The Simpsons Theme

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Danny Elfman composed "The Simpsons Theme"

"The Simpsons Theme", also referred to as "The Simpsons Main Title Theme" in album releases, is the theme music of the animated television series The Simpsons. It plays during the opening sequence and was composed by Danny Elfman in 1989, after series creator Matt Groening approached him requesting a retro-style theme. The piece has been noted by Elfman as the most popular of his career.[1] The theme, as used for the opening sequence, was re-arranged during season 2, and the current arrangement by Alf Clausen was introduced at the beginning of the third season.

It has also been edited many times to coincide with edits of various lengths for the opening sequence, and there have been extended edits and re-recordings for lengthened opening sequences. Several versions of the saxophone solo riff, ostensibly played by character Lisa Simpson in the animated sequence, have been created over the course of the series. The theme is in the acoustic scale.[2][3]

A slightly different arrangement of the theme usually plays over the end credits of the show. Originally, there were two main versions of the closing theme, with the longer version ending in a lower key. Both versions were re-arranged for season 3, but only the short version was in use by the time the show switched domestic production from Klasky Csupo to Film Roman season 4, and that version was edited to be even shorter by the end of season 6. The alternate longer closing theme however resurfaced in a handful of post-season 4 episodes, but mostly in credit sequences that do not play music during the first half of the sequence (either with dialogue heard underneath or video footage playing under the first half of the credits).


The theme won the National Music Award for "Favorite TV Theme" in 2002, and has won the BMI TV Music Award in 1996, 1998, and 2003. In 1990, the theme was nominated for the Emmy for "Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music".[4]

Alternative versions[edit]

In addition to the standard closing theme arrangement, certain episodes have had alternate versions of the closing theme used; some are composed in-house by Alf Clausen in alternate styles or as homages to other musical works, and some are covers by musical artists. Most of the time, these are used to tie into the plot of the episode itself. For example, several police or law-related episodes have ended with homages to the themes from Dragnet, and Hill Street Blues. Most of the Treehouse of Horror halloween episodes have opened with a horror or monster movie-styled arrangement, or with homages to themes such as The Addams Family. Other versions are performed by guest stars heard in an episode, such as a psychedelic rock version performed by Yo La Tengo, a chicano rock version by Los Lobos, and a post-rock version by Sigur Rós. The noise rock version by Sonic Youth, which aired at the end of the episode "Homerpalooza", has been ranked among the best versions of the theme by Matt Groening[5] and also by Chris Turner in his book Planet Simpson.[6] Other performers include Tito Puente, NRBQ, Fall Out Boy, The Supersonicos, and an a cappella version by Canvas. Guitarist Danny Gatton did a blues rock rendition of the theme on his 1991 album 88 Elmira St..

Green Day version[edit]

"The Simpsons Theme"
Green Day - The Simpsons Theme cover.jpg
Single by Green Day
from the album The Simpsons Movie: The Music
ReleasedJuly 24, 2007
FormatDigital download
RecordedJanuary 1, 2007
GenreInstrumental rock, punk rock
LabelReprise Records
Songwriter(s)Danny Elfman
Producer(s)Green Day
Green Day singles chronology
"Working Class Hero"
"The Simpsons Theme"
"Know Your Enemy"
The Simpsons singles chronology
"God Bless the Child"
"The Simpsons Theme"

In 2007, Green Day recorded a cover version of the theme song for The Simpsons Movie and also released it as a single.[7] It placed as high as number six on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles, number 19 on the UK Singles Chart, and #16 on the UK download chart.[8] Also for The Simpsons Movie, Hans Zimmer, who composed the score for the film, arranged his own version of the theme in an orchestral style consistent with the original,[9] and also inserted "tiny fragments" of it into the rest of his score.[10]

It marks the third time that Green Day has recorded an instrumental track, following "Last Ride In" from Nimrod and "Espionage" from Shenanigans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glionna, John M. (1999). "Danny Elfman in the L.A. Times". Danny Elfman's Music For A Darkened People. Archived from the original on February 28, 2006. Retrieved July 3, 2006.
  2. ^ "The Lydian Mode",
  3. ^ "Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale", Elissa Milne. January 14, 2010.
  4. ^ "Awards for "The Simpsons" (1989)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  5. ^ Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Homerpalooza" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Foreword by Douglas Coupland. (1st ed.). Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 978-0-679-31318-2. OCLC 55682258.
  7. ^ Conniff, Tamara (May 24, 2007). "Mmmmm, soundtrack: 'Simpsons' team effort". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 31, 2007. Retrieved May 24, 2007.
  8. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Chart Show - The UK Top 40 Singles".
  9. ^ "Hans Zimmer Bakes Up a Tasty Soundtrack for The Simpsons Movie". July 29, 2007. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  10. ^ Shen, Maxine (July 24, 2007). "'SIMPSONS' SCORE STATE OF THE BART". New York Post. Archived from the original on January 11, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2007.