Believe It or Not

Album: America's Greatest Hero (1981)
Charted: 2
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • A lot of pop culture history to cover here, so bear with us. "Believe It or Not" was the theme to the 1980s TV series The Greatest American Hero, and by far the biggest hit for adult contemporary singer Joey Scarbury, who also charted with the follow-up single "When She Dances" (#49), and back in 1971 with "Mixed Up Guy" (#73, written by Jimmy Webb). Scarbury has also had some scattered songwriting success, including "No Matter How High," a #1 country charter for The Oak Ridge Boys.
  • This song was written by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer, a songwriting team who are also the names behind "Back To Back," the equally catchy theme for the '80s TV series Hardcastle & McCormick. They've also worked a lot with mighty TV mogul Stephen J. Cannell. Post also wrote "Theme From Hill Street Blues" and "Theme from The Rockford Files."
  • This is the answer most people guess for the question, "What TV theme song was a #1 hit in the '80s?" The correct answer: The Miami Vice Theme by Jan Hammer. "Believe It or Not" spent two weeks at #2, but never hit the top, held off by the Diana Ross and Lionel Richie duet "Endless Love."
  • The Greatest American Hero was a comedy-drama series which ran from 1981 to 1983 on the US TV network ABC. It is about an ordinary school teacher who has a chance encounter with aliens who give him a superhero costume (which endows the wearer with super powers) and tell him that it's his destiny to use it to save the world. Said teacher promptly loses the instruction manual that came with it, and subsequently has to spend the whole series figuring out how the costume works by trial and error. So it's kind of a metaphor for how everyone deals with computers, software, mobile phones, microwave ovens, and technology in general. To this day "RTFM" (Read The "Fine" Manual) is the battle cry in countless Internet technology forums, and is likely to be the first answer you get to any tech-related question you post on the web. Was this some brilliant cultural commentary looking forward, or what?
  • To get a misconception out of the air, this song has nothing to do with the entertainment franchise Ripley's Believe It or Not, be it the TV series, newspaper column, or chain of museums. "Believe it or not" has been a generally common cultural phrase since about forever.
  • Trivia alert: The main character was originally supposed to be named "Ralph Hinkley"; however, literally on the cusp of its air date, a man called John Hinkley wounded US president Ronald Reagan in an assassination attempt. Suddenly the name Hinkley was tainted, so the show's producers first squelched all mentions of the main character's name with jet exhaust and other tricks, then had hasty name-changes to "Henley," and later had other characters refer to him as "Mr. H."
  • Mostly through association with the TV series, this song has been referenced in dozens of other works. This includes TV series Seinfeld (where George sings it as his answering machine message as "believe it or not, George isn't at home..."), Family Guy, Heroes, My Name Is Earl, Gilmore Girls, to name just a few. It also includes being covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and appearing in Michael Moore's 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11. This last usage bears some explaining: it's played over a montage about president George W. Bush, and the song's lines "Suddenly I'm up on top of the world; it should've been somebody else" call back to Michael Moore's point about how Bush scraped into the White House on a technicality when the popular vote went to 2000 presidential candidate Al Gore.
  • This featured in a 2017 commercial for State Farm insurance starring Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In the spot, Rogers is enjoying a slow-motion montage with his dog when his teammate, Clay Matthews, crashes a drone into his truck.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 18th 1981, the adventure comedy TV series 'The Greatest American Hero' debut on the ABC-TV network...
    The series ran for three seasons with a total of forty-four original episodes...
    Just under two months later on May 3rd, 1981 "Theme from Great American Hero (Believe It or Not}" by Joey Scarbury entered at #85; and on August 10th, 1981 it peaked at #2...
    {See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 3rd 1981, "Theme from 'Greatest American Hero' (Believe It or Not)" by Joey Scarbury entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on August 10th it peaked at #2 (for 2 weeks) and spent a half-year on the Top 100 (26 weeks; and for 10 of those weeks it was on the Top 10)...
    The two weeks it was at #2; the #1 record for both those weeks was "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie...
    Mr. Scarbury will celebrate his 59th birthday in two months on July 7th, 2014.
  • Aaron from Parma, MiActually, the first notation is incorrect. This was not Scarbury's only Billboard Hot 100 song. He had two other minor entries. In 1971, he had "Mixed Up Guy" reaching #73 and then the follow-up single to "Believe It or Not" titled "When She Dances" reached #49 in 1981.
  • Brad from Barry, TxThe trivia alert is incorrect. The show was well into its first season when John Hinkley attempted to assassinate President Reagan. The producers renamed Ralph Hinkley "Ralph Hanley," but it was changed backed to "Ralph Hinkley" by the time of the second season.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhThis is a fabulous, upbeat song that should get more radio airplay on the oldies stations! Never watched the TV show.
see more comments

Little RichardFact or Fiction

Was Long Tall Sally a transvestite? Did he really set his piano on fire? See if you know the real stories about one of Rock's greatest innovators.

Ian Anderson of Jethro TullSongwriter Interviews

The flautist frontman talks about touring with Led Zeppelin, his contribution to "Hotel California", and how he may have done the first MTV Unplugged.

Famous Singers' First FilmsSong Writing

A look at the good (Diana Ross, Eminem), the bad (Madonna, Bob Dylan) and the peculiar (David Bowie, Michael Jackson) film debuts of superstar singers.

Have Mercy! It's Wolfman JackSong Writing

The story of the legendary lupine DJ through the songs he inspired.

Rick AstleySongwriter Interviews

Rick Astley on "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Cry For Help," and his remarkable resurgence that gave him another #1 UK album.

The FratellisSongwriter Interviews

Jon Fratelli talks about the band's third album, and the five-year break leading up to it.