Alan Thicke, who died Tuesday at the age of 69, was widely known for his starring role as Dr. Jason Seaver on Growing Pains. But the actor also had a successful side gig as a composer to some of television’s most memorable theme songs.
Here are 11 of his biggest hits:
The NBC sitcom, about a rich white New York businessman who adopts two black boys from Harlem after their mother’s death, made stars out of Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. The show premiered in Nov. 1978 and aired on the peacock network for seven seasons before moving to ABC for it’s eighth and final season. But while Diff’rent Strokes ended in March 1986, Thicke’s theme song (written with first wife Gloria Loring and the tune’s singer Al Burton) lives on.
The Facts of Life
Spun off from Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life found the Drummonds’ housekeeper Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) as she became a housemother at an all-female boarding school in Peekskill, New York. It was one of the longest-running sitcoms of the ’80s, running for nine seasons from Aug. 1979 until May 1988 on NBC — making stars out Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn, and Nancy McKeon.
Thicke, Loring and Burton once again united for the theme — this time with Loring lending her vocals to the track.
The Wizard of Odds
Thicke didn’t always just write his songs, he took lead vocals on the funky theme for the NBC game show The Wizard of Odds, which aired on NBC from July 1973 to June 1974. The show may have been short-lived, but its host — Alex Trebeck — would go on to find longterm success on Jeopardy!
The Joker’s Wild
There was no need for vocals on Thicke’s theme song to the popular game show The Joker’s Wild — which ran on CBS from 1972-1975 before moving to syndication from 1977-1986 (and again from 1990-1991). But Thicke almost didn’t get the gig! The show originally tried to use a 1967 track by electronic music artists Perrey and Kingsley called “The Savers” — but couldn’t get the rights. Thicke stepped in with the “Joker’s Jive,” which was used with the program for the 1974-1975 season.
The game show circuit would prove to be successful for Thicke. He composed the second theme song for the NBC game show Celebrity Sweepstakes, which ran on NBC daytime from April 1974 to Oct. 1976 and ran in syndication until Sept. 1977. Once again, no vocals were needed for the funky tune. (Stan Worth had composed the show’s first theme).
Wheel of Fortune
And then there was Wheel of Fortune. The word puzzle game show continues to air in syndication today after premiering there in Sept. 1983 — though changes have been made to its format since first premiering on NBC daytime on Jan. 1975. One of the biggest changes? Removing Thicke’s original theme song, which was called “Big Wheels.” Show creator Merv Griffin switched out the tune for his own song — “Changing Keys” — to allow him to derive royalties from the network and syndicated versions.
The Diamond Head Game
It was the only game show ever to be taped entirely on location in Hawaii. But the short-lived Diamond Head Game — which aired five days a week in syndications for seven months in 1975 — had one memorable theme song from Thicke.
Thicke wasn’t always just composing theme songs to game shows, he sometimes hosted them too!
Animal Crack-Ups aired in ABC primetime during the summer of 1987 — and then on Saturday mornings until Dec. 1989. The show was based on the Japanese series Waku Waku, but Thicke’s theme song – “Animals Are Just Like People Too” — was solely original. Composition came from Alan Thicke, his brother Todd Thicke and Thickovit music partner Gary Pickus.
Blank Check was promoted as “television’s first ESP game” — but a psychic couldn’t have predicted it would only have a seven month run on NBC in 1975. Still, Thicke’s theme song — which replaced Quincy Jones’ “Chump Change,” used in the show’s pilot — had a life beyond the show. Called “Hip Check,” it would later be used as a prize cue on Wheel of Fortune.
Original recordings of Thicke’s theme song to Whew! — the game show that aired on CBS from April 1979 to May 1980 — was presumed to have been lost. That is, until 2012, when the Museum of Television Production Music discovered them.
Stumpers! was by far the shortest lived of all of Thicke’s game show themes. The NBC program only aired from Oct. 4 to Dec. 31 in 1976. (It’s premise was very similar to Password, which probably didn’t help it stand out). Like Whew!, much of the footage of Stumpers! was lost for years until 2012 when collectors began uploading clips to YouTube.