Thursday, May 29, 2008

Earle H. Hagen : Name Unknown, Themes Familiar

Earle H. Hagen, who died three days ago at age 88, titled his autobiography "Memoirs of a Famous Composer -- Nobody Ever Heard Of." For better, but sometimes for worse, his TV theme songs have made an indelible impression on most of our ears.

On the positive side, he turned out such action themes as "I Spy" and "Mod Squad." On the indelible side, he wrote the impossibly catchy "Andy Griffith Show Theme" which he himself whistled on those opening credits. And some of us have a love-hate relationship with "The Dick Van Dyke Show" theme. Among his many others...the Frankie Laine-sung "Rango" (short-lived Tim Conway comedy, pre-Blazing Saddles), "Guns of Will Sonnett" (spoken by Walter Brennan) and the peppy Marlo Thomas theme for "That Girl."

As you'd expect, Hagen was a well-trained veteran who put in many years as a trombonist for big bands. He teamed with Richard Rogers for the jazz hit "Harlem Nocturne" in 1939 (later used on the 1984 version of "Mike Hammer"). He worked his way up to scoring film soundtracks and was Oscar-nominated, with Rogers, for his background music on Marilyn Monroe's 1960 film "Let's Make Love." He ended up making his mark in the high pressure world of TV sitcoms and adventure shows:

"It was hard work, with long hours and endless deadlines, but being able to write something one day and hear it a few days later appealed to me," he said. Aside from the famous theme songs, Hagen wrote hours and hours of incidental music that underpinned comedy and drama scenes throughout "I Spy," "Make Room for Daddy" and dozens more.

Ill Folks salutes a typical music giant nobody knows..."the guy who wrote the theme song..." And by way of tribute, here's four of Earle's most famous themes, one after the other in your download. Call it Dick Van Andy I Spy Squad...

No comments: