Those Were The Days (Theme to All In The Family)

Album: Tube Tunes, Vol. 1: The '70s (1971)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was written by the Broadway songwriters Charles Strouse and Lee Adams for the TV show All In The Family, which opened with Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) and his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) singing it around a piano. Created by Norman Lear, the show ran on CBS from 1971-1980; for the last season, an instrumental version was used to open the show.
  • The song is an expression of the Archie Bunker character on All In The Family. Set in his ways and bigoted, he reminisces on the "good old days" when there was good music (Glenn Miller), reliable cars, and no gay people ("girls were girls and men were men"). Throughout the series, Archie struggles with changing times and often butts heads with his progressive-minded daughter and her husband (played by Rob Reiner). Bunker was a nuanced character, good-hearted but also irredeemable.

    The show was so transgressive that the first six episodes opened with a warning that it "seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show - in a mature fashion - just how absurd they are."
  • A longer set of lyrics was written for this, with lines like, "Hair was short and skirts were long." You can see them in the lyrics section.
  • This harkens back to a time when TV theme songs could take their sweet time. In later years, sitcoms tended to cut back on theme songs or eliminate them completely (like Seinfeld) to create more show content, but like many shows of its time, the first 45 seconds of All In The Family was devoted to the opening theme.
  • There is an orchestral funky disco arrangement (orchestra leader Al Capps) sung by Sammy Davis Jr. on an album with a compilation of hits by different artists from 1977. Sammy was a guest on a famous episode of All In The Family where he kisses Archie on the cheek while a reporter takes a photo. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Cees - Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Carroll O' Connor and Jean Stapleton, who played Archie and Edith, re-recorded this for the second season to make some of the lyrics more clear. The line most people couldn't understand was, "Gee our old LaSalle ran great." A LaSalle was a type of car made by General Motors from 1927-1940.
  • The song's co-writer, Charles Strouse, sometimes performed this at concerts, even imitating Edith's screech. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada
  • This was used throughout an episode of The Simpsons titled "Lisa's Sax," performed by Marge and Homer Simpson, with updated lyrics and the opening scenes parodying that of the opening sequence of All In The Family. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA
  • Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei sang this on May 22, 2019 when they played Archie and Edith in a live performance of All in the Family on ABC. The Jeffersons, another iconic Norman Lear sitcom with a famous theme song, was also revived that night with Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson.

    On December 18, 2019, ABC repeated the event, this time pairing All In The Family with Good Times, another Norman Lear sitcom. As the episodes aired, congress was voting to impeach President Donald Trump; ABC briefly broke into Good Times with the news, but didn't preempt the shows.

Comments: 37

  • Hifijohn from IllinoisMinor nitpick, I doubt they would be singing about a LaSalle a pretty expensive car back then. By the time the show was aired the LaSalle brand was long gone so everyone was asking what the heck is a Lasalle plus, the way they sang it sounded like ourolasalrangreat.
  • Ron from MichiganJean must have been a very good singer in real life already as an accomplished stage and screen actress. To sing the theme in Edith's voice is a testament to her skills
  • MI don't think people waxing poetic about how they miss Jim Crow get that Archie Bunker is the butt of like 90% of the jokes in this show. If you sympathize with him you're media illiterate.
  • Christopher from MaFascinating song. It makes me imagine Edith and Archie as young people, thirty years before we first made their acquaintance. They must have been "courtin'" in the period 1939-41, when the rest of the world was at war but the US was at peace and the economy had finally recovered from the Depression and the LaSalle was the hot new car. It begins with a reference to the favorite white peoples' music of the period, the Big Band sound characterized by Glenn Miller. (No jazz for our young couple! -- that was for the "coloured folk.") My guess is that if the elder Bunkers could afford to let their boy tool around town on Sundays with his girl in their LaSalle they must have been well off -- BETTER off than the Bunkers circa 1970 were, anyway. So the elder Bunkers probably were okay even during the worst of the Depression, and Archie would have heard from them the sentiment that "we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again."

    I imagine also that this lovely period in their lives ended with news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The longer version of the song specifically references Sunday -- which as ithappens was the day of the week on Dec. 7, 1941 -- maybe our lovely couple heard the news in the car on one of those drives. The phrase "girls were girls and men were men?" Young men, barely passed being boys, were expected to sign up with one of the services after Pearl Harbor. Social pressures here were very strong. Archie would have signed up, Edith would not have, cause "you knew who you were then" and her post was the home front. Maybe she became a Rosie the Riveter while waiting for his safe return.

    Really an intriguing song if you think of it this way....
  • William Bugg from AlhambraDoes anyone know where I can find the notes to the melody of this song? I am wanting to play it on my guitar. Thank You!
  • Teebee from MdYeah... Remember the good ol days... When women and queers and jews and the assorted colored folks knew their place... Those were the days, indeed.
  • Regina from Nh The comments have me roaring. Hoover presided over the Great Depression where people stood in breadlines, banks failed, men were so ashamed of losing their jobs many just walked away from their families. Newspapers were called Hoover blankets b/c people were so poor they used them to warm themselves. Yeah, those were the days. It's irony people. My father lived through that and remembers people going through garbage to find food. He worked for the WPA digging ditches. He was younger had had no family to support. Living through that really impacted his life. He was a man of compassion and political action. He saw the difference Social Security made for the aged after Roosevelt was elected. If you have Medicare, thank Roosevelt who defeated Hoover in 1932. This is an interesting interview about the show with Norman Lear (the writer and producer of the show) who is 99 years old. https://n.pr/3kj8gLv
  • Robyn from MontrealJ Edgar Hoover and Herbert Hoover are two different people.
  • Shelly from New York These lyrics are so far ahead of the times!! Who would ever think!I was just thinking about the lyrics to this song and never has there been a time where this song made more sense. "Didn't need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight" "Girls were girls and men were men
  • Gary from AlabamaI was just thinking about the lyrics to this song and never has there been a time where this song made more sense. "Didn't need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight" "Girls were girls and men were men." Those truly must've been the days
  • Jay From Texas from TexasBetty and Genie...you're both right and both wrong about the La Salle. The original La Salle, built from 1927-1940, was built mostly by Cadillac employees, and in Cadillac factories, but was released as its own Brand, which fell between Buick and Cadillac in terms of features and pricing. In 1940, GM dropped the La Salle brand, and built the Cadillac La Salle for the 1941 year model only. After that, the name disappeared from the GM line up until 1960, when Buick developed the La Salle II concept car. GM decided not to go with the La Salle name though, and the car was eventually released as the 1963 Buick Riviera.
  • Michele Piro from Jordan, Ar.My husband (who everyone calls Archie Bunker) & me ( Edith), have all 208 episodes of All in the Family,& have every line memorized. We’ve watched them over and over again continually for the past 47 years together. Yes, Archie was a bigot, but he had a heart of gold. And Edith, well she may have been called a dingbat, but she really knew a lot more than led to believe. They loved each other dearly. Just like when Archie told Edith one night alone in their “ shared “ bed... first sitcom where there wasn’t a nightstand in between twin beds, “ Edith, without you, I’d be nothin’”., or when Edith asked Archie, “ Archie, do you think I’m somethin’?, & Archie replied,” Edith, you’re , somethin’ else.
  • Richard Pickel from NvBarry from Sauquoit, NY: It was Billboard's Top 100 all-genres singles chart. And their Most Sold In Stores chart. And their Most Played By (radio station) DJs chart. And their Most Played In Juke Boxes chart. Until they merged all four into their new Hot 100 singles chart, and stopped using the other chart names. Cash Box, Billboard's biggest competitor for decades, then began using the Top 100 singles chart name. Cash Box had been right beside Billboard on every news stand and in every supermarket and drug store and library magazine section in the United States, every week, for decades, then one day some years ago it seemed to just disappear without a trace. "What the hell ever happened to Cash Box," I wondered once in awhile in the years since. Recently, I learned that the founder/operator died, his family changed it to an internet-only publication, and have been publishing a new issue every week ever since, at cashboxmagazine.com.
  • Dj From Pa from PaNorman Lear used this program to further his radical leftist agenda.
  • Joan from OhioI was fourteen years old when "all in the family" premiered and the conservative bible belt families in my neighborhood banned and forbid their family from watching it. My family thought it was hysterical because it bathed with light the darkness of people's souls. The exposure brought out the rage of the hypocrites. When a few of my stay-over girlfriends got to watch it they were confused as to why their parents would be so upset over it?
  • Scott from 263 Ridge Rd Oswego NyJust realized it was J Edgar Hoover who was the cross dresser. So maybe lyrics were not as I irony filled as I thought.
  • Scott from 263 Ridge Rd Oswego NyI always thought that the lyrics had an ironic twist: “And you knew who you were then, Girls were girls and men were men, mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again” Wasn’t Herbert Hoover a closeted cross dresser? And “Didn’t need no welfare states, everybody pulled his weight, gee our old LaSalle ran great” referred possibly to the growing corporate welfare situation back then...still looking for irony in the rest of the lyrics though.
  • Tim from UsaJust wanted to clear something up about the LaSalle. Although the car came from a GM assembly line which also built Cadillacs, the LaSalle was NOT a Cadillac, it was just a LaSalle. The LaSalle the Bunkers are referring to was a more conservative-classed vehicle with multiple traits from Oldsmobile, Buick, Fleetwood, and Cadillac (mutt-make, same company). In fact, the LaSalle almost had a type II series, but GM went with "Buick Riviera" instead. Archie and Edith would definitely be GM folks in the Buick price range, and the LaSalle is considered as an equivalent member of the Buick family since it was never 100% Cadillac.
  • Rj from WashingtonCorrection:
    AND YOU KNEW WHO YOU WERE THEN,
    Girls were girls and men were men
  • Diana from ChicagoOh wow! Now that I know such a treasure exists, I have absolutely got to find the Rat Pack's real Cat's cover version of the song!

    I am not familiar with the episode referenced by SongFacts. To be honest, though, I am actually pretty content 'replaying' (figuratively speaking) my imagination's immediate rendering of such a scene:

    "Ahhrchie! Oh, Ahhrchie! Won'tcha jus' act real nice-like ta Mistah Davis! Ya know, the man is a genuine OG, remembah?! Oh, Ahhrchie! Ain't it just some good sense to be nice to Mistah Davis, don'tcha think?

    Oooooh, say, Ahhrchie! Don't fahhget! At least we might get ta see ya photograph, right in the newspapahs! An' it ain't even fohwr ya's obituary!"

    "Heh, an' it ain't even for my obituary. Edith, ya might not wanna speakin' too soon."
  • Edward from Pittsburghhttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaSalle_(automobile)
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 12th 1971, the sitcom 'All In The Family' premiered on the CBS-TV network...
    The weekly series ran for nine seasons with a total of 210 episodes...
    The show was nominated for fifty-five 'Primetime Emmy Awards', winning thirty of them; and was nominated for thirty 'Golden Globe Awards, winning eight...
    Later in 1971 on December 5th the show's theme song, "Those Were The Days" by Carroll 'Archie' O'Connor & Jean 'Edith' Stapleton, entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #73, seven weeks later on January 23rd, 1972 it would peak at #43 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 9 weeks.
  • Robert from Crown Point, InDoes anyone know if Jean Stapleton actually played the piano on the TV show All in the Family? I have wondered this for years!
  • Carolyn from Knoville, TnI always admired Jean Stapleton for being able to keep a straight face when she sang this--as Edith Bunker she seemed perfectly unaware that she was a terrible singer, and was just singing for the joy of being at the piano with her beloved Archie.
  • Gennie from Beverly Hills, CaNo Betty. The LaSalle was a lower cost Cadillac model, not a Buick.
  • Gennie from Beverly Hills, CaNo Garrett. Carroll O'Connor did NOT write the ending theme, Roger Kellaway did, as well as performing it. Also Mr. O'Connor was not an "accomplished pianist" or composer. He did co-write some lyrics for the ending theme "Remembering You", which is odd since the song was never presented with singing, only as an instrumental.
  • Betty from Seattle, WaOk, I'm old, I admit it and the memory fails sometimes... but, in the song facts it mentions that a LaSalle is a Cadillac? I beg to differ, I believe it's a Buick. Besides, Archie and Edith would not be driving a Cadillac, would they?
  • Valerie from Essex, OnThank you! It seems like so many others I have never been able to understand the line Gee our old La Salle ran great. I finally went online and now I know it.What a great show it still is. I never missed tuning in to see them. They surely stand the test of time unlike I believe many modern sitcoms will not.
  • Patrick from East Elmhurst, NyWhat's funny about the song is how it fits the context of the show. Archie is the sort of person for whom the song has no irony and may be taken at face value ("Didn't need no welfare state," or "Mister we could use a man like Herber Hoover again"). Edith is just singing along. The lyrics are reactionary and especially funny coming from the mouths of Archie and Edith, but coming from real people for whom they would be geniune sentiments, they would have been far from funny in the early 1970's. It just goes to show you how context works. I have ridden in an old LaSalle. Big old 1940's sled.

    Cheers.
  • Dave from Scottsdale, AzO'Connor wrote lyrics to the closing song (Remebering You) several years after it was written. He got a composer credit because of that but in the earlier shows, he got no credit.
  • Don from Newmarket, CanadaMark, Edith was played by Jean Stapleton.
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhI suspect that Maureen Stapleton could sing fairly well. Her real voice didn't resemble Edith's very much; I imagine that she could several character voices, and most actors take voice lessons. Archie and Edith also recorded a version of "I Remember It Well," from Gigi. It was excellent.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThis song was played at the opening of each show. At the end of the show, over the closing credits, was a piano instrumental written by Carrol O'Connor (Archie) who was an accomplished pianist.
  • Dawson from Draper, UtThis is the funniest song. Edith can't go high or anything. The show is sooooooooooooooo funny, too.




    : )
  • Kirk from Columbia, MdI had no idea that Strouse and Adams (creators of such hits as "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Annie") were responsible for this great song. I do have one small correction to make, however; it's *Charles* Strouse and *Lee* Adams, not the other way around!
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI completely agree with you Catlin. I think the way edith Bunker (I don't remember her real name) sing's it is hilarious. "All In the Family" is just a show that's beyound funny, anyway, too. Edith is the funniest, but Archie is pretty funny too.
  • Caitlin from Sailsbury, Ncsuch a good song and the lady sings it too funny
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