Theme Songs That Secretly Have Lyrics

It’s good news that there will be an “official” season 1 release (split in two, as is Paramount’s wont) of Bonanza, because a lot of the Public Domain DVDs don’t include the theme song. (When a TV episode falls into the public domain, the people releasing it would still have to pay to use the theme song.)

This song, one of the most famous in television history, was written by the veteran songwriting team of Jay Livingston (composer) and Ray Evans (lyricist), who also wrote “Mona Lisa,” “Buttons and Bows,” “Que Sera, Sera” and many other hits. As with all their songs, they wrote “Bonanza” with lyrics, but while the lyrics have been performed by Johnny Cash and others, they were not used on the show itself. So everyone grew up singing the song as “Da da da da, da da da, da da da, BONANZA.”

What are some other TV songs that are instrumentals on the show, but actually have lyrics that the show never used? I’m pretty sure that the lyrics to “Bewitched” were originally supposed to be used on the show, but weren’t; the lyricist actually received credit on the show as co-author of the theme.

A lot of theme songs from the ’50s and ’60s had “secret” lyrics, because even if the theme was always intended as an instrumental, there needed to be lyrics for the published version so that pop singers could record the song. That’s how we got Gene Roddenberry’s terrible lyrics for the Star Trek theme, and, on a higher level of craftsmanship, the lyrics for the Andy Griffith theme, called “The Fishin’ Hole.” After the ’60s, it didn’t happen as much; instrumentals usually stayed as instrumentals, but there must be a few that were originally supposed to have lyrics, or had lyrics added after the fact.

One reversal of the “secret lyrics” trend was the theme to the ’90s cartoon Tiny Toons, which Bruce Broughton wrote as an instrumental (a ’90s answer to the old Looney Tunes themes); the writers decided to add lyrics and use them on the show.

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