The Story (and Fistfight) Behind the ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Theme Song

Creator of television hits Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Mork & Mindy, and films like Beaches, Pretty Woman, The Flamingo Kid, and The Princess Diaries, nearly every television show and movie that Garry Marshall touched became a hit, including the story of two young women, Laverne & Shirley, who would be the center of his Happy Days hit spin-off in the mid-1970s.

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A Female Fist Fight in Brooklyn

In his 2012 memoir, My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir, Marshall remembers the moment that sparked the idea for Laverne & Shirley: a street fight in Brooklyn, New York between two girls in 1958.

Back home in New York City after serving in Korea, Marshall was out with a date and some army buddies and met two girls at a coffee shop around 2 a.m. in the morning. At some point, one of the girls said something rude to Marshall’s date, who then said to him “Garry, would you hold my coat?

Marshall held her coat and she went ahead and punched out the other girl. “’I had never seen two girls fistfight before, and it fascinated me,” said Marshall in his book. “The tough-as-nails quality of ‘Laverne & Shirley’ was based on that single night fight in Brooklyn.”

A Motivational Meaning

“Making Our Dreams Come True” was an 87-second ear worm heard through households across America from the inception of the show in 1976 through its end in 1983.

Though its lyrics were not deeply prolific, the greater meaning of “Making Our Dreams Come True” was something motivational and uplifting, an empowering anthem for women making it on their own, making their dreams come true in the city—and all their adventures, and misadventures, that would ensue within the next 30-minute sitcom.

We’re gonna make it
Give us any chance we’ll take it
Read us any rule we’ll break it
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
Doing it our way
Nothings gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We’re gonna make our dreams come true

Laverne and Shirley

The song was the perfect accompaniment to the storyline of the hit show. Set in Milwaukee, which was the hometown of executive producer Thomas L. Miller, the show was set around the late 1950s through early’60s and two friends, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, who worked as bottle cappers for the Shotz Brewery.

The young women lived in a basement apartment and befriended their upstairs neighbors, Lenny and Squiggy, played by Michael McKean and David Lander, who created the two characters years earlier when they were theater students in Pennsylvania.

For the character of Laverne, Marshall cast his younger sister Penny Marshall (1943-2018), who had already starred as secretary Myrna Turner on his other hit show, The Odd Couple, while Shirley was played by Cindy Williams, who died on Jan. 25, 2023, at the age of 75. Coincidentally, Williams had already starred with Happy Days‘ star Ron Howard in American Graffiti in 1973.

Marshall first picked up on the women’s chemistry when he hired his sister and Williams for a 1975 episode of Happy Days, to play double dates for Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Howard’s Richie Cunningham. In the early seasons, characters from Happy Days—which was also set in Milwaukeeand Laverne & Shirley often made guest appearances on the other’s show.

“We sort of had telepathy,” said Williams of her connection to Marshall during a 2013 interview with the TV Academy Foundation. “If we walk into a room together and if there’s something unique in the room, we’ll see it at the same time and have the same comment about it. We were always just like that.”

The Writers Behind the Theme Song

Composer Charles Fox and the late lyricist Norman Gimbel (1927 – 2018), who had already worked with Marshall and composed the Happy Days theme song, were hired to write the Laverne & Shirley theme song, which they called “Making Our Dreams Come True.”

Prior to Happy Days, which first aired in 1974, Gimbel had written the Grammy-winning 1965 bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ipanema,” among other songs. In the 1950s and ’60s, Fox was also writing theme music for the conductor of The Tonight Show orchestra.

Once the songwriting duo connected in 1970, Fox and Gimbel wrote the theme song for the late’60s, early 1970s sketch comedy Love, American Style, and The Love Boat, in addition to songs for the film, including “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” which was performed by Barry Manilow and featured in the 1978 comedy Foul Play, starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn.

Along with Lori Leiberman, both also wrote the classic R&B song “Killing Me Softly with His Song” which became a No. 1 hit for Roberta Flack in 1973.

“Making Our Dreams Come True”

For the Laverne & Shirley theme song, Fox composed the music, and Nimble wrote the words to the catchy and empowering song.

Doing it our way
There is nothing we won’t try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there’s no stopping us
We’re gonna make it

On your mark, get set, and go now
Got a dream and we just know now
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
And we’ll do it our way yes our way

For the opening theme song, the beginning features stars Marshall and Williams walking home from work together and skipping while singing:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
Shlemiel, Schlemazel
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

Cyndi Grecco Sings the Theme Song

That only part of the song that featured the stars of the show was the beginning, while the remainder of the song was sung by Cyndi Grecco, whose previous gig involved singing in a pop group at the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park in California.

Grecco caught the attention of Fox, who was visiting the theme park with his wife and kids and heard the young singer. He later shared the Laverne & Shirley song with her and had her audition.

In his 2011 memoir, Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music, Fox said that Grecco had “a strong but lyrical voice and sang with wonderful intonation.” He added, “Sometimes, strong, powerfully voiced singers tend to sing somewhat out of tune, but not this girl.”

Accompanied by The Ron Hicklin Singers, Grecco sang the hit theme song and later released it as a single, which peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976.

Laverne & Shirley’ (1976 -1983)

Laverne & Shirley ran for eight seasons on ABC, from its first episode on Jan. 27, 1976, through its last on May 10, 1983.

Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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