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Earle Hagen's Theme Songs Made TV History
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Earle Hagen's Theme Songs Made TV History

Earle Hagen's Theme Songs Made TV History

Earle Hagen's Theme Songs Made TV History
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The man who wrote TV theme songs for The Andy Griffith Show, I Spy and The Mod Squad has died. Earle Hagen, a former big-band trombonist, also wrote the jazz standard "Harlem Nocturne." He was 88.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

You know, it's a challenge to boil down an entire television show concept in one short theme song.

(Soundbite of song, "Theme from The Dick van Dyke Show")

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Oh, that bump is where Rob Petrie trips over the ottoman in his living room during the opening credits of "The Dick van Dyke Show." Do you remember that?

ADAMS: Did it every time. Earle Hagen caught the quirky grace of that character, just as he captured the essence of so many other characters, with scores of unforgettable television tunes. Hagen died Monday in California. And although he never topped the charts, you know his stuff.

NORRIS: Here's how he imagined the Marine Corps, with a goofy but affable private marching in formation.

(Soundbite of song, "Theme from Gomer Pyle, USMC")

Unidentified Man: "Gomer Pyle, USMC…"

(Soundbite of song, "Theme from Gomer Pyle, USMC")

Unidentified Man: …starring Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle.

ADAMS: And then the themes for "I Spy," "Eight is Enough," "The Mod Squad," "That Girl," and, of course, this…

(Soundbite of song, "Theme from The Andy Griffith Show")

ADAMS: That's Hagen himself doing the whistling.

NORRIS: Years before his success as a TV tunesmith, Earle Hagen played trombone with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Ray Noble. On the road with Noble, Hagen composed "Harlem Nocturne," and that became a jazz standard.

ADAMS: And then decades later, it became the theme to the 1984 television detective series, "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer."

(Soundbite of song, "Harlem Nocturne")

NORRIS: Music by Earle Hagen. The composer died Monday at his home near Palm Springs, California. He was 88.

(Soundbite of song, "Harlem Nocturne")

ADAMS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

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