The Evolution of the “Monday Night Football” Theme Song
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight? Or are you ready for some foooootbaaaall?
“Monday Night Football” will unveil a new pregame song before both of tonight’s games, and we know from a trailer released by ESPN that it will be Chris Stapleton, Snoop Dogg, and Cindy Blackman Santana performing Phil Collins’ beloved hit “In The Air Tonight.”
But for those who love the timeless dun-dun-dun duunnn beat of “Heavy Action,” don’t fret. ESPN says it will still be featured in the broadcasts.
Here’s a rundown of every theme song in the show’s history:
“Monday Night Football” began airing on ABC in 1970 and kicked off with an opening theme of “Score” composed by Charles Fox. The groovy, funky pop number was produced by Bob’s Band, headed by Bob Israel, who also created theme songs for other ABC shows such as “20/20” and “Nightline.”
Composed in 1970 by Johnny Pearson, the tune that eventually became one of the most famous show intros in television history was first heard on “Monday Night Football” in the 1976 season-opening broadcast. The song was mainly used as background music for its first decade-plus of MNF airing and became a more integral part of the show’s opening in 1989 when it was modernized by Edd Kalehoff.
Prior to MNF, the tune was chosen as the theme song of “Superstars,” a British sports show that was eventually purchased by ABC.
In 2018, after many years of re-recorded and re-styled versions of the song, Pearson’s original arrangement returned as MNF’s music.
‘All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night’
In 1989, ABC opened its 19th season broadcasting “Monday Night Football” with Hank Williams Jr.’s reworking of his 1984 hit “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” as the show’s first official theme song.
Williams’ “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” earned the country legend four Emmy Awards in the 1990s and remained the show’s pregame staple for the better part of the next three decades, even after MNF broadcasts were moved to ABC’s sister network ESPN.
In 2011, Williams and his song were dropped by ESPN after the country singer’s controversial statements regarding President Barack Obama aired on Fox News. The tune returned as the broadcast theme song from 2017 to 2019.
‘Rip It Up’
In 2020, with football fans staying inside rather than huddling together in stadiums due to COVID-19 restrictions, ESPN executives changed the intro tune from Williams’ rowdiness to Little Richard’s re-recorded rendition of “Rip It Up” courtesy of Butcher Brown.
The original “Rip It Up” was released in 1956 and spent two weeks in the No. 1 spot on R&B boards.
The song remained MNF’s theme song for two years.
‘Heavy Action’ remix by Marshmello
In 2022, the beloved first four notes of “Heavy Action” made their return as the main theme song of “Monday Night Football,” this time in a remix performed by the DJ Marshmello.
The souped-up new version made Marshmello the first artist to remix “Heavy Action” and ushered in a new era of ESPN’s award-winning MNF broadcasts, spearheaded by new voices Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Other songs used
From 1976 to 1989, MNF broadcasts began with a variety of unnamed tunes while featuring “Heavy Action” as background music. A theme song produced by Israel called “ABC – Monday Night Football Theme” ran from 1976 to 1981, while an updated theme titled “ABC’s NFL Monday Night Football Theme” ran from 1983 to 1987.
On ABC’s final broadcast in 2005, Williams closed the broadcast with a rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights, The Party’s Over.”
The song had previously been popularized on MNF broadcasts by former color analyst Don Meredith, who would sing part of the song during blowouts.
In conclusion, “Monday Night Football” has had a rich history of iconic theme songs that have become synonymous with the show. From the groovy pop of “Score” to the rowdiness of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” each theme song has left its mark on football fans around the world. As we eagerly anticipate the new rendition of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” we can’t help but appreciate the evolution and impact of the “Monday Night Football” theme songs throughout the years. So get ready for some foooootbaaaall and enjoy the music that sets the stage for one of America’s favorite pastimes.