Back in the ‘80s, TV music trained my dog. When the closing theme for LA Law played, the pup would find her leash, then wait near Dad’s cigar stash. She knew it was time for a walk!
TV music has trained me too. The Twilight Zone theme song makes me double-check door locks, and the intro to the news makes me tense up. But sitcom theme songs get me smiling.
With comedies in mind, join us as we revisit retro TV theme songs that add a little pep to our step — and maybe your dog’s too.
“Movin' On Up” — The Jeffersons
Groove to “Movin’ On Up,” a timeless tune about realizing the American Dream. This energetic theme song captures the joy of George and Louise Jefferson's upward mobility:
We're moving on up
To the East Side
To a deluxe apartment in the sky
“Movin’ On Up” is performed by the song’s co-writer, the Good Times actress Ja’Net DuBois. She’s backed by a 35-member gospel choir.
“The Streetbeater” — Sanford and Son
The funky music introducing Sanford and Son is entitled “The Streetbeater.” When writing the theme, Quincy Jones was inspired by actor Redd Foxx and his character’s bumbling red Ford. “I just wrote what he looked like,” is how Jones described the work.
In 1973 the catchy theme song was released as a three-minute version on vinyl. It doesn’t have official lyrics, but Ella Fitzgerald and other fans have written their own lines to fit the tune.
“Love Is All Around” — The Mary Tyler Moore Show
For generations, The Mary Tyler Moore Show's optimistic theme song "Love Is All Around" has boosted the spirits of single working women. Like a best friend, the lyrics say:
You can have the town
Why don’t you take it?
You might just make it after all
The lyrics were adjusted a bit as Mary Tyler Moore’s character found success in Minneapolis. The version posted here is from the show’s first season in 1970.
“Happy Days” — Happy Days
The song “Happy Days” ushers in the sitcom of the same name, a 1970s show portraying life in the ‘50s. This musical time capsule transports us to a wholesome version of mid-century Milwaukee — a world of jukeboxes, sock hops, and cruising in chrome-trimmed cars.
Originally this tune was only used for the Happy Days closing credits; it first became the intro in season 3. Before then, the show kicked off with a cover of the 1954 hit "Rock Around the Clock."
“Making Our Dreams Come True” — Laverne & Shirley
Laverne and Shirley first appeared on Happy Days. In 1976 they found greater fame with their spinoff sitcom. The theme song “Making Our Dreams Come True” tells a tale of camaraderie and determination, effectively setting the scene for the show’s goofy escapades:
Give us any chance, we’ll take it
Read us any rule, we’ll break it
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
In the summer of ‘76 the Laverne & Shirley theme song reached #25 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100. It was performed by the one-hit wonder Cyndi Grecco.
“Come and Knock on Our Door” — Three’s Company
They’ve been waiting for you! Transport yourself to a retro Santa Monica with the Three’s Company theme song “Come and Knock on Our Door.” This breezy tune makes us imagine life with fun roommates in simpler times. If only they’d had cellphones to help avoid misunderstandings! The show ran from 1977 to 1984.
Fun fact: The Three’s Company songwriter Joe Raposo also wrote the theme songs for Sesame Street and The Electric Company.
“Yo Home to Bel-Air” — The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
We can’t resist rapping along to “Yo Home to Bel-Air,” Will Smith’s intro for the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This story-style theme song narrates his character’s move from a rough section of West Philadelphia to a fancy part of western Los Angeles:
This is a story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside-down
Will Smith wrote his lyrics as The Fresh Prince, and his song was produced by Jeffrey Townes under the name DJ Jazzy Jeff. The duo released longer versions of the theme song for radio and vinyl.
“I'll Be There for You” — Friends
Closing our list is the iconic theme song for Friends, "I'll Be There for You." The upbeat lyrics feel like a musical hug from the Central Perk gang when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year…
The creators of Friends wanted to use “Shiny Happy People” for the intro but REM wouldn’t grant rights to the song. Ultimately The Rembrandts agreed to perform the substitute jingle “I’ll Be There for You.” Later the band extended the song to be radio-friendly.
What Did We Miss?
These retro TV theme songs show the enduring power of music to lift our spirits. What TV show songs would you add to the list?
About the Author: Jorie Henrickson writes in Santa Cruz, California. For kicks she authors fill-the-blank books shown at 420Libs.com.