Here’s a look at 6 television series that have been lucky enough to have famous musicians write and/or perform their theme songs.
1. Fiona Apple, The Affair
The reclusive and highly regarded singer-songwriter-pianist Fiona Apple debuted a new song as the theme for Showtime’s drama The Affair. While it’s only a short bit, Apple fans get excited over anything the singer — who’s known to wait years between releasing her critically acclaimed albums — puts out. Apple composed the song “Container” for the show after the show’s creator Sarah Treem, a longtime fan of Apple’s, approached the singer. “If our show can approach one-tenth of the depth and complexity of her song, I’ll be very happy,” Treem said to Billboard.
2. Regina Spektor, Orange Is the New Black
Another singer-songwriter-pianist, Regina Spektor lent her new song “You’ve Got Time” to the super popular and critically acclaimed Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. The show’s creator Jenji Kohan approached Spektor to write and record the show’s theme after working with her for Kohan’s previous show’s theme (we’ll get to that in a second). Kohan sent Spektor rough footage of the show and explained the premise, which helped Spektor immerse herself in the women’s prison setting. “She [Kohan] played it to the title sequence and then I saw the photos of all the prisoners and it just made sense. I was like, whoa, this really fits,” Spektor told Rolling Stone of the song.
3. Various, Weeds
The Weeds theme song “Little Boxes” was written by political activist and folk singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds in 1962 and became a hit for folk icon Pete Seeger in 1963. Also created by Jenji Kohan, Weeds took a scathing look at suburban life via a stay-at-home mom forced to turn to dealing marijuana after her husband’s sudden death, and “Little Boxes” was the perfect theme to encapsulate its takes on privilege and conformity. The second, third, and eighth seasons of Weeds enlisted a huge variety of notable artists to cover the song for the show’s opening credits, from Elvis Costello to Regina Spektor to Randy Newman to The Shins to Linkin Park.
4. Waylon Jennings, The Dukes of Hazzard
Outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings wrote the song “Good Ol’ Boys” for the show The Dukes of Hazzard, lending the show some serious country credibility and providing Jennings with a hit. The hokey show was lucky to have what would be a country classic even without the recognition from the silly, but popular series for its theme song. While most of the lyrics are about law-breaking main characters, Jennings goes meta with a reference to his own faceless cameo appearances with the line “I’m a good ol’ boy, you know my momma loves me / but she don’t understand why they keep a-showin’ my hands and not my face on TV.”
5. Dr. John, Curious George
Dr. John lends his New Orleans-flavored jazz to the theme “Like Curious George!” for the newest animated PBS cartoon of the classic children’s book character Curious George. Dr. John is best known for infusing the blues and rock and roll with more traditional styles of music from his native New Orleans including zydeco, jazz, and boogie woogie. Dr. John is also known for his wild personal life, which saw him at various times running a brothel, getting shot in the hand in a bar fight and ending his guitar-playing career, maintaining a long-time heroin addiction, and experimenting with voodoo. Not exactly the musician that comes to mind when thinking of who should write a theme song for a children’s show meant to encourage kids ages 3 to 5 to engage with math and science through the adventures of an anthropomorphic monkey.
6. Primus, South Park
The hard rock band Primus wrote and performs the theme for the long-running adult cartoon South Park, with frontman Les Claypool sharing vocal duties with show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as the voices of main characters Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. The lyrics describe an idyllic small town in Colorado, while the imagery in the opening credits undercuts that message with the most wild and depraved clips from each season.