Themes from ‘CBS News’

“America Decides 2020” Theme

For its election night coverage, CBS News used a theme composed by Nick Murray on behalf of MIBE Music. The music has lots of movement and creates a sense of anticipation, a befitting conclusion to a highly charged election between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump. There’s not a lot of melody because when it is used on air, anchors are frequently talking over it. The music was recorded nearly a year before its use on air, in January of 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand.

MIBE Music – America Decides 2020

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“CBS Evening News” Current Theme

When Norah O’Donnell took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News, the program debuted a new look and sound. The new theme is a remixed version of the previous one with lots of EDM elements. After a few months, the program relocated to Washington, D.C. That made it the first network evening news program since World News Tonight in the early ’80s to air regularly from the nation’s capital.

Man Made Music – CBS Evening News open
Man Made Music – CBS Evening News headlines
Man Made Music – CBS Evening News close

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“WCBS Newsradio 880” Current Anthem

WCBS Newsradio 880 is a news and talk radio station in the New York metropolitan area. When they needed a new theme package, they turned to Man Made Music. The station wanted something that did not sound too self-important. The result is something that blends in well with the greater CBS News sonic brand for which Man Made Music is responsible. This is the anthem. It blends some of the individual cuts of the package together, such as the news, weather and traffic themes.

Man Made Music – WCBS Newsradio 880 anthem

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“Face the Nation” Current Theme

A few months after Margaret Brennan took over as moderator, Face the Nation was given a makeover that brought it more in line with the look and feel of other CBS News programs. The theme was recorded a month before its debut in the studios of Man Made Music in New York. Each section of an orchestra recorded their parts before it was all mixed together under the guidance of Joel Beckerman and Mickey Alexander.

Man Made Music – Face the Nation theme

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“CBS Evening News” 2016 – 2019 Theme

Originally composed for CBS’ election coverage, this theme was adopted as the theme for the CBS Evening News in May of 2016. CBS wanted an iconic score, something people would remember 10 to 15 years from now. Man Made Music was charged with that task. Composers Joel Beckerman and Wayne Sharpe came up with this theme centered on three orchestral stabs. It’s a special challenge to write news music, as Beckerman explained to USA Today:

“What we’re doing is creating music for a movie that has not been shot—because we don’t know what the stories are. CBS News doesn’t yet know what will unfold through this whole election cycle. So we’re trying to predict the kinds of emotions that they’re going to need—the different energies, the different instruments, so that we can create almost an entire film score for them that can unfold in real time during the election cycle.”

The various sections of the orchestra give the theme its identity. Strings give it worldliness, lower brass adds trustworthiness and short note percussion gives it forward energy, said Beckerman to AdWeek. Here’s the long close, used on the Evening News. You can listen to a different cut of the package that was used for election coverage.

Man Made Music – CBS Evening News 2016 theme

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“CBS Campaign 2016” Theme

This theme was recorded in late 2015 at the New York studios of Man Made Music. Composer Joel Beckerman referred to it in USA Today as “a hybrid orchestra piece”. There are a lot of samples and synthetic elements that are complemented by live musicians. The theme made its debut at the Democratic primary debate in Iowa that CBS News hosted. It was well liked and was later adopted as the main theme for the CBS Evening News.

Man Made Music – Campaign 2016 theme

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“CBS This Morning” Current Theme

The relaunch of CBS This Morning in 2012 was an attempt to bring back hard news to the morning time slot. There would be no funny weatherman or couch on set. The first hour was anchored by Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell and was essentially an extended version of the CBS Evening News. Gayle King joined the show in the second hour, at which point it shifted to lighter fare. In later years all three anchors would be present for both hours. Though the anchors have changed, what hasn’t changed is that each show starts with the Eye Opener, a fast-paced 90-second montage of the day’s news. This energetic piece of music by Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music accompanies the Eye Opener.

Man Made Music – CBS This Morning Eye Opener

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“Early Show” 2011 – 2012 Open

This is based on the 1987 CBS Evening News package that was picked up again in 2011. It was performed and recorded at the end of June 2011, debuting about a month later on the Early Show. It again unifies the branding of CBS News while also underscoring the Early Show’s hard news focus. With the cancellation of the Early Show, this theme did not entirely disappear from the airwaves. It was used for a number of CBS News programs in the years thereafter, such as the Morning News and Up To The Minute.

Trivers/Myers Music – Early Show open

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“CBS Evening News” 1987 – 1991, 2011 – 2016 Theme

This was the first orchestral theme for the CBS Evening News. Before this theme was adopted in 1987, CBS News had a policy, imposed by CBS TV President Frank Stanton, that no music could be used. This policy dated back to the old days of TV news when many newscasts consisted of syndicated pictures with cheap production music. To prove CBS supplied its own footage, they decided not to add any music. Besides, their music library at the time consisted of music used for those old radio soaps. It was not appropriate for news. For a few years, they had a ticker sound as open/bumper/close, but from 1984 to 1987 they had no music at all in the open and the close! After a few years of seeing their ratings decline, while John Williams’ NBC News theme was popular with the viewing public, the executives at CBS decided to finally reverse their policy and commissioned John Trivers, Elizabeth Myers, and Alan James Pasqua to compose the theme. The music was recorded at the Fox sound stage and took 6 hours to perform.

This theme was dropped in 1991, but only temporarily as it later turned out. When Scott Pelley took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in 2011, executives wanted “to reach back into the DNA of CBS News”. They are using the original recordings, though they have been remastered slightly.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News close

In the late ’80s they used different openings, but here you can find the one they used quite often. The opening that they have been using since 2011 is a bit different. It’s actually a remixed version of the last part of the long credit close above.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (2011 version)

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (1987 version)

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News headlines

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“48 Hours Mystery” 2010 – 2015 Theme

This is the theme that has been used on 48 Hours Mystery since the fall of 2010. Like the previous themes, it is composed by Richard Fiocca. It’s not used for some of the special editions of 48 Hours Mystery, such as Live to Tell. That edition, which tells stories without the use of narrator, uses no theme music.

Richard Fiocca – 48 Hours Mystery theme

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“Face the Nation” 2009 – 2018 Theme

This is a fuller, more orchestral arrangement of the previous theme. After pulling double duty on the Evening News and Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer returned full time to Face the Nation after Katie Couric started as main anchor at CBS. He continued to moderate the public affairs show until his retirement in 2015. After that John Dickerson, who was CBS’ political director at the time, took over.

Peter Fish – Face the Nation theme

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“Inauguration of Barack Obama” Theme

This theme was used for CBS’ coverage of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, anchored by Katie Couric. It is a great variation on the CBS Evening News theme composed by James Horner. While the theme is based on the Horner composition, it’s a production by Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music. Beckerman knows Horner’s theme well because he was previously involved in converting Horner’s music to a music package suited to the needs of a TV broadcast.

Man Made Music – Inauguration theme

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“Early Show” 2008 – 2011 Theme

This is a remix of James Horner’s original Early Show theme that the morning program used for a little over three years. By giving it an urban beat, a classical sounding piece becomes hip and contemporary. This theme premiered on the day that they started to use their redesigned street level set and Maggie Rodriquez started her run as co-anchor. Over the years the Early Show used various slightly differently arranged versions of this open.

James Horner – CBS Early Show theme

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“Early Show” 2006 – 2008 Open

This is the theme that James Horner composed for the Early Show. It was recorded in New York, two weeks after the original session in Los Angeles during the summer of 2006. In comparison to his work for the Evening News, he wanted the theme for the Early Show to be more energetic, gentler and intimate. It debuted about two months after Horner’s Evening News theme went on the air. CBS decided to use this theme as the headline cue and used a shortened version of the Evening News close was used as an open.

James Horner – Early Show open

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“CBS News Special Report” 2006 – 2011 Theme

This ominous sounding cue of James Horner’s theme package for the CBS Evening News was composed for special reports. Before these impromptu newscasts start, viewers can usually see (part of) a 10-second countdown. That is used to give CBS stations around the country the chance to switch to the national feed. Before the Horner theme, CBS News used the headline cue from the 1991 Evening News package to open special reports.

James Horner – CBS News Special Report theme

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