10 Memorable TV Theme Songs
It's been 20 years since the hit TV sitcom "Friends" debuted on Sept. 22, 1994. Since then, no part of the show has arguably become more iconic than the theme song: "I'll Be There For You" by the Rembrandts, which received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal for 1995. Whether you were an avid watcher, or just know that at some point during the show's 10-year tenure Ross and Rachel were "on a break," you will likely associate the Rembrandts' '90s hit with the TV show. (You can probably even sing all the words, right down to the "clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.")
In honor of the 20th anniversary of "Friends," and its iconic theme song, we present below a list of 10 memorable TV themes created by other GRAMMY nominees and winners.
"Sanford And Son"
Composed by 27-time GRAMMY winner Quincy Jones, the theme song to "Sanford And Son" — the American sitcom that ran from 1972–1977 and was based on the British sitcom "Steptoe And Son" — is featured on Jones' 1973 album You've Got It Bad Girl. "I just wrote what he looked like," said Jones regarding popular "Sanford And Son" star Redd Foxx in a 2002 interview with the Emmys. "It sounds just like him, doesn't it?"
"The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air"
Co-written by GRAMMY winner Will Smith, the theme song to "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air," in which Smith is also cast as the "Fresh Prince," has arguably become one of the most iconic TV themes of the '90s. By the time the show debuted in 1990, Smith was already a successful rapper, having earned a GRAMMY for 1988 for Best Rap Performance for "Parents Just Don't Understand" with D.J. Jazzy Jeff — a song that was a telling precursor to Smith's future role on the show as a street-smart youth.
"The Wonder Years"
Joe Cocker's rendition of the Beatles' hit, "With A Little Help From My Friends," will forever be associated with what TV Guide named one of the 20 best TV shows of the '80s, "The Wonder Years." The comedy-drama first aired in 1988, starring Fred Savage, who went on to become the youngest actor ever nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series. Cocker's version of "With A Little Help …" is the title track to his 1969 debut album, which peaked in the Top 40 on the Billboard 200.
There aren't any words (save for the intro) but it's likely anyone who watches the hit animated TV series "The Simpsons" can hum every part of its theme song. The series' opening sequence is practically an episode of its own, with each member of the family rushing home from their various commitments to meet on the couch and settle in for a night of TV. The theme song was composed by Danny Elfman, who previously won a GRAMMY for the 1989 Batman movie theme, and reportedly took three days, two hours, 48 minutes, and 19 seconds to create.
"The Rockford Files"
The first theme song on the list to actually win a GRAMMY, "The Rockford Files" theme was co-written by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter and won Best Instrumental Arrangement honors for 1975. Featured in the '70s crime drama series of the same name starring James Garner, the song was also released as a single and climbed to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 16 weeks.
GRAMMY Playlist: Memorable TV Show Themes
"The Love Boat"
It's the voice of GRAMMY-winning jazz and pop singer Jack Jones that led viewers into the classic Saturday night television series "The Love Boat," which aired from 1977–1987 and revolved around the romantic and humorous adventures involving passengers on a cruise ship. (GRAMMY winner Dionne Warwick's cover was used for the show's final season.) The song was co-written by fellow GRAMMY winners Charles Fox and Paul Williams and appears as the opening track to Jones' 1979 album Nobody Does It Better.
The late Neal Hefti won his lone GRAMMY for composing the theme to the 1966 action series "Batman." Arranged and recorded by fellow GRAMMY winner Nelson Riddle, the song centers on a guitar hook that recalls spy film scores and surf music. Artists who have covered the "Batman" theme song include the Ventures, the Standells, Link Wray, and the Who, among others.
"The Dukes Of Hazzard"
GRAMMY winner Waylon Jennings wrote and recorded the theme song for the '80s TV series "The Dukes Of Hazzard," which follows the adventures of "them Dukes" (played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat) and their 1969 Dodge Charger in Hazzard County, Ga. The late country legend released an alternate version of the song on his 1980 album Music Man, which topped Billboard's Country Albums chart.
"The Cosby Show"
The theme song to "The Cosby Show" — which this month celebrates its 30th anniversary since its debut on Sept. 20, 1984 — "Kiss Me" was co-written by GRAMMY winner Bill Cosby (who also stars in the show) and Stu Gardner. Seven versions of the theme were used during the series' run, including one performed by GRAMMY winner Bobby McFerrin — marking one of the few television series to feature multiple versions of the same theme song over the course of a series.
The third theme song on the list to actually win a GRAMMY, the "Miami Vice Theme" was written and recorded by Jan Hammer. It won not one but two GRAMMYs for 1985, including Best Instrumental Composition. The crime drama, which aired from 1984–1990, starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as police detectives working undercover in Miami. Arguably more iconic than the show's theme song was Johnson's and Thomas' colorful attire.
What's your favorite TV show theme? Let us know in the comments section below.