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In 1989, composer John Colby sat down on his piano and created a tune that would become a theme song for millions of sports fans across the U.S.
Now the iconic “da da da, da da da” SportsCenter tune is the topic of ESPN’s very own American Idol-style face off with musicians competing to re-create the catchy ditty.
The SportsCenter Fan Jam is a new social program that invites bands of drastically different genres to put their own twist on the tune, and starting Monday, fans can vote for their favorite rendition through an online competition on the network’s Facebook page.
The winners get a trip to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., to perform as the “house band” for a day. The first round of voting begins Monday, with four head-to-head matchups of eight contestants; four then go on to the semifinals, with the finals on Feb. 24 and the winner announced live on SportsCenter in early March.
The longevity of the SportsCenter theme “has been an eternity for theme tunes,” Colby tells The Hollywood Reporter, explaining why his work stuck in people’s heads. “The cap – the ‘da da da, da da da’ — is so simple, and I think all the brilliance of it came out with the launch of an ad campaign that had athletes and celebrities singing it.
“It suddenly went ‘Internet viral’ back in the age of VHS and Beta; it was a sensation.” he added.
Colby went on to reveal the inspiration behind the signature tune, telling THR that back in 1989, “We took the approach that we wanted SportsCenter to feel like a late-night entertainment show, i.e. like Saturday Night Live.
“At the time, SNL had a very R&B and saxophone-driven, late-night entertainment feel … so we did the theme to reflect that.”
While it is ESPN viewers, not Colby, who will vote on who gets to perform his famous composition, he has a bucket list of musicians he’d like to hear perform it.
“If I could have anyone playing the tune, it would be the E Street band as they are my all-time favorites — I’m from New Jersey, and I worked with [former E Street band saxophonist] Clarence [Clemons] for years before he passed away.
“I would also love to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Bruno Mars‘ band play it. I am really into the New Orleans thing and Trombone Shorty would be great.”
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