Music, Television

Singing Their Song: TV Actors Who Perform Their Own Theme Tunes

Actors often have secondary talents they like to utilize in their work. Some write, others direct. Many can sing or play an instrument. They stretch their creative muscles by starring in a musical or starting a music career. Sometimes, they set their sights on something a little bit smaller. Such as the theme song of a television series. Below is a list of theme songs sung by actors from the show. I’ll list them by three categories. These are the obvious, the not so obvious, and, as a bonus, those I could’ve sworn were sung by actors on the show, but were actually not.

The Obvious

New Girl – Zooey Deschanel

Why is it obvious? Well, did you watch the video? Like the others in the “obvious” category, it features the actor actually singing the song. “Hey Girl”, as the song is called, is sung and co-written by Zooey Deschanel, the titular new girl of the series. Deschanel is no stranger to music. She has been active as a musician and singer almost as long as she has been as an actress. She has released many albums both as a solo artist and in collaboration with others. Her music has also been used in movies such as Elf (2003), Yes Man (2008) and (500) Days of Summer (2009).

All in the Family – Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton

The theme song “Those Were the Days” was sung by Archie and Edith Bunker, as played by Carol O’Connor and Jean Stapleton. While you may not believe it from this performance, Jean Stapleton was actually a very accomplished singer. Early in her career, she played in several Broadway musicals. Her mother was an opera singer, so it must’ve been in her genes.

Joanie Loves Chachi – Scott Baio and Erin Moran

For a moment it seems like a play on the All in the Family theme, as Erin Moran sits next to Scott Baio at the piano and they sing “You Look at Me” together. But then they turn around and suddenly there’s an audience. What was intimate for a moment quickly turns into something sappy and cloying. It did fit in well with the theme of the show, though, which was about the young couple trying to break into the music industry.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – Will Smith

I almost left this one out. After all, Will Smith began his career in music. It would have been more noteworthy if he hadn’t performed the theme song, “Yo! Home To Bel-Air”. But who can resist the charms of the Fresh Prince. So here it is.

The Not So Obvious

Green Acres – Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor

An American classic, Green Acres is about a couple moving from New York City to a farm in the country. The theme song, sung by actors Eddie Albert and Eva (younger sister of Sza Sza) Gabor, details the opposing viewpoints of the two characters. He’s eager for the country life; she, not so much.

A Fine Romance – Judi Dench

Who knew? The Dame can sing. A (relatively) young Judi Dench not only starred in this short-lived English sitcom, but also sang the theme song. Dench had more experience in singing earlier in her career. She starred as Sally Bowles in the London’s West End version of Cabaret in 1968. She was reportedly so frightened of singing in public that she auditioned from the wings of the theatre.

Bored to Death – Jason Schwartzman

Jason Schwartzman was actually a musician before he became an actor. However, he is much better known for his later career. He wrote and performed the theme song for Bored to Death, a show about a writer who works on the side as an amateur detective. He also composed music for the movies Funny People (2009) and Slackers (2002). “Ethan’s Song” is definitely worth checking out:

Melissa & Joey – Joey Lawrence

What happens when you put Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’s Melissa Joan Hart and Blossom’s Joey Lawrence together in a sitcom? Well, the utterly average Melissa & Joey, of course. Lawrence sung and co-wrote the theme song “Stuck With Me”. The actor has always had a desire to make music, even managing to publish a self-titled album in 1993. He also sang the theme song of Brotherly Love, a sitcom about three brothers played by Lawrence and his real-life brothers Matthew and Andrew. The brothers kept their own first names on the show, just like the two leads do in Melissa & Joey. Because acting is so confusing.

Frasier – Kelsey Grammer

A lot of people may know this one. Kelsey Grammer sings “Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs”, the song that plays over the end credits of his hit show Frasier. The title refers to the callers of his radio show, describing them as literally mixed up. For more background on the song and an analysis of the lyrics, visit this page.

21 Jump Street – Holly Robinson

After some bit parts in Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon, it was 21 Jump Street that jump-started Johnny Depp’s career. It is a show about a group of young police detectives posing as high school students to fight crime that was apparently rampant among teens in the late 1980’s. Among the cast were also Holly Robinson and Peter (son of Dom) DeLuise. The show’s catchy theme song was performed by Robinson. The men shouting “JUMP”? Those were Depp and DeLuise.

Walker, Texas Ranger – Chuck Norris

As far as anyone knows, “Eyes of the Ranger” is the only time Chuck Norris ever sang. And perhaps that’s for the best. Especially note the creepy, borderline stalkerish lyrics. “The eyes of the ranger are upon you.” Indeed. “When you’re in Texas, look behind you, ‘cause that’s where the ranger’s gonna be.” So maybe not visit Texas, then.

I Could’ve Sworn…

Growing Pains – Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns?

I long assumed that stars Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns sang “As Long As We Got Each Other”. Perhaps it was because the voices seemed to fit, or maybe it just seemed right to my young and naive self. In fact, the song is sung by BJ Thomas and, in this case, Jennifer Warnes. There are also versions with Dusty Springfield and Thomas singing solo. Interestingly, Alan Thicke did have quite a lot of success writing theme songs, including those for Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. This one, however, was not his doing.

Cheers – Woody Harrelson?

Another one of those theme songs where the voice seems to fit the actor, especially in the first few lines. “Where everybody knows your name” was actually performed and co-written by Gary Portnoy. Woody Harrelson did sing in Cheers once, but the result is… let’s say “different”:

Two and a Half Men – the two and a half men?

This instantly recognizable and thoroughly annoying theme tune only really features two words: “men” and “manly”. And though the impression is given that Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen (and later Ashton Kutcher) sing these words, it is actually done by studio musicians. What is of course instantly obvious is that the kid (Angus T. Jones) isn’t singing. His part is done by singer and voice actress supreme Elizabeth Daily.