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TV Theme Songs: Fame

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale" of a time when television shows began with awesome TV Theme Songs. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name" and sometimes you want to go back to when TV Theme songs were special. "Here's a story... of a lovely" time when TV Theme Songs served to identify, distinguish and set the stage for the television program that followed. "You take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have" what unfortunately has become a lost artform. "Believe it or not", sadly it seems no effort or pride is taken in the TV Theme Song ever since Seinfeld proved a short synth-bass riff could be used instead. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This regular feature may not "make all our dreams come true", but it will remember some of the best TV Theme Songs from years past (with a focus on the '80s decade). "Come aboard, we're expecting you."

This time we will cover the theme song for Fame. "I'm gonna live forever. I'm gonna learn how to fly. I'm gonna make it to heaven. Baby, remember my name!" The television series debuted in January of 1982 running six seasons and 136 episodes all based on the 1980 film of the same name. Fame received Emmy nominations for Best Drama Series for three years in a row 1982-1984. The show (like the movie) follows the students and faculty at a fictional New York City High School for the Performing Arts. Another thing they borrowed from the movie was the show's theme song. "Fame" was a huge hit for Irene Cara after being on the soundtrack for the film and had even won an Oscar for Best Original Song as well as a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year in 1981.

"Fame" was co-written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford. Gore most recognizably went on to compose the theme and score for the 1983 film Terms of Endearment. Pitchford most notably wrote the screenplay for 1984's Footloose and co-wrote all nine songs from the film's hugely successful soundtrack among many other accomplishments. I had the honor of an interview with Dean Pitchford and here is a portion of his comments regarding "Fame":

"Fame" was the last of about a dozen songs that Michael Gore and I worked on for that motion picture. We were never actually HIRED to write songs for the film; Michael was on staff as the Musical Supervisor (and Scorer), but we wrote songs that joined a pool of other songs for consideration and possible inclusion in the soundtrack. We wrote a bunch of songs that weren't picked for the film or were dropped because they'd been intended for sequences that were cut from the shooting script. Before writing "Fame", two of our efforts had made the cut so far: the finale "I Sing the Body Electric" had been pre-recorded before the shooting of the film's ending. And "Red Light" had been written to replace a dummy track to which an audition dance was choreographed. Sometime during the shooting of the movie, Michael called with the news that the film's title was being changed - from "Hot Lunch" to "Fame." So we rolled up our sleeves and took a crack at writing for that title. Trouble was, David Bowie had had a #1 song with his own "Fame" about two years before, and - because the director of our film, Alan Parker, was British - it was very well known to him. We did have an advantage, however in knowing that Irene Cara would be singing whatever song was picked for the now-famous street dance free-for-all. So we set about writing an exuberant, hard-driving dance floor number that played to Irene's strengths. We got her to sing the song's demo, and Alan Parker immediately fell for it.

You can find out more about writing "Fame" as well as Footloose and his other work in that interview with Pitchford. Irene Cara played the character "Coco Hernandez" in the film and sang the song "Fame" for the film. Erica Gimpel was playing the role of "Coco Hernandez" for the television series, so she re-recorded a very similar version of the song to be used as theme song for the show. Gimpel was very similar to her character having graduated from the real High School of Performing Arts in New York just a few months after she started filming her role, but had no previous professional experience. She has gone on to have a steady career mostly in television since Fame including regular roles on Profiler, ER, Veronica Mars, The Young and the Restless among many others. Here are the opening credits for each season of Fame featuring the theme song performed mostly by Erica Gimpel...

Although Gimpel left the series midway through the third season (after the show moved from NBC to first-run syndication in 1983), her opening vocals were still heard on the show for two more seasons. An updated version of "Fame", featuring a modern, synthesized hard-rock flavor, was introduced in the fall of 1985 performed by new cast member Loretta Chandler and that new version ran for the final two seasons of the show. But I will always remember the original Irene Cara version as well as the television version by Gimpel the best.

"People will see me and cry. Fame! I'm gonna make it to heaven. Light up the sky like a flame. Fame! I'm gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name. Remember, remember, remember, remember..."

Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!


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