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“DaDaDa, DaDaDa” Turns 30: SportsCenter’s Iconic Theme Song Debuted In November 1989

Composer John Colby talks about his creation, once described as "ice cream truck music for adults," and issues a challenge for Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins regarding the theme's origins

In late November 1989, the most popular song in America according to the Billboard Magazine Hot 100 was “Blame It On The Rain” by Milli Vanilli.

ESPYS music director John Colby takes a break during a rehearsal for the 2013 show. (Rich Arden/ESPN Images)

That band’s dubious Bristol, Conn., connection pales in comparison to the impact of another late November song with Bristol roots. Right around that time, 30 years ago, SportsCenter’s “DaDaDa, DaDaDa” theme was first played on the show. Composed by Grammy and Emmy-award winning artist John Colby, ESPN’s music director from 1984-1992, the instantly recognizable chords have become one of sports’ unofficial anthems.

“I’ve been all over the world and it never fails to amaze me when inevitably someone finds out that I’m the creator of the theme,” Colby, 70, told Front Row.

Or, as one fan once remarked: ” . . . SportsCenter music is like the ice cream truck music for adults — people hear it and come running.”

The above video, from the Nov. 23, 1989 Thanksgiving night edition of SportsCenter hosted by Eric Clemons and Dan Patrick, represents one of the very first times Colby’s tune accompanied the show’s opening and close. (The tune was a bit faster paced in the early days, with various renditions linked below.)

The song’s remarkable resonance and indelible, cultural impact never seems to wane:

“Like my children, I love all [the versions],” said Colby, who has two children. “I’m partial to the [the 1989 theme] and the mid-90s. Those songs bring back a great bygone era of cable TV and ESPN. SportsCenter was [and is] must-see TV [but then it was] the only place to get all sports information at one time; great highlights, even better journalism.”

Unlike Milli Vanilli, Colby’s creation has staying power and a deep, authentic connection with fans.

“It’s a great thing to move the needle any time,” he said. “For 30 years? Even better.”


Prequel To DaDaDa, DaDaDa” 1987

SportsCenter DaDaDa, DaDaDa 1989

SportsCenter 90s” Mid-1990s

SportsCenter “Billboard“: Late 1990s

SportsCenter 2000

Today’s “Main PM” Theme, introduced in 2014

So Who Is The REAL “DaDaDa, DaDaDa Daddy,” John Colby or Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins?

John Colby gets the credit for SportsCenter’s 30-year-old anthem, but there are those who dispute his account of creating the catchy tune.

Well, there is one person who does: David St. Hubbins, the lead singer of the legendary band, Spinal Tap, who, in ESPN’s memorable 1995 “This Is SportsCenter” spot laid claim to the creation which he says, “kind of sprang from my forehead.”

“Rubbish,” Colby says, nearly a quarter century later. “I hearby challenge St. Hubbins to a duel – or hot dog eating contest – to settle this!”

We’re here for St. Hubbins’ rebuttal.

This post is in tribute to former ESPN Communications Vice President Rob Tobias, who passed away last week. In 2012, he, Rich Arden and Sheldon Spencer produced the Colby video below.

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