Category: television theme

On this day in music history: May 14, 1987…

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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On this day in music history: May 8, 1976 – &l…

On this day in music history: May 8, 1976 – “Welcome Back” by John Sebastian hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by John Sebastian, it is the biggest solo hit for the co-founder and chief songwriter for The Lovin’ Spoonful. In 1975, musician John Sebastian is approached by series producer Alan Sachs to come up with a theme song for a new TV series starring comedian Gabe Kaplan, and cast of young and then relatively unknown actors including John Travolta, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Robert Hegyes and Ron Palillo. In the early stages of its development, the show simply titled “Kotter”. Sebastian comes back with a song titled “Welcome Back”, which the creators like so much, that the series name is amended after they hear it. Originally, the song is only one minute long and intended for use only as a theme song. It is only after viewer demand for its release a single, that Sebastian writes a second verse and re-cuts a longer and complete version. Released in early March of 1976, the song quickly becomes a smash, giving John Sebastian his greatest success as a solo artist, and biggest hit since leaving The Lovin’ Spoonful eight years before. Entering the Hot 100 at # 84 on March 27, 1976, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Welcome Back” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 20, 1981…

On this day in music history: April 20, 1981 – “Theme From "Greatest American Hero” (Believe It Or Not)“ by Joey Scarbury is released. Written by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer, it is the biggest hit for the musician and singer from Ontario, CA. Raised in the near by Southern California suburb of Thousand Oaks, Joey Scarbury gets his initial break at only fourteen, after being heard by the father of legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb. Scarbury is signed to Dunhill Records in 1969, and is dropped by the label after two failed singles. Throughout the 70’s, he records for several different labels with no success. Scarbury’s fortunes change when he begins working with record producer and musician Mike Post. Best known for composing several classic television show themes including "The Rockford Files” (#8 Pop), “Theme From "Hill Street Blues”“ (#10 Pop) and "Theme From "Magnum P.I.”“ (#25 Pop), Post along with songwriter Stephen Geyer are commissioned to write the theme to a new show created by Stephen J. Cannell. Cannell’s new show "Greatest American Hero” stars William Katt as the title character, a high school teacher who comes into the possession of a superhero suit that gives him superhuman powers. Losing the instructions, he learns to use it through trial and error, often flying and landing with comically disastrous results. The series also co-stars Robert Culp (“I Spy”) and Connie Selleca (“Hotel”). Post and Geyer write the shows’ theme subtitled “Believe It Or Not” after the songs memorable chorus. Joey Scarbury puts his vocals on the track, and theme makes its debut during the premiere episode of “Greatest American Hero” on March 18, 1981. The success of the two hour pilot launch creates an immediate demand for the song, which is released as a single by Elektra Records just four weeks later. “Theme From "Greatest American Hero” (Believe It Or Not)“ enters the Hot 100 at #85 on May 9, 1981, peaking at #2 (for 2 weeks) fourteen weeks later on August 15, 1981, unable to move Diana Ross & Lionel Richie’s mega smash "Endless Love” from the top spot. In spite of scoring a top five million seller, Joey Scarbury is unable to parlay that success into more hits. The follow up “When She Dances” stalls at #49 in November of 1981. Scarbury continues to work with Mike Post, singing “Back To Back”, the theme of the Cannell created series “Hardcastle & McCormick”. He along with singer Desiree Goyette sing the theme for The Peanuts animated special “It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown” in 1984. And in 1990, he scores a number one country hit as a songwriter, co-writing “No Matter How High” for The Oak Ridge Boys with veteran songwriter Even Stevens. “Theme From "Greatest American Hero” (Believe It Or Not)“ is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: February 28, 197…

On this day in music history: February 28, 1976 – “The Theme From S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #11 on the R&B singles chart on February 21, 1976. Written by Barry DeVorzon, it is the biggest hit for the studio group led by producer and musicians Steve Barri and Michael Omartian. The song is the theme to the police action series starring Steve Forrest and Robert Urich, and is produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. The series airs on the ABC television network, debuting on February 24, 1975 and running until April 3, 1976. Not at actual performing group, Rhythm Heritage consists of producer/musician Barri (The Grass Roots, Barry McGuire) and Omartian (Christopher Cross, Donna Summer) along with a number of top notch L.A. studio musicians including Ed Greene (drums), Scott Edwards (bass), Ray Parker, Jr., Jay Graydon, and Dean Parks (guitars). The song is released after ABC receives numerous inquiries asking if it is available as a single. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on November 15, 1975, it climbs to the top of the chart fifteen weeks later. During its run on the charts, ABC Records releases two different pressings of the single. The initial pressing is an edit that runs 2:47. It is replaced with the full 4:07 version with an extended breakdown that also appears on the bands’ debut album “Disco-fied”. “S.W.A.T.” is the first of only four television show themes to hit number one on the pop chart during the rock era. The others are “Welcome Back” by John Sebastian, “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer, and “How Do You Talk To An Angel?” by The Heights. “S.W.A.T.” is also sampled a number of times over the years, on tracks by Twin Hype (“Nothin’ Could Save Ya”), 3rd Bass (remix version of “3rd Bass Theme a.k.a. Portrait Of The Artist As A Hood”), and Lauryn Hill (remix version of “The Sweetest Thing”). “The Theme From S.W.A.T.” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: November 9, 1985…

On this day in music history: November 9, 1985 – “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart on November 23, 1985. Written and produced by Jan Hammer, it is the biggest hit for the composer and musician from the Czech Republic. Born in Prague, Jan Hammer’s interest in music begins at age four when he begins playing piano, advancing to formal lessons two years later. Initially intending to become a doctor like his father, the desire to play music has a stronger pull. Hammer eventually decides to pursue an education in music, enrolling in the Prague Academy of Musical Arts in 1968. When the Warsaw Pact invades his native country, Hammer leaves for the US to study at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. Completing his studies, Hammer quickly makes a name for himself as a touring with legendary jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan as well as recording with Elvin Jones and Jeremy Steig. In 1971, he becomes a founding member of the influential jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Billy Cobham, violinist Jerry Goodman, and bassist Rick Laird. Hammer remains with the band until late 1973, then collaborating with Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and Jeff Beck. In early 1984, Hammer is approached by Michael Mann to compose music for television series he’s developing called “Miami Vice”. The police drama stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as detectives fighting crime against the glamorous and visceral back drop of Miami, FL. The series is unlike anything before it, visually or otherwise. Hammer’s distinctive scoring provides the perfect accompaniment to the on screen action. Utilizing the most advanced musical technology of the day, including the Fairlight CMI, Synclavier II and Yamaha DX7 synthesizers, Jan Hammer’s music becomes like an additional character in the series. He composes an explosive and brash theme for the show which immediately grabs the public’s attention from the first episode. The original “Miami Vice Theme” is only a minute long, but it is expanded to just under two and a half minutes when public demand for its release becomes too great to ignore. The theme is released as a single in August of 1985, and quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on September 7, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The single propels the “Miami Vice Soundtrack” to the top of the Billboard Top 200, spending eleven weeks at number one, becoming the most successful TV soundtrack album since Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” in 1959. It holds the record until 2006, when it is overtaken by the soundtrack to “High School Musical”. The “Miami Vice Theme” also wins Jan Hammer two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition in 1986. It is the last time an instrumental tops the US singles chart until “Harlem Shake” by Baauer in 2013.

On this day in music history: November 9, 1985 – “Miami…

On this day in music history: November 9, 1985 – “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart on November 23, 1985. Written and produced by Jan Hammer, it is the biggest hit for the composer and musician from the Czech Republic. Born in Prague, Jan Hammer’s interest in music begins at age four when he begins playing piano, advancing to formal lessons two years later. Initially intending to become a doctor like his father, the desire to play music has a stronger pull. Hammer eventually decides to pursue an education in music, enrolling in the Prague Academy of Musical Arts in 1968. When the Warsaw Pact invades his native country, Hammer leaves for the US to study at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. Completing his studies, Hammer quickly makes a name for himself as a touring with legendary jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan as well as recording with Elvin Jones and Jeremy Steig. In 1971, he becomes a founding member of the influential jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Billy Cobham, violinist Jerry Goodman, and bassist Rick Laird. Hammer remains with the band until late 1973, then collaborating with Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and Jeff Beck. In early 1984, Hammer is approached by Michael Mann to compose music for television series he’s developing called “Miami Vice”. The police drama stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as detectives fighting crime against the glamorous and visceral back drop of Miami, FL. The series is unlike anything before it, visually or otherwise. Hammer’s distinctive scoring provides the perfect accompaniment to the on screen action. Utilizing the most advanced musical technology of the day, including the Fairlight CMI, Synclavier II and Yamaha DX7 synthesizers, Jan Hammer’s music becomes like an additional character in the series. He composes an explosive and brash theme for the show which immediately grabs the public’s attention from the first episode. The original “Miami Vice Theme” is only a minute long, but it is expanded to just under two and a half minutes when public demand for its release becomes too great to ignore. The theme is released as a single in August of 1985, and quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on September 7, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The single propels the “Miami Vice Soundtrack” to the top of the Billboard Top 200, spending eleven weeks at number one, becoming the most successful TV soundtrack album since Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” in 1959. It holds the record until 2006, when it is overtaken by the soundtrack to “High School Musical”. The “Miami Vice Theme” also wins Jan Hammer two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition in 1986. It is the last time an instrumental tops the US singles chart until “Harlem Shake” by Baauer in 2013.