Yesterday, we hit you up with the best ten TV theme songs that didn't quite make the top of our list. We heard a few quibbles from fellow television aficionados, but their cries of frustration were muffled by the sounds of "The LOOOVVE BOAT..."
Today, we return with the best of the best. Truth is, lists are not our thing even if we do them with regularity. There are certainly a few that didn't make our list that are worthy. Hell, it was tough trimming down from the 30-plus tunes that got us started. Plus, as we mentioned yesterday, throwback for us means shows in the 70s and 80s. But, somebody has to lose and somebody has to win and, when it comes to classic TV themes, we think we all do pretty damn well.
10. Welcome Back Kotter
Former Lovin' Spoonful frontman John Sebastian's ditty welcoming Gabe Kaplan's character (a.k.a. Gabe Kotter) back to his old hood, now as a teacher for a bunch of remedial ruffians...and John Travolta...actually climbed all the way to the top of the Billboard charts. It's mellow, just chill out vibe is as vintage seventies as the multi-colored beret worn by Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington.
9. The Jeffersons
Not surprisingly, this gospel-infused barrel of awesome was penned and performed by Jeannette Dubois, the actress who played Willona on another show on our list, Good Times. It has just enough bounce and vigor to help George Jefferson get his well-known groove on, which was appropriate considering his next door neighbor, Helen Willis, was played by Roxie Roker, the mother of Lenny Kravitz.
8. Hill Street Blues
Like number 15 on our list, this hit theme song was written by Mike Post, joined by legendary guitarist, Larry Carlton. The instrumental song reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While it felt somewhat of a departure from a gritty, crime drama that paved the way for a dozen other shows just like it, the song had heart, like the characters on the show, and a pretty damn great melody.
7. Sesame Street
Anyone without a heart of stone should recognize that Sesame Street is one of the great shows of all time and it's theme song, "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street," is as sweet and fun as the show itself. Writer Joe Raposo, who is probably best known for the theme to Three's Company (Come and knock on our door...) tapped harmonica legend Toots Thielemans and a children's quire (natch) to perform it and it's pure joy.
We all want to have a place "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" and, in the 80s, Cheers was it. The memorable theme was originally written for a musical called Preppies, but was heard by the producers for the show and, after a lyrical re-write, the song was born. The song won an Emmy in 1983 and is still frequently covered by pop punksters who latch onto the catchy, happy hook.
5. Good Times
We may have mentioned gospel choirs earlier in this list, but no one did it better than the backing singers in the rollicking theme to the All in the Family spinoff's spinoff (Florida Evans was the maid for Edith Bunker's cousin, Maude, who had a pretty well known show of her own). Astoundingly, the song was written by the brilliant jazz composer and musician Dave Grusin. In a good way, we say, "DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!!!"
For those who loved the brilliant Robert Altman anti-hero film that spawned the, what some consider more saccharine television series, it was a bitter pill to swallow when the lyrics to "Suicide is Painless" were taken out because they were considered too controversial for TV audiences. Despite that, the theme was still poignant and fitting even without the lyrics, which happened to have been penned by Altman's son, Mike, when he was only 14. Creepy.
3. Hawaii Five-O
In what has to be the most famous drum fill in history, the theme to this 70s cop drama set in the island state was performed by surf rockers The Ventures. It reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Multiple versions of the song with lyrics have been recorded by Don Ho and Sammy Davis, Jr. It has even become the un-official fight song of the University of Miami. Thankfully, when the show was remade in 2010, the theme was preserved and still sounds as valid and energetic today as it did 30 years ago.
2. Rockford Files
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
This 70s James Garner private detective drama always makes us think of Ben Folds. In his song "The Battle of Who Could Care Less," he sings, "You think Rockford Files was cool, but there are some things you would change if it were up to you." We doubt one of those things would be this killer theme song, however. Another Mike Post television masterpiece, this one went to number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and even won a Grammy. We still think Matchbox 20 should just admit they stole the guitar riff for "Rainmaker" from the show, but we're not bitter.
1. Sanford and Son
How can a theme song composed by Quincy Jones not be at the top of the list? The truth is, "The Streetbeater" is one of the finest funk/soul compositions out there, TV theme or otherwise, and even made it on his greatest hits compilation. The image of that funky old beat up red truck overloaded with junk pulling into Fred G. and Lamont Sanford's salvage shop wouldn't be complete without the seriously funky groove behind it. It doesn't get any better than that.