Mike Post: America’s TV Theme Song Master


Any keen-eyed viewer who has logged a substantial amount of time in front of the TV, spanning from the faux-wood floor model days to the present flat screen era has glimpsed the blunt, no-squandered syllables name of Mike Post in the music credits of top Nielson-rated shows. With his preferred instrument, the Yamaha DX 7 synthesizer, his prime-time melodies have defined beloved characters and provided our nation with shower-humming fodder for decades.

Consider the 1970’s wonk of the Rockford Files theme, both weary and proud, underscoring the dichotomy of a private detective who charged clients 200 bucks a day but lived in a ramshackle trailer overlooking an exclusive Malibu beach.

The A–Team’s bombastic anthem, trumpeting the triumphs of a gang of misfit mercenaries, is in harmony with the countless truck explosions on the show and the glinting pounds of gold around Mr. T’s bulging neck.

Magnum P.I.’s theme starts out just as bombastic as The A-Team, perfect for scenes of him driving his red Ferrari or chasing the bad guy, his balls cupped by too-tight shorts. But then it seamlessly slides into synthesized pseudo-horn/strings sound, revealing a softer Thomas Magnum, whose kind heart left him vulnerable to the charms of Jill St. John and other 80’s vixens.

Quantum Leap was a time travel show in which the main character leaped into different bodies, such as a blind concert pianist and a monkey in the space program. Naturally, he imparted life lessons as well. On a jaunt back to 1958, he told a 12-year-old Donald Trump to invest in real estate. What with the mixture of travel and advice, it is appropriate that this theme is a sonic hybrid: half Florida resort background music, half pumped up business seminar.

The song for Doogie Howser M.D. showcases expert use of Post’s weapon of choice-the Yamaha DX 7. This is a synthesized nursery rhyme sound, befitting a boy who graduated from Princeton at age 10. But perhaps it is lacking in one thing: expressing the horror of having a 14-year-old remove one’s gall bladder.

L.A. Law’s theme offers up a smooth, housewife-friendly David Sanborn sax sound, perfect for a show that gave us Lifetime Television for Women staple Harry Hamlin.

And of course, there’s Law and Order. Syndication and spin-offs have ensured that this somber tune can pretty much be heard 24 hours a day. How many composers can claim that honor?

So here’s a toast to Mike Post, one remarkable man who created the soundtrack to America’s late 20th century cultural legacy.

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