The Theme Song of The Simpsons is probably one of the most recognizable theme songs in American television history. The famous 12-note motif originated from the brain of Danny Elfman. Even though he wrote a lot of other television and movie scores, Elfman considers The Simpsons theme song the composition that he will be forever known for.
History of the SongEdit
Creator Matt Groening hired Elfman personally to write the theme song. He gave him a concept of what he wanted as well as a mix tape of songs that he wanted the theme to sound like. Groening put the concept of the song like this, "The trend in TV themes for the previous 15 years had been namby-pamby synthesizer schlock that seemed to whimper, 'We can't offer you much, but please like our pathetic little show.' I wanted a big orchestrated, obnoxious, arrogant theme that promised you the best time of your life." Among the tracks on the tape were the theme songs from The Jetsons (both have the same first three notes), selections from Nino Rota's "Juliet of the Spirits," a Remington electric shaver jingle composed by Frank Zappa, some easy-listening music by Esquivel, and a teach-your-parrot-to-talk record. After listening to the tape several times, Elfman approached Groening and said, "I know exactly what you're looking for." Ever since then, the opus was heard in everything Simpsons related and covered by many artists on the show.
During season 1, the theme had three main versions arranged by Elfman: a full-length opening, as well as long (63-second) and short (45-second) closing versions. Additionally, there was a brief opening version for episodes that cut directly from the Springfield swoop to the Simpson house for the beginning of the episode. Elfman also composed several score cues featuring elements of the theme, which would be used in the first two seasons.
For season 2, the opening was re-animated and shortened, and so Elfman was called back in to re-arrange the theme. This version more bombastic and less staccato, with some alternate melodic elements (notably in the section where Homer arrives at the driveway). In addition to the full-length version, there was also a 50-second condensed version, and a 22-second short version. The closing themes from season 1 remained in use.
For season 3, the theme was re-arranged by Alf Clausen, with a slightly smoother and further less staccato sound. It also restored the original melody for the section where Homer arrives at the driveway. Like with season 2, there were full-length, 45-second, and 22-second versions. Clausen also re-arranged the long and short closing themes, which were true to the original versions melodically but also sounded smoother and less staccato. The long version of the closing theme would not be used after the third production season. On earlier episodes from season 3, the closing themes from seasons 1 and 2 remained in use.
For Season 4, the theme was re-arranged again by Alf Clausen.
Season 5 introduced a 28-second arrangement of the opening theme by Clausen, allowing for a short opening that still retained the chalkboard gags. In season 6, the short version of the closing theme was edited down to 40 seconds.
Additionally, there have been numerous alternate opening and closing versions of the theme song, usually based around the theme or setting of an episode, or performed by a recording artist that made a guest appearance (see below). Score composers such as Richard Gibbs (season 1) and Alf Clausen (seasons 2+) also have incorporated the theme into the episodes' soundtracks.
The theme won the National Music Award for "Favorite TV Theme" in 2002, and has won the BMI TV Music Award in 1996, 1998, and 2003. In 1990, the theme was nominated for the Emmy for "Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music".
Notable cover versionsEdit
- Tito Puente & His Latin Jazz Ensemble (Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two))
- Sonic Youth (Homerpalooza)
- Yo La Tengo with "lyrics" by Homer (D'oh-in' in the Wind)
- NRBQ (Take My Wife, Sleaze)
- Los Lobos (Thank God It's Doomsday)
- Green Day (The Simpsons Movie)
- Fall Out Boy (Lisa the Drama Queen)
- Canvas (Father Knows Worst)