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Best TV theme songs from the 1970s you've come to love

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The 1970's had its share of very catchy and extremely popular TV theme songs that are instantly recognizable today. One of the most memorable standouts from a successful TV show is usually its theme song. In past decades, such as the 1960's, it was filled with catchy tunes and exciting instrumentals. Usually the unforgettable songs with crazy lyrics were associated with comedies, while instrumentals were designed for the serious dramas such as crime capers and detective stories.

In the 1970's it had its share of TV theme songs where some were #1 hits on the Hot 100 Billboard chart. Others included catchy sing- a-longs. You'll find three instrumentals for the drama shows, and five lyrical songs for the sitcoms. We'll take a closer look at the eight TV theme songs of the 1970's. You'll get to know the name of the show and its song, who sang it, something about each television program and why it made the list. Get ready for a whole lot of fun listening to these theme songs while reading all about it.

"M*A*S*H" Promotional image


This stellar television show's theme song originated from its film version of the same name. In 1970 the motion picture "M*A*S*H," based on a 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, showcased a song titled "Suicide is Painless" as that film's theme song. It was sung by several un-credited studio session singers. However, for the television series an instrumental version was used for the entire eleven seasons. "M*A*S*H" premiered on September 17, 1972. The show ended on a grand scale on February 28, 1983. Its finale was the most watched television episode with 105.97 million viewers for its time.

The show starred Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce. He was the Chief Surgeon at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. The show's premise was a medical drama and a black comedy centered during wartime with its team of doctors and support staff, played brilliantly by Gary Burghoff as "Radar" O'Reilly. He was the only actor to have been in the film version. The opening montage of this incredible show, while hearing the theme song, never gets tiring. You see nurses running towards the helicopter as it approaches landing, followed by the medics and surgeons. You can literally feel their sense of urgency.

"Welcome Back Kotter"
"Welcome Back Kotter" Promotional image

"Welcome Back Kotter"

Here is the show featuring a very young John Travolta before his rise to mega superstardom in the late '70's. Originally this comedy show was to be called "Kotter" based on the main character, Gabe Kotter.  He's a special-education teacher at an inner-city high school in Brooklyn, the very same one Kotter attended.  This theme song was written and sung by John Sebastian. He was the frontman for the popular 1960's group The Lovin' Spoonful. Sebastian stated he had trouble trying to find a rhyme for Kotter. The song's title "Welcome Back" and the character's last name became the television sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter."

Incidentally, the theme song was released as a single where it reached #1 on the singles Billboard chart in 1976. Besides the main character, it also starred a motley crew of students in Kotter's remedial class called the Sweathogs.  Travolta's character was its leader. "Welcome Back Kotter" ran for four seasons from September 9, 1975 to June 8, 1979. The he actor, Gabe Kaplan, who played Kotter, was actually based on his real life as a Sweathog.

"S.W.A.T" Promotional image


You may recognize the name of this action/crime drama TV show from its 2003 remake film version of the same name starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez ("Avatar") and Jeremy Renner ("Hurt Locker" who was also nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars). "S.W.A.T" was an Aaron Spelling production that featured studio musicians who most likely followed Spelling around on all of his television show theme songs.

You'll notice a considerable likeness in sound from "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky and Hutch," "The Rookies" just to name a few. However, there was something rather appealing with regards to this TV theme song. It actually has an incredible beat, along with a fast tempo, that didn't sound too cheesy like so many other TV theme songs.

As a matter of fact this instrumental theme song was eventually released as a single. The "Theme from S.W.A.T" performed by Rhythm Heritage, who was a disco-funk band, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976. "S.W.A.T," which stands for Special Weapons And Tactics, ran for only two seasons premiering on February 17, 1975 up until April 3, 1976. It starred Steve Forrest as the unit leader of this elite paramilitary tactical unit who perform hostage rescues and terrorist encounters.

"Happy Days"
"Happy Days" Promotional image

"Happy Days"

Situated around the idyllic mode of the 1950s, which at the time of the show's first season in 1974, was experiencing a huge nostalgic trend in anything from this era. It was only natural then a successful television series would emerge set around the mid '50s to the mid '60s. The show evolves around an all-American family living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One of the original stars of "Happy Days" was Ron Howard, who would later become an Academy Award-winning film director with a number of successful box office hits in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and presently.

Ron Howard played Richie Cunningham, one of the main characters, along with his buddies Potsie, Ralph and Arthur Fonzarelli, a.k.a The Fonz or Fonzie. It was the latter character who literally stole the show.  A lot of episodes centered most of its attention on Fonzie. He was the local high school dropout, rebel and lover of motorcycles wearing his ever present black leather jacket. The Cunningham family consisted of Howard, the father who owned a hardware store; Marion, the mother who was a homemaker; Richie, one of their two sons who was in high school and Joanie, their only daughter and youngest child.

In the first season of "Happy Days" the TV theme song was from the 1954 iconic hit by Bill Haley & His Comets "Rock Around the Clock". For the remaining nine seasons a customized theme song was composed by two songwriters noted for their successful track record with other TV and movie theme songs. During the last season, their eleventh, another theme song was used, However, the theme song used the longest amount of time represents what the show was all about, happiness during an innocent time of the 1950s.

"The Jeffersons"
"The Jeffersons" Promotional image

"The Jeffersons"

This was a true sitcom and a revolutionary one at that in every sense of the word. It's a spin-off from "All in the Family." George and Louise Jefferson were the African-American next-door neighbors to Archie and Edith Bunker in Queens. George Jefferson owns a number of dry cleaners that are financially successful, enabling him and his family to move to the prestigious Upper East Side in Manhattan where the show takes place.

It's centered on Louise Jefferson's close friends, Helen and Tom Willis, an interracial couple with two adult children; their British neighbor Mr. Bentley; the Jefferson's wise-cracking housekeeper Florence; and the occasional memorable appearances of George's mother, Mother Jefferson, who felt Louise was not good enough for her son.

Initially the show was very much ahead of its time, especially with the appearances of the interracial couple, the Willis'. Television viewers easily accepted the couple, the show's use of what would now be politically incorrect words, and topics that were deemed extremely controversial at the time such as suicide, illiteracy, gun control and racism were now mainstream.

"The Jeffersons" lasted for eleven seasons from 1975 to 1985. It is the longest running comedy series of any genre with a notable African-American cast in television history. The high spirited and lively theme song "Movin' On Up" backed by a gospel choir was sung by Janet Du Bois. She appeared on the sitcom "Good Times" as the gossip mongering friend of Florida Evans. This is by far the happiest and most infectious TV theme song.  You simply can't keep still.

"The Partridge Family"
"The Partridge Family" Promotional image

"The Partridge Family"

Its theme song would be classified as one of those remarkable songs with a sing-a-long lyrical content to it. The show centers on a musical family with the mother as part of the singing group, The Partridge Family. She is a widow with five children along with their ever present manager, Ruben Kincaid. In the first season you went along with their progress of getting established in the music industry with finally landing a gig in Vegas' Caesars Palace. Each show in subsequent seasons would see the family perform at some venue. They traveled around in an old school bus painted in vibrant colors to their gigs.

During each show the stories were oftentimes centered on home life versus being on the road.  This gave viewers a chance to see them as a show biz family too. "The Partridge Family" did release a single "I Think I Love You" that reached #1 on the pop chart in December 1970. They became the third fictional group besides The Chipmunks and The Archies to have a #1 hit song and gold record. The show starred Shirley Jones who is a musically-trained theater actress and an Oscar winner for her supporting role in "Elmer Gantry." It also starred her real-life stepson at the time, David Cassidy, who would become an international teen sensation as a result of his starring role as Keith Partridge.

Initially, the idea of this musical sitcom was based loosely on a real life family group from the late '60s, The Cowsills. Barbara Cowsill, the mother of five sons and one daughter comprised the group. "The Partridge Family" consisted of three boys and two girls. "Come On Get Happy," the show's theme song, was actually sung by David Cassidy as lead vocalist. Shirley Jones sang background vocals along with studio musicians acting as the singers for the other actors who lip-synced their singing voices. Danny Bonaduce who played Danny Partridge, the third oldest child, would later become a part of the reality TV genre in the 2000s decade. The Partridge Family was on television for four seasons from 1970 to 1974.

"Hawaii Five-O"
"Hawaii Five-O" Promotional image

"Hawaii Five-O"

With its breathtaking opening montage featuring a huge ocean wave rolling along to the theme's instrumental introduction on to the various sites of Honolulu make it all the more brilliant. This crime drama is naturally based in Hawaii about a fictitious state police force honoring Hawaii as the fiftieth state, hence five-o (50). The diverse state police officers are headed up by the star of the show Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett and his young partner, Danny "Danno" Williams, played by James McArthur. The other actors in the cast portraying officers were primarily Hawaiians and Asians. "Hawaii Five-O" each week took on a bevy of international criminals, secret agents, and Mafia syndicate bosses throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

When they successfully apprehended and arrested the criminal towards the end of the show the famous phrase "Book 'em, Danno!" was uttered by McGarrett to his partner Danny. It was the longest running crime show in television history for twelve seasons only to be broken by "Law & Order" in 2003. Even though the show premiered in the late '60s, September 1968, the show ran for the entire decade of the 1970s until its last season in 1980.

This famous theme song was composed by Morton Stevens who also composed many of the episodic scores. Eventually the "Hawaii Five-O" theme song was also covered by The Ventures. In the 1960s many movies, especially the ones starring Elvis Presley, and other TV shows took place in Hawaii. The '70's saw "Hawaii Five-O" and when it ended "Magnum P.I." was the Hawaiian TV show of the '80s.  In September 2010 a reboot series premiered on CBS, this time titled "Hawaii Five-0."  It features the number "0" and follows closely to the iconic classic Hawaiian show.

"The Brady Bunch"
"The Brady Bunch" Promotional image

"The Brady Bunch"

Without question the quintessential television theme song of the 1970s actually tells the story in the song's lyrics what the entire show is all about. Its catchy melody and easy to sing lyrics made it completely irresistible to sing-a-long each and every week on Friday nights, from September 1969 to March 1974, a total of five seasons. The show's producer, Sherwood Schwartz, actually composed the theme song. "The Brady Bunch," according to Schwartz, was inspired by a 1965 newspaper article he read on how 40% of marriages in the U.S. had a child or children from a previous marriage. He took his script for an idea on a TV show about a family with stepchildren to the three major networks. They all liked it, but wanted to drastically change it.

Luckily a theatrical film titled "Yours, Mine and Ours" about two blended families with a total of 18 children, released in 1968, was a commercial success.  This would eventually lead to the television series "The Brady Bunch."  This particular sitcom basically tied-in the rising surge of divorce and remarriage that was becoming prevalent at the time.  Thus it created families with stepchildren and half-siblings.

The music of the Brady Bunch theme was created by the Peppermint Trolley Company with vocals by studio musicians.  After the show went off the air, "The Brady Bunch" was revived into a highly successful feature film parodying their 1970s style into the 1990s.  It also lead to another successful  parody sequel