Themes from ‘Today’

“Today” 1982 – 1985 Theme


The next Ellis theme, a different arrangement of his “This is Today” theme, debuted during Bryant Gumbel’s first show on January 4, 1982, and was used until September 1985. This theme was so popular with viewers that it has been resurrected several times on the show — most notably in 1993-94 as the show’s secondary theme. Ever since then, it is used as the show’s unofficial anniversary music.

Ray Ellis – Today theme

And here’s the open! For the first few years this music was used in combination with the Today sunburst but without an announcer. That changed in January 1984, when Fred Facey began his two-decade tenure as the voice of “Today.” From ’84 to ’85, Facey’s voice and this music were used with the “rotating globe” animation used by all NBC News shows at that time.

Ray Ellis – Today open

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“Today” 1979 – 1981 Theme


This bright and sunny piece called “This is Today” is perhaps one of the most popular themes used on the Today Show. It’s the second theme by Ray Ellis. It replaced the theme that Ellis composed earlier for the Today Show that was forced off the air by a lawsuit. This theme is closely associated with the late 1970’s era of Today with Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley as anchors. It was phased out when Brokaw left the program at the end of 1981 but has been used in some anniversary segments over the years.

Ray Ellis – Today theme

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“Today” 1971 – 1978 Theme


This jazzy theme by Ray Ellis was used on the Today Show for a number of years but ultimately forced off the air due to a plagiarism lawsuit. Publishers of the song “Day by Day” sued Ellis and NBC charging that the instrumental arrangement and harmonization of the Today Show theme is substantially similar to that of “Day by Day” and, more importantly, the differences in melody are relatively minor. The court sided with “Day by Day” and NBC was forced to commission a new theme. It was later revealed that NBC had considerred using “Day by Day” as its theme. Here you can listen to the theme that was banned from television. It was at first only used as a long friday close, but starting in 1976 it was also used as an open. It was the first theme the Today Show used that was composed specifically for the program.

Ray Ellis – Today theme

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