Themes from ‘CBS News’

“CBS Evening News” 2006 – 2011 Theme

For Katie Couric’s ascension to the anchor chair, the CBS Evening News was given a total makeover. Like NBC did earlier, they turned to a famous movie composer for their theme: James Horner. He is known for the scores to such hit movies as Titanic, Aliens and Avatar. They asked him to create a theme that stood out from other news themes including CBS’ previous theme. The result is music that sounds sweeping, regal and cinematic.

Although Horner scored hundreds of movies and won both Oscars and Grammys, he had never worked in television. That was different for him because TV cues have demands that movie cues don’t have. They tend to be shorter – only a few seconds – whereas film cues can last fifteen minutes. Furthermore, many special cues such as bumpers, billboards and opens are needed. Therefore Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music, who is specialized in music for TV, helped Horner convert his music to a theme package suited to the demands of television. He added, for example, the three notes at the beginning of the headline cue. The music was recorded in L.A. in an eight hour session with a 90-piece orchestra, consisting mostly of players with whom Horner works regularly. This theme was also used by the CBS Morning News and Up to the Minute.

James Horner – CBS Evening News close

Below is the headline cue open to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The voice of legendary anchor Walter Cronkite accompanied the open until about six months after his death. There were multiple versions of both the headline cue and the open, these are the ones that were used most.

James Horner – CBS Evening News headline cue
James Horner – CBS Evening News open
James Horner – CBS Evening News open

At first there was a plan to use different opening cues, depending on the news of the day. That plan ultimately did not materialize but Horner did compose opens with different moods. Here’s the open for when a war breaks out.

In a nod to the past, former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite voiced the opening for Couric until shortly after he died.

James Horner – CBS Evening News open (with Walter Cronkite voiceover)
James Horner – CBS Evening News bumper (Pensive)

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“Campaign ’06” Theme

James Horner’s CBS package is fairly extensive, it literally contains hundreds of cuts. This is the music that CBS used for the election coverage in 2006. From 2008 onwards they used a slightly different theme.

James Horner – CBS News Campaign theme

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“Sunday Morning” Current Theme

This is the theme to Sunday Morning, usually attributed to 18th century German composer Gottfried Reiche and called Abblasen. This music has been used on CBS News Sunday Morning for many years, but they have used three versions. This version, the current one, is performed by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. It was recorded for Sunday Morning in 2004. It replaced a version of the theme that was used from 1998 to 2004 that was played by former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen. Before that, a version by Don Smithers was used to open the venerable morning show.

Gottfried Reiche – Abblasen

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“America at War” Theme

This was the theme that CBS used for all coverage of the 2003 War in Iraq. Theme music is very important in setting the tone for the program, as music instantly brings up associations in the minds of viewers. ABC used a variation of the Special Report theme that sounds rather sad and somber for the war. NBC used music by Michael Karp that sounded very dramatic. CBS, however, took a different approach, as you can hear. The network decided on a very aggressive piece of music that would shock-and-awe you. Peter Fish composed the music.

Peter Fish – America at War theme

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“48 Hours Mystery” 2002 – 2008 Theme

In 2002 Dan Rather stepped down as anchor of 48 Hours and the show was reformatted. In a trend that almost all other news magazines would follow in years to come, 48 Hours Mystery — as it was now called — focussed on telling true crime stories. Murders are examined step-by-step in a suspense-building style. Essentially the news magazine became a non-fiction novel, taking the place of the movie of the week on the network schedule. This theme reflects that change. During the first two years of the new format, Leslie Stahl anchored (and the program was actually known as “48 Hours Investigates”). After that period, correspondents would introduce their own story.

Richard Fiocca – 48 Hours Mystery theme

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“Face the Nation” 2002 – 2009 Theme

Bob Schieffer was in het middle of his 24 year stint as moderator of Face the Nation when this theme was in use. This theme made its debut in September of 2002 and lasted until May 2009. Peter Fish is the composer.

Peter Fish – Face the Nation theme

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“CBS Radio News” 2001 – 2018 Sounder

At the top of each hour, listeners of more than a thousand radio stations across the United States get a news update from CBS News. The current sounder is based on notes that have been used since the 1960s on the CBS Radio News.

Peter Fish – CBS Radio News open

Here’s the sounder that the CBS Radio News uses when they have a special report. It’s part of the package composed by Peter Fish.

Peter Fish – CBS Radio News Special Report open

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“Campaign 2000/02/04” Theme

This theme was used during the last elections that Dan Rather covered for CBS. It’s composed by Michael Colina, who has done all election music for CBS since 1976.

Michael Colina – CBS Campaign 2000 theme

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“The Early Show” 1999 – 2002 Theme

On November 1, 1999 a new morning show debuted on CBS: The Early Show. The name was chosen to reflect that it should be considered a counterpart to the Late Show, like the Today Show is to the Tonight Show. Besides a new name, the program also got a new set of co-hosts, former Today Show co-anchor Bryant Gumbel and CBS correspondent Jane Clayson, as well as a $30 million street level studio, just like Today and GMA. The theme is composed by Chris Bowman and is called ‘Sunrise’. It was pure luck for Bowman that his music was selected to be the show’s theme. When he heard that Gumbel was to anchor a new morning show on CBS, he sent in a piece of music that he thought would make a great theme. His one-in-a-million shot paid off. It lasted until 2002 when Bryant Gumbel left The Early Show and the program was revamped. (For the next few years they would use an instrumental version of the song Brand New Day by Sting.)

Chris Bowman – Early Show theme (1999 version)
Chris Bowman – Early Show theme (2000 version)

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“48 Hours” 1997 – 2002 Theme

With the introduction of this theme, 48 Hours was given a makeover. The opening graphics showed us traveling at high speed through busy city streets. It gave the CBS news magazine a contemporary and urgent feel, which stood in stark contrast to the calm en retro look of the original CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes. This theme is composed by Richard Fiocca, whose long term association with 48 Hours started with this theme.

Richard Fiocca – 48 Hours theme

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“Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel” Theme

After a number of years on Today, Bryant Gumbel joined CBS News in 1997 to anchor a primetime news magazine: Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel. With an emphasis on serious journalism, costs were high while ratings were not. Within a year the program was cancelled and replaced by another CBS news magazine – 60 Minutes II. The theme for the news magazine Public Eye is composed and played by Neal Fox of Patterson, Walz & Fox.

Patterson, Walz & Fox – Public Eye theme

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“CBS This Morning” 1996 – 1999 Theme

Over the years, CBS has tried out various shows. On November 30, 1987 CBS This Morning premiered with Harry Smith and Kathleen Sullivan. In 1990 Sullivan was replaced by Paula Zahn. This anchor team remained intact until Mark McEwen (formerly the show’s weatherman) and Jane Robelot (formerly the news anchor) took over in 1996 when the show was revamped. They also changed the format to include more local news breaks. That’s when this theme was used. It’s performed by Carly Simon, who also co-wrote it along with Peter Fish.

Carly Simon & Peter Fish – This Morning theme

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“48 Hours” 1996 – 1997 Theme

This theme is composed by Edd Kalehoff and used on 48 Hours for about a year. When they started to use this theme, 48 Hours dropped the big spinning TV camera (with the CBS News logo on it) that used to open the program. Dan Rather continued to anchor. While he is sometimes thought to be the first network evening news anchor to also anchor a news magazine, David Brinkley was actually the first. He hosted a monthly news magazine while also anchoring the Huntley-Brinkley report.

Edd Kalehoff – 48 Hours theme

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“Eye to Eye” 1994 – 1995 Theme

Eye to Eye got Connie Chung and CBS in a lot of trouble, which led to Chung’s exit at CBS. When Chung interviewed the mother of Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, she asked what her son thought of first lady Hillary Clinton. She answered quietely that he thinks she is a bitch. Gingrich immediately complained that his mother was taken advantage of. The public seemed to agree. This led to Connie Chung being taken off the CBS Evening News and her departure at CBS. For the last few months of its life, this news magazine was just called “Eye to Eye”, without Connie Chung.

Patterson, Walz & Fox – Eye to Eye theme

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“CBS News” 1994 – 1995 Tag

And this is another CBS News experience tag. It is composed by Peter Fish. Fish has written a lot of promotional music for CBS News.

Peter Fish – CBS News tag

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