TV Theme Songs are a unique invention of the 20th century, used to tell, share and identify stories about our culture. And when they are shared down from generation to generation, it's the same practice as was done with traditional folk songs like . Granted, some may argue these stories are nonsense, that they aren't meaningful. But I say you're just an ol' fuddy duddy if you do. Remember the time when someone mentioned an old TV show you grew up watching and thinking about its theme song made you smile? Or the time you pointed out to someone that there were different lyrics at the end of the Gilligan's Island theme? Or when you started singing a few lines or hummed a melody from a theme song like Peter Gunn or Hawaii Five-O because friends around you would recognize it or it was just plain fun to do? And when you did that, didn't you just share a moment with others that uniquely sprang from our modern culture, our youth, from the days were grew up? Didn't you just share a folk song?
But that fact that I thought of them as folk tales comes from the moment when I discovered another magical quality about TV theme songs, that some of the ones I'd only known of as wordless yet signature musical compositions actually HAD LYRICS!
In 1984, I discovered a timely little book called "The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Song Book" by John Javna. I still have it, along with the second volume he released a year later (both are shown in the photo above). And in it was a revelation. That classic instrumental theme songs for the shows Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza and more actually had lyrics written for them. And they were included in these books with sheet music to boot. A companion LP followed, The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Album, and that's about when my head exploded. For the first time, I heard these lyric-filled recordings of the "I Love Lucy Theme" and "The Andy Griffith Show Theme", songs that for decades were only instrumental tunes in my memory, now fortified with vocals, vocals sung by Ricky Ricardo and Sheriff Andy Taylor themselves. (Now, I wasn't that big an I Love Lucy fan at the time, but now I know the song had actually been sung on one of the episodes. So to Desi and Lucy fans, it wasn't a revelation. But it was to me.) The album also included extended versions of some of my favorite theme songs like Mission: Impossible and Bonanza which until then I'd only heard in their minute-long broadcast version at the top of their shows.
And I'm certainly not alone! I've wanted to do this blog for some time now. And when I planned to include recordings of some of my favorite TV theme songs, some with those unknown lyrics, I knew there were bound to be other fanatics like me who not only owned them too but would post them as videos on YouTube. So for your enjoyment, I present some of my favorite 20th century folk songs below, presented in ways you likely haven't heard them presented ever before.
And if you liked this blog, "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"
Retro Warning: If you were born in the last, say twenty years, and don't watch much TV Land or retro TV type stations, these tunes may not mean a darn thing to you.
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Music by Eliot Daniel
Vocals by Desi Arnaz
Theme from The Andy Griffith Show
Lyrics by Everett Sloane
Music by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer
Vocals by Andy Griffith
Words and music by Jerry Fielding
Vocals by Robert Clary, Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon and Larry Hovis*
* These are the cast members from the show.
Composed by Neal Hefti
Arrangement by David Slonaker
Performed by Joel McNeely conducting The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus
Arrangement inspired by "The Batman Theme" by Danny Elfman composed in 1989
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- Dr. Kildare
- Room 222
- Star Trek: Voyager
- The Waltons
- Barnaby Jones
All composed by Jerry Goldsmith
Arrangement for concert performance by Morton Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith started composing for television before going on to create memorable films scores for films such as Patton, The Omen, Poltergeist, Planet of the Apes, Total Recall, Mulan, Gremlins, Rudy, Hoosiers, The Mummy and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (wikipedia link)