11 TV Theme Songs Not-So-Obviously Sung by the Star
Everyone knows Will Smith sang the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Reba McEntire's vocals are obviously hers when you listen to her show's theme. But what about all those other stars who supported their TV series beyond their acting duties? Here's a list of 11 stars who stepped up and sang their shows' theme songs.
Composer Bruce Miller had more obstacles than one would expect in composing the closing theme song for Frasier. The producers were rather vague in their directions, telling him they didn’t want the lyrics to directly reference the characters or the plot of the show. So when lyricist Darryl Phinnesse sent over his lyrics, Miller was confused by the phrase, “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.” Phinnesse explained these were metaphors for the patients Dr. Crane spoke with on his radio show. After finally finishing the theme composition, Miller hoped Mel Tormé would sing it, but the producers insisted on star Kelsey Grammer. Though Miller didn’t get his ideal singer, in the end he agreed that Grammer’s interpretation worked.
2. Gimme a Break!
Asking musical theater veteran Nell Carter to sing her show’s theme song was really a no-brainer. Carter was a Broadway star, and her stage work got her the role on the '80s hit Gimme a Break!
The series wasn't her first TV work, either. Carter won an Emmy for her role in the televised production of Ain't Misbehavin' (she won a Tony for the stage version, too).
After her scene-stealing role as the sassy maid on The Jeffersons, Marla Gibbs got her own show, 227. Gibbs’ daughter produced the play version of 227, and the elder Gibbs worked with network executives to sell a TV-friendly adaptation, which was eventually purchased by NBC. Acting as more than just its star, Gibbs was also a co-producer on the show. There was little on set that she didn’t involve herself in—be it casting, supervising scripts, or co-writing/singing the theme song.
4. Bored to Death
Being a former member of the band Phantom Planet, it was only appropriate that Jason Schwartzman sang the theme for his show Bored to Death. Schwartzman tried to compose the song while working on the film Funny People, but found himself too busy. In email exchanges with HBO executives, Schwartzman would invent aspects of the theme even though he hadn’t had a chance to sit down and write it yet. Finally, when it came time to show HBO his work, Schwartzman looked at his old emails and came up with the theme in 10 minutes.
5. Walker, Texas Ranger
Chuck Norris thought “Eyes of a Ranger” would be the perfect theme song for his new show Walker, Texas Ranger. He wanted his friend Randy Travis should sing it, but CBS had a different idea: The network suggested Norris sing the theme himself. It took 12 hours in the studio working with a sound engineer and producer to get the song right. Thanks to audio technology (and having certain lines spoken), they figured out a way to make it work.
Life was good for David Hasselhoff in 1990. Married and with a child on the way, his personal life was going as well as his music career in Europe. This was also the year Baywatch launched on NBC. Though the show got cancelled after one season, Hasselhoff saw potential and decided to step up as executive producer for its revival. Being a producer has certain perks—Hasselhoff assigned himself to sing the closing theme song for the massive pop-culture phenomenon.
7. A Fine Romance
The 1980s British series A Fine Romance starred real-life spouses Judi Dench and Michael Williams. The show took its name from a song featured in the 1936 film Swing Time, and Dench recorded a version for TV. When A Fine Romance premiered, Dench was a 25-year veteran of the stage, but the show turned her into a household name in the United Kingdom.
8. 21 Jump Street
Johnny Depp may have shot to fame after his work on 21 Jump Street, but one could argue that Holly Robinson Peete was the biggest deal on the show at the time. Aside from staying with the series through all five seasons, she lent her vocals to the theme song. In fairness to Depp, he and Peter DeLuise sang the “Jump” back-up vocals—if those moments can count as singing.
9. New Tricks
The British series New Tricks follows three former police officers as they solve cold cases. One of the stars, Dennis Waterman, sings the show’s theme. Singing a TV show's theme is nothing new for Waterman; he's done it so often that Little Britain had a regular sketch that parodied this fact.
Alice, the television adaptation of the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, tells the story of a widow who tries to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer in California but ends up in Phoenix. Like some of the other stars on this list, star Linda Lavin appeared on Broadway prior to her television work. But the producers decided that the show shouldn't feature any singing by Alice and instead would focus on her life as a waitress in Phoenix, so the only substantial singing Lavin did for the show was its theme song.
11. The Dukes of Hazzard
The Dukes of Hazzard's theme song may be a slight bend of the rules for this list, but even though he didn't star, Waylon Jennings did provide the show's narration. Jennings recorded two versions of the song “Good Ol' Boys,” one for TV and one for radio. One of the show's actual stars, John Schneider, provided the song’s “Yee-haws.”