On this day in music history: May 14, 1987 – “Moonlighting (Theme)” by Al Jarreau is released. Written by Al Jarreau and Lee Holdridge, it is the twenty seventh single release for the jazz and pop vocalist from Milwaukee, WI. By the mid 80’s, singer Al Jarreau is the at the pinnacle of his career, successfully bridging the worlds of jazz, and expanding his reach to include R&B and pop music. In 1984, the singer is asked to co-write and sing the theme song for a new series, set to debut on ABC in early 1985. The series is the ground breaking comedy-drama “Moonlighting”, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as private detectives. Jarreau accepts the offer, writing the lyrics and melody for the theme song with veteran film score composer and arranger Lee Holdridge (Neil Diamond). When “Moonlighting” quickly becomes a hit, fans also become enamored of its theme song. Though at the time, no effort is made to release a longer version of Al Jarreau’s song, which is originally only one minute long. With “Miami Vice” reviving the long dormant genre of television soundtrack albums in late 1985, others begin to follow suit. With music being an integral part of its appeal, the producers of “Moonlighting” decide to also create a spin off soundtrack album. Needing to re-record the theme, Al Jarreau calls on one of the top producers in the business to assist him. Having produced Jarreau’s 1986 album “L Is For Lover”, former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers produces the expanded version of the theme. The “Moonlighting (Theme)” peaks at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 18, 1987, at #32 on the R&B singles chart on August 1, 1986, and spending one week at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart on July 25, 1987. It’s an even bigger hit overseas, peaking at #8 on the UK singles chart, becoming Jarreau’s third highest charting single in that country. The UK release is accompanied by an extended 12" single. The original version which includes a sax solo during the break, is later replaced on compilations by a mix that features a harmonica solo in its place. The singer receives a pair of Grammy nominations in 1988, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically For A Motion Picture or Television Program. However, the chart success of “Moonlighting” can’t prevent the show from going into a major decline. The downward slope is caused in part by squabbles between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, and by the sexual and romantic tension between the pairs on screen characters, being broken when they finally consummate their relationship. “Moonlighting (Theme)” marks the beginning of the end of Al Jarreau’s pop chart success, though he continues to enjoy a successful string of Grammy winning jazz vocal albums, until his passing in February of 2017.
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