More than just a television icon, Mary Tyler Moore will forever be remembered as the woman who turned the world on with her smile. In the wake of the star’s death on Wednesday at age 80, the famous opening lyrics to The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme have blossomed into a touching epitaph.
“I’m incredibly sorry to hear this news,” Curtis told the publication shortly after learning of her passing. “I’ve had a really good career – but it was an incredible honor to be involved and associated with Mary Tyler Moore.”
The 79-year-old songwriter, a classmate of rock pioneer Buddy Holly who also penned the classic “I Fought the Law” made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four and later the Clash, says he last saw Moore in 2001 at the dedication of her statue in Minneapolis. “She had a great personality from the first time I met her when the show started. She was just always terrifically friendly.”
Curtis says that he composed the theme song, officially known as “Love Is All Around,” in just two hours back in early 1971. A friend who worked at a talent agency recommended him for the job, delivering him a 4-page synopsis of the show.
“It wasn’t much, it was not a script – just a treatment, that it was about a girl from the Midwest moving to Minneapolis with a job at a news station,” Curtis remembered.
The original version of the song, used for the show’s first season, opened with the lines: “How will you make it on your own? This world is awfully big. Girl this time you’re all alone. But it’s time you started living.”
But after the show was renewed for a second season, Curtis received a new task. “Well she’s obviously made it. We need new lyrics.”
That’s when he wrote the words that would follow Moore for the rest of her life: “Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
Although hazy on the precise inspiration, Curtis says the lines came to him in the early morning hours, while sick on a deep sea fishing trip with friends.
“It’s all been a dream come true. Obviously I had no idea this was going to be this big a success,” he says. “Everyone wants something like this to happen to them. It was a great honor to be associated with Mary Tyler Moore and this show.”