The History Of The Addams Family Theme Song Explained

Here's a thought experiment: sing to yourself the first line of the theme song to the TV series "Friends." Now, after you finish singing, "So no one told you life was gonna be this way," gauge just how hard it is to avoid making those four clapping sounds that come right after. Now, hum the first four notes of the theme song to "The Addams Family," and gauge how hard it is to avoid making those two snapping sounds with your fingers.

Those two snaps would be the "hook" for one of the most memorable TV theme songs of its era, if not of any era. "The Addams Family" opening credits lean into those snaps, showing the characters, often in close-up, snapping their fingers when the time comes. According to NPR News, those two snaps also made their composer, Vic Mizzy, a tremendous amount of money — enough to buy a house in a wealthy LA suburb, as Mizzy would often joke.

Expository Theme Songs

They're all but gone these days, according to TV Tropes, but there was a time when the expository theme song ruled the day (in fact, the TV theme song in general has mostly disappeared, but that's a discussion for another day). Shows such as "Gilligan's Island," "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "Green Acres," among countless others, had theme songs that introduced the characters and the setting and explained their motivations.

If any TV show needed exposition, it would be "The Addams Family." When the show was being developed for the small screen back in the early 1960s, giving the characters some context — and names (they weren't named in the original cartoons) — was paramount to getting viewers to accept them, considering that they'd previously only existed as nameless cartoon characters. And the man who stepped up was Victor Mizzy, who later developed more theme-song cred for composing the theme to "Green Acres," as well as a few radio-friendly commercial hits, such as "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time."

'They're Creepy and They're Kooky'

In the book, "TV's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From 'Dragnet' to 'Friends,'" excerpted via The Los Angeles Times, author Jon Burlingame notes that composing and recording the theme song for "The Addams Family" brought with it some requirements that are absent from other such theme songs. In particular, the snaps: While the cast of, say, "Gilligan's Island," had absolutely nothing to do with the theme song (they didn't write it or perform it), the cast of "The Addams Family" are particularly involved in their own theme song. Specifically, seven key actors, one of whom was a little girl, had to snap their fingers in time with the song. Further, Mizzy himself sang the song.

The use of the harpsichord was a nice touch. Specifically, it ties a show prop — the instrument that Lurch plays — to the theme song. "You've got the harpsichord, which lends this antique, sort of macabre quality to the theme. But then you add the lyrics, which make it funny. So you have the perfect combination of macabre and amusing. It was just right for that show's sensibility," Mizzy said.

Mizzy made all of the money from the theme song, too. He retained the publishing rights, which meant decades of royalties. "That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air," he said, via the Los Angeles Times.