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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earle Hagen, 1919 - 2008

The Flaming Nose once again is saddened to hear of the death of another television icon, this time the wonderful composer Earle Hagen. If Hagen had composed nothing else than the theme to The Andy Griffith Show -- aka "The Fishin' Hole" -- he still would have brought more sheer joy than almost any other TV music writer, merely through that jaunty whistled tune which carried us each week into Mayberry. (Click here to listen to a sultry and delightful version of the song, with vocals by Mollie O' Brien, from the website FishingMusic.com).

Hagen also composed the themes and music scores for films and for many other series, including his Emmy-winning work on the truly cool I Spy (listen to music samples from the compilation album here!), the pert and still adorable theme for That Girl:

-- the hip and hilarious opening theme to The Dick Van Dyke Show:

-- and many others.

For a loving and truly complete look at Earle Hagen's amazing career, I highly recommend spending some time perusing the tremendous website EarleHagen.net. There's a nice article about his induction just last month into the NATAS Gold Circle for his long career in television here, and another great account of a 2004 night at the Hollywood Bowl featuring Hagen's music -- wish we all could have been there!

I will leave you with an unusual but completely heartfelt and adorable version of The Andy Griffith Show theme. I think you will love it, too.


Dean Treadway said...

So sad. All the great ones are going, that's for sure.

I wonder about the future of the artform of not only TV credits, but of course of the music that accompanies them. These days, when ratings are at their most important, it seems that opening and closing credits sequences are becoming sadly passe and are incereasingly seen as unnecessary. But I have always thought that, at their best, they serve as a passport into the world that the show is setting up for us. The Andy Griffth Show, brilliant as it is, would somehow seem like half the show it truly is were we denied the idyllic vision of Andy and Opie strollng with their fishing poles down to the fishin' hole, with Hagen's transportive music accompanying them. And the That Girl theme is an accomplished blend of urbanity and girly wackadoodle-ness that perfectly sets us in motion to a peer into Ann Marie's ultra-cute worldview (that's a show I need to watch again...Marlo Thomas was adorable, and Ted Bessell was a gem of a partner to her, frazzled as he was).

But, ever since Seinfeld, and possibly since before that, when the only opening theme we got was a few admittedly distinctive notes from a slap bass (the memorable end theme was usually stomped over by on-air, squashed-screen promos), it feels like time is now of the essence and that no one has the time to be transported now. It's "You're either with us or agin' us--you comin or not?" (perfect for the political and cultural mindset of the moment, I must say). It feels like the death of not only something special, but essential. It subtracts from the specialness of television, and while I understand that we watch shows not for their credits but for their content, it still feels like a loss we should mourn.

You look at that adorable footage you included, of the bird singing the Andy Griffith theme, and you think about the time and effort and single-minded passion that that birds owner spend on teaching Polly or whatever that beautiful tune, and you know that Hagen's work really, really meant something to fans and the public at large. What a great artist--one who'll be missed.

Jane said...

I had mentioned Earle in my NoseTalgia post about The Andy Griffith Show many moons ago. Another amazing talent passes. Thank you for posting the wonderful parrot video too. So adorable, I will watch it a million times. Get that bird an agent!

Lisa said...

Jane, I didn't mean to leave out your great Nose-talgia piece -- here's the link to it for anyone who missed it!


And Dean -- what wonderful comments about the whole notion of the theme music; I agree. You can tell how much they mean by how many of them we can all remember. Many times we feel more affectionate about the theme than the show, and sometimes it's all we really remember! Excellent thoughts!

Jane said...

I had to watch the Parrot video 3 more times this morning before heading off to my client presentation. I know I am overtly partial to critter vids, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is my favorite video posted on the Nose yet. I am rating it even higher than the Cloverfield video, which I watched about 32 times.

Lisa said...

I have to say I fell in love with that bird, too. It almost makes me cry to watch it, he's so sweet and talented. Such a terrific bird!

Jane said...

The Parrot Video is enormously touching. I especially love how after he finishes the whistle he turns around to the two love birds who are making out in the background and says hi. I just love that bird. And he must have an excellent human, as Dean pointed out, to have spent so much time teaching him a TV theme song.

Scott said...

Dean, I love your take on these things. We need to get you to contribute posts!
The parrot video has been the most entertaining part of my day!
Thank God for HBO and Showtime who run their channels more like movie studios, and treat their shows' creaters, directors and producers as if they were making feature films. Hence, the best TV themes and opens today are on shows such as "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "Entourage" and "Queer As Folk" (I have "Cue the Pulse to Begin" on my ipod!)

Jane said...

I have had the theme song for the Sopranos on my iPod for years. Every time I listen to it I see Tony driving from JFK to Jersey and get excited all over again. And then sad, because there will never be another new episode of the Sopranos, may it rest in peace. The songs that we associate with great television are magic.

By the way, I think this post of Lisa's is now the grand prize winner for most number of comments. (Sigh...ever the researcher, quantifying everything!)

Jane said...

And one more thought: never mind the posts...Dean should write a BOOK! I would buy a copy in a heartbeat. Dean, there is something about your writing that makes me want to curl up with it on the sofa. It's like popcorn. TV comfort food.

Lisa said...

Dean has a very amazing series coming up for us here -- he has been a pal of mine for many years and a completely amazing observer of all pop culture! He completely rocks and I just love him!! Dean is the man!!

So look forward to his new post!

And it's that amazing and adorable parrot who is the best thing I've ever seen...great on so many levels its impossible to describe!

Jane said...

I want to marry that Parrot. Adorable little dinosaur descendant!

Dean Treadway said...

...shucks...thanks, you guys. All I can say is there's a lot more where all that comes from...

And if you know any publishers, send 'em my way.