme songs in that the last minutes of episodes are either showing previews for next week’s episode or promoting a different program; the closing credits zip by at lightning speed; about the only time we DO get a closing theme of any sort is if we watch the program via On Demand or in its DVD format.



Then there’s the special cases of themes that are best known for whistling or finger snapping.

Ken Levine was ranting about the loss of the television theme song, about which I tend to agree. It so happened that as I was reading his piece, I was in the midst of listening to one of seven or eight CDs I have of TV theme songs. I was at work, so I didn’t have time to look to see what songs were playing. A number of songs I liked but couldn’t place.

This brings me to these questions, in honor of the Emmys this week:

1. What are your favorite TV theme songs?

I’m partial to the work of Mike Post and the late Earle Hagen.

2. What do you think are the most recognizable? I’m thinking that you could be listening to a bunch of soundtrack songs and instantly recognize the tune out of context. Perhaps one has to separate the instrumentals from the songs with lyrics. I think there have been some great, distinctive themes for shows that were once popular but aren’t seen that often anymore, as far as I know, such as Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Taxi, and Barney Miller. Other shows seem to be in reruns forever. My guess, in more or less reverse order:

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – perhaps beginning to fade from memory, but those infomercials for the best of Carson are around. And it was on for 30 years.
Sanford & Son – that great Quincy Jones tune
Peter Gunn – was a big pop hit, and was covered by the Blues Brothers
MAS*H – very popular show, still in reruns
Law & Order – a 20-year show, just off the air, its spinoffs still on the air using variations on the theme, and it’s constantly on reruns
Hawaii 5-0 – another pop hit that shows up at sporting events, and now is going to be remade for a new series in the 2010 TV season on CBS

The ones with words are tougher, but I imagine Friends, Cheers, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Jeffersons and The Brady Bunch would be among them.

Then there are the special cases of themes that are best known for whistling (The Andy Griffith Show (here’s The Andy Griffith Show, really) or finger-snapping (The Addams Family).

What are your favorites, and which ones were most distinctive?
Paste magazine’s 20 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time.


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