TV Theme Songs: Family Ties
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
"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 from Family Ties titled "Without Us". "I bet we've been together for a million years, and I'll bet we'll be together for a million more..." Family Ties debuted in September of 1982 and went on for seven seasons and 180 episodes ending in 1989. It is one of my favorite sitcoms of the decade and has one of my favorite TV Theme Songs of the decade as well.
"Without Us" was co-written by Jeff Barry and Tom Scott. Barry had co-written many huge hits of the '60s including "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Then He Kissed Me", "Chapel of Love", "River Deep - Mountain High", "Leader of the Pack" and "Sugar, Sugar" among many others. Scott followed in his father's footsteps (Nathan Scott, a prolific composer for television and film himself) and previously wrote the TV theme song, “Gotcha!” for Starsky and Hutch and worked on background scores for several other shows in the '70s. He moved on to film scores in the '80s and Scott is also a Grammy-winning saxophonist who, in addition to his own solo work, has appeared as a guest artist on more than 500 recordings including a couple of '80s hits.
I had the pleasure of an interview with Tom Scott and here is a portion of what he had to say about creating "Without Us":
I got a call from Al Bart (my film & TV composing agent at the time) to meet with Gary David Goldberg, creator of Family Ties to discuss the theme. Gary chose producer-songwriter Jeff Barry to partner with me as the lyricist. We decided that the song should have an upbeat feel and took a couple of days apart to mess around with ideas. After that, Jeff called with an announcement that he had basically written the hook of the song and it was called “What Would We Do Without Us?” He sang his melody for me and I told him I thought the idea needed some refinement. After some experimentation at home, I added the word “baby” to the middle, which broke up the phrase nicely, I thought. “What Would We Do… Ba-by… With-out Us?”
I called Jeff and he agreed with my addition so we immediately made plans to meet and compose the rest of the song. In that one meeting, we came up with the verse and ending, totaling the one minute we needed. The show debuted in 1982, but didn’t become a big hit until 1984, when it was slotted after the debuting The Cosby Show. That, combined with Michael J. Fox’s success in Back To The Future, launched us into the top five television shows for three years running.
During the first season, "Without Us" was originally performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling for the first ten episodes. After that and for the remainder of the show's run, it was performed by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams. It is a sweet song, but to have those two superstar voices singing the duet made it that much sweeter. Here is the opening theme for Family Ties featuring "Without Us" performed by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams...
Always loved that "Sha-la-la-la" at the end. Like I said, one of my favorite sitcoms of the '80s and one of my favorite TV Theme Songs of the decade. Hearing that song each week for 7 years and then listening to it now, really transports me back to the '80s in an instant. "Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog." Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!