10 Best TV Theme Songs Of The 1970s
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10 Best TV Theme Songs Of The 1970s


  • Theme songs from the 1970s were catchy and memorable, with iconic musicians adding to their popularity.
  • Shows like Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons used music to convey their themes and messages effectively.
  • The Muppet Show and Mission: Impossible had enduring theme songs that have continued to be loved by audiences.



The 1970s was a great time for TV theme songs and across action, crime, comedy, and family sitcoms, had some of the best music ever heard on television. With a focus on funk, rock, and pop, the best theme tunes of the decade became so entrenched in popular culture that many people today would still recognize them, even without ever having watched the original series. In an age before streaming and the widespread availability of television on demand, a memorable theme tune with a catchy hook was essential to remaining in viewers’ memory in between episodes.

From funk instrumentals that set the tone of the show to heartfelt lyric-based ballads that quickly summarized the story, the best theme songs of the 1970s were catchy, upbeat, and easily digestible. With input from iconic musicians, such as Quincy Jones, to composers who specialized in television themes, like Mike Post, one aspect that defined 1970s theme songs was their sheer variety and the vast array of instruments in use, which mimicked the experimentation that was occurring in mainstream pop music at the time. There were just so many fantastic TV theme songs in the 1970s.

10 Sanford and Son (1972 – 1977)

“The Streetbeater” by Quincy Jones

Sanford and Son

One of the biggest signs of an iconic theme song was when people who hadn’t even seen the show immediately recognized its music and this was certainly the case with Sanford and Son. Titled “The Streetbeater” and featured on composer Quincy Jones’ 1973 album You’ve Got It Bad Girl, the groovy funk stylings of its organ, saxophone, and trumpet made it an earworm that was easily danced to. The Sanford and Son theme tune has maintained its recognizable aura due to being featured in later series like Scrubs and The Simpsons (via Songfacts), which helped cement it in popular culture.

9 Diff’rent Strokes (1978 – 1986)

“It Takes Diff’rent Strokes” performed by Alan Thicke, Linda Harmon, Gloria Loring and Gene Morford

Gary Coleman in Diff'rent Strokes

The message of acceptance and understanding of the NBC sitcom Diff’rent Strokes was outlined beautifully in the show’s theme song by Alan Tichke, Linda Harmon, Gloria Loring, and Gene Morford. The story of a businessman and his daughter who take in two young boys from Harlem, the recognizable theme song of Diff’rent Strokes explained that the “world don’t move to the beat of its own drum and what’s right for you “may not be right for some” because it takes “different strokes to move the world.” As a catchy tune with a progressive message, it set up Diff’rent Strokes perfectly.

8 The Jeffersons (1975 – 1985)

“Movin’ On Up” performed by Ja’net DuBois

The Jeffersons

The Jeffersons was a groundbreaking sitcom that was not afraid to tackle contemporary issues head-on and was the first television show to prominently feature a married interracial couple. The gospel choir of The Jefferson’s theme tune singing “Movin’ On Up” represented the show’s aspirational themes of upward social mobility perfectly and acted as an indication that this series would be more progressive than your average 1970s sitcom. With a primarily African American cast, The Jeffersons tackled themes of alcoholism, racism, gun control, and even transgender issues during an era when these issues were not so commonly seen on mainstream television.

7 Taxi (1978 – 1983)

“Angela” by Bob James

Andy Kaufman Taxi Latka

A slow, relaxing, and melancholic theme tune, the opening music to the ABC sitcom Taxi was called “Angela” and stood in stark contrast to the often-over-the-top showmanship of other themes from this era. With a beautiful recorder whistling in the opening few seconds accompanied by groovy keys, saxophone, and a flute, “Angela” was an effective theme tune for Taxi as the opening sequence showcases a cab slowly driving across the Queensboro Bridge from a first-person perspective. A relaxing introduction before being subjected to the antics and everyday lives of Taxi’s New York cab drivers.

6 The Rockford Files (1974 – 1980)

The Rockford Files by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter

James Garner in The Rockford Files

The distinctive electric guitar-based theme song of The Rockford Files was one of the best of the 1970s and was created by famed theme music composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. An eclectic mix of guitar, synths, harmonica, and banjo the song was a top ten hit in the United States and Canada in 1975 and perfectly introduced the James Garner detective series. Mike Post made a career out of creating iconic theme songs and was also responsible for the music in The A-Team, Quantum Leap, Magnum P.I., and Hill Street Blues in the 1980s.

5 WKRP In Cincinnati (1978 – 1982)

WKRP in Cincinnati Main Theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson


As a series based on the misadventures of the staff of an AM radio station it was essential for WKRP in Cincinnati to have a memorable theme song and the intro by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson triumphantly achieved this. A groovy soft pop, the theme song featured music by Tom Wells and lyrics by the WKRP in Cincinnati creator Hugh Wilson. A distinctively 1970s song, WKRP in Cincinnati expertly captured the clean-cut smooth radio style of the West Coast yacht rock sound that was popular at the time.

4 The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 – 1977)

“Love Is All Around” by Sonny Curtis

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mary Tyler Moore , Ed Asner , Gavin MacLeod , Ted Knight , Cloris Leachman , Valerie Harper , Georgia Engel , Betty White

Release Date
September 19, 1970


The memorable theme tune of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was written and performed by Sonny Curtis and references the show’s main character and her struggle to start a new life after the end of her relationship. The positive refrain “you’re gonna make it after all” started the series on an optimistic note of encouragement and belief. The theme tune to The Mary Tyler Moore Show was in line with the series’ feminist message as it showcased a woman, neither married nor dependent, living a full, complex, and purposeful life which was rarely depicted in mainstream media in the 1970s.

3 The Muppet Show (1976 – 1981)

“The Muppet Show Theme” by Jim Henson and Sam Pottle

The theme song for The Muppets Show was one of the most enduring aspects of the Jim Henson-created series that has been continually referenced and repeated in later Muppets-based media. Written by Henson with Sam Pottle, who also worked on the music for Sesame Street, the “sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational” music has been beloved by generations and was easily associated with Kermit, Ms Piggy, and all the rest of the stars of The Muppets Show. An enduring piece of music, The Muppets Show theme was a major aspect of the show’s success.

2 Mission: Impossible (1966 – 1973)

“Theme from Mission: Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin

The cast of the Mission Impossible TV series looking at the camera.

The iconic theme music from the original Mission: Impossible television series that aired in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s was the most consistent part of the long-running franchise. An insanely memorable piece of music, according to urban legend composer Lalo Schifrin based the theme on the rhythm of the M.I. in Morse code (via NME.) The song was so inseparable and essential to Mission: Impossible that has been continually used in the 1988 revival TV show, as well as the Tom Cruise-led movie franchise.

1 Happy Days (1974 – 1984)

“Happy Days” by The Ron Hicklin Singers

Interestingly, the absolute best theme song of the 1970s attempted to recreate the styles of sounds of the 1950s during the introduction of the ABC sitcom Happy Days. An upbeat, memorable, and iconic song, “Happy Days” was written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox and sung by Jan Haas with The Ron Hicklin Singers, as well as Pratt & McClain in later sons. The theme tune’s infectious mix of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop backup singers, and danceable pop made it one of the most memorable and beloved theme tunes not just of the 1970s, but of all time.

Sources: Songfacts, NME

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