Monday, October 3, 2016

Who Can Turn The World On With Her Smile?

"LOVE IS ALL AROUND" (The Mary Tyler Moore Show Theme Song) -- Sonny Curtis


Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sonny Curtis played with Buddy Holly, wrote the rock anthem "I Fought The Law" and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Oh, and he also wrote one of the most iconic and beloved television theme songs ever. Yes, I am biased because I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis (where the sitcom was set) when the series originally aired; watching the opening credits now is as familiar and comforting as viewing a home movie... but I dare you to play this video and not sing along:



Sonny was kind enough to answer my questions about "Love is All Around" via email:

1 - I've read about how you got word one day that a sitcom needed a theme song, so you came up with one quickly and then went over and played it for the producers, who bought it immediately.  When they recorded the version used for the series, did you just record your voice and guitar or were you also involved in the arrangement with the strings and brass, etc?

Sonny Curtis: My friend Doug Gilmore worked for the Williams/Price Agency, who managed Mary Tyler Moore. He called one day about 11 AM and told me about the plan for a sitcom with Mary. During his lunch break, he dropped off a small synopsis that described Mary's character and what the show was about. I wrote the song in about two hours, called him and said, "who do I sing this to?" He sent me to James L. Brooks, the show's executive producer. I sang him the song and he liked it.

I was not involved in the arrangement. Pat Williams arranged the song and I sang on it at the session.



2 - Why did they tweak the song after the first season?

SC: The lyrics for the first season started with "How Will You Make It On Your Own," etc. After the first season, James L. Brooks called and said, "She's obviously made it, so we need to up date the lyrics." I did a complete rewrite and we recorded it again with a different arrangement, also by Pat Williams. I played the acoustic guitar lick on that version and overdubbed my lead vocal.



3 - Did your success with "Love is All Around" land you any more theme song work?

SC: I wrote two other TV themes: Szysznyk and Evening Shade. Whether the MTM theme had anything to do with it, I don't know. Although, because I sang the MTM theme, I got a lot of work singing jingles.


    Another classic song Sonny wrote, made famous by the Everly Brothers

4 - If the producers hadn't been interested in the song, what do you think you would have done with it?

SC: I don't know. I guess I would have tried to pitch it to some artist. Without it's exposure on the show, though, I wonder if it would have had commercial value. I guess we'll never know.



5 - "LIAA" has been covered by everyone from Joan Jett to Sammy Davis, Jr. to Minneapolis' own Husker Du.  Do you have a favorite cover version?

SC: I like them all. One thing, it provided me with the opportunity to meet and hang out with Sammy Davis, Jr. for a while, which I'm proud of. He called and invited me to his palatial hotel suite to go over the song and the music with him. It was a real pleasant experience.

I guess if you pinned me down, I'd have to say Joan Jett's is my favorite.

I actually like the version we did for the show. Not because I sang it, but I think the arrangement is perfect.



6 - Do you have a theory about why this particular song struck such a chord with viewers and listeners and has endured for all these years?

SC: I think the timing was great. It was sort of at the beginning of Gloria Steinem's feminism movement and I think the show was a touchstone for that period. Mary, Rhoda, Phyllis, Lou, Ted and the rest of the cast were fantastic. It had terrific writers and outstanding production. I think great synergy was created by doing it in front of a live audience.

The show has enormous staying power, thus the song has great staying power. Whatever the reason, I'm very proud that I was fortunate (and lucky) enough to be associated with such a wonderful part of television history.



7 - What is your favorite television theme song or one you wish you had written?

SC: I'm a great fan of music and I probably shouldn't go down this road. There are so many good ones written by magnificent composers. I'm sure I'll leave out quite a few, but I'll give you an example of some of my favorites. I love the themes from M*A*S*H, Cheers, and the first Bob Newhart Show. And way high on my list is Welcome Back, Kotter , written and performed by one of my all time favorites, John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful.



Many thanks to the talented and humble Sonny Curtis for the interview. Check out his official website here.



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