Behind the Meaning of the ‘Friends’ Theme Song “I’ll Be There For You”

The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You” is easily one of the most recognizable TV theme songs of all time. The insatiably catchy tune helped to introduce the world to its favorite group of New York City Friends—Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica (Courteney Cox), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc).

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With its ear-worm lyrics, upbeat melody, and accompanying clapping that works on near Pavolivian levels, “I’ll Be There For You” clinched the rock duo of Danny Wilde and Phil Solem their biggest hit to date. But, what is the story behind the song? Let’s look into the origins of “I’ll Be There For You” below.

Origins

Friends creators Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane were looking to do something a bit different with the show’s theme song. The trio was in the market for a melody similar to that of R.E.M’s 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

“I think they thought it felt, tempo-wise, that was where they wanted to go,” Wilde said. “Kevin had it in his head that he didn’t want to have a jingle writer write the theme song for the show. He was a fan of The Rembrandts from other records that we had made, so he called our manager. Our manager called us on Monday and we said, ‘Sure, we’ll try it out. We’ll see what happens.'”

The bandmates then got together with Michael Skloff, the composer of the theme, and Allee Willis, the brains behind the lyrics to create what would become the final product.

“Michael Skloff was the only guy who was responsible for the music and the vibe of the show. He had an idea for how the song ought to go, so we got together and we pitched some ideas,” Solem said. “We Rembrandt-ified it. We were like, ‘If it’s gonna be us, it’s gotta be this. We wouldn’t say that, we’d say this.'”

Solem continued, “We thought we were all done, and then, we went in to hear the final mix and the clapping was in there. I was like, ‘Who thought of that? That’s the best part! Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane wanted to be part of the record so they wanted to try the clapping part. Oh my God. All they had to do was go (clap, clap, clap, clap). And it was like, ‘Take 25!'”

Behind The Lyrics

Odds are we don’t even need to include the lyrics, you know them by heart, but, we will anyway just in case you’re part of the .1% of people that haven’t seen Friends.

So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke
Your love life’s DOA
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year, but

The lyrics were truly a collaborative effort between The Rembrandts and Skloff and Willis. All four of them threw ideas around until they landed on what would become the iconic tune. Perfectly evocative of the show’s plot, the lyrics sum up the reliance we all have on our friends as we navigate adulthood.

I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)

Though the version used as the theme song ends after the first chorus, The Rembrandts later released a full version of the song that features a few additional verses. Check out the extended version below.

The One With The 62 Prime Time Emmy Awards

Friends changed the game for sitcoms in the mid-90s. With a loveable ensemble, a heavily relatable plot, and a team of top-notch comedy writers, the show has gone on to be one of the most famed sitcoms of all time.

Centered around 6 friends in their 20s and 30s, they navigate life, love, and their careers in New York City while falling into a string of wacky dilemmas. The show recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a lauded HBO Max Special that proved the show has an enduring appeal today.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

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