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The Ventures: “Hawaii Five-0”

A post on television show themes is an exercise in nostalgia for those of us old enough to have seen the series when they originally aired.

While there’s nothing wrong with that, there is far more to it then reminiscing. For one thing, program themes are the original music videos. They also are commercials: A television theme has to sell the show and set the mood. It has to do all this in about a minute. A bad theme can sink a good show, and a good one can at least delay the demise of a bad one.

Among the classics are the themes from All in the Family, The Sopranos, Miami Vice, The Jeffersons, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Addams Family.

The theme from WKRP in Cincinnati may not be in their league, but it has a great line (albeit one with some questionable grammar: I think “me” in the first line should be “I”). Regardless, it’s great:

Maybe you and me were never meant to be,
But baby think of me once in a while.

Two masters of the genre — Neal Hefti (Batman, The Odd Couple) and Lalo Shifrin (Man From U.N.C.L.EMission Impossible) — were legitimate jazz heavyweights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The talent involved in creating television theme songs is staggering and shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.