Back in 1970, Sonny Curtis was asked by a friend who worked at the Williams-Price agency, which also represented actress #MaryTylerMoore, if he'd be interested in writing a theme song for a TV show about a woman who moves to the big city to pursue her dreams. Curtis had no idea at the time that his song "Love Is All Around" would become as big of a hit as it did, with the singer-songwriter telling CBS News:
“Shoot man, I told somebody today that no I had no idea -- it probably would’ve bogged me down if I’d known it was going to be successful. I’d probably spent too much time on it and ruin it."
During an interview with the LA Times, Curtis noted the song would go through lyrical changes from time to time over the show's seven-year run, in a bid to reflect the changes Moore's character Mary Richards had gone through since leaving her fiancé at the start of the series.
"The verse on the first show was, 'How will you make it on your own?' After the first season, [show co-creator] Allan Burns called me and said, 'Sonny, we need a different set of lyrics, because she's obviously made it.'"
Almost Not The Singer
While the showrunners were happy with keeping Curtis as the lyricist, they were looking for someone else to sing the theme song. At the time, they reportedly wanted "Moon River" singers Andy Williams to lend his pipes to the recording. Curtis acknowledged at the time that Williams was "hotter than soap," but politely insisted that if the show's producers had been unable to book Williams to sing the song, he would do it himself.
"Love Is All Around" was released as a pop recording in 1970, and again in 1980 as more of a country-tinged song. The contrast between the two is notable.
While Curtis was the lyricist behind this popular song, at the time he was best known for being part of another cultural touchstone, as a member of Buddy Holly's band The Crickets. As a songwriter, Curtis noted that he was able to tap pretty quickly into the struggles that Mary Richards would be facing, such as having an apartment she could barely afford and simply moving to a city where she didn't know many people:
"I just sat on my couch and took my guitar in hand and went for it. It came to me pretty quickly. 'How will you make it on your own? This world is awfully big. Girl, this time you're all alone.'"
He Sold The Song Rights Four Years Ago
When Curtis and his friend, former Crickets member Jerry Allison, wrote and published the song, there was no telling just how popular it was to become. Curtis noted that the royalty payments that came in every time an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show aired were pretty good, but added that the two co-writers also made a significant amount of money via third-party performances. Ultimately, though, Allison and Curtis realized that the time had come to sell their prized song:
"We sold it to EMI in New York, and what's kind of ironic is that I think they turned around and sold it about six months later."
'Love Is All Around' — Covered By A Surprising Array Of Artists
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Christie Front Drive, Hüsker Dü and Sammy Davis Jr., have all covered "Love is all Around." As one might expect, each version taps into a unique genre.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
For a time #JoanJett was probably one of the biggest rock performers of her generation, and she puts that rock reputation to good use with her interpretation of "Love Is All Around."
As might be expected, this version of the song is decidedly more garage punk.
Sammy Davis Jr.
This recording was done just two years after The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiere:
Christie Front Drive
This Colorado emo band's take on the hopeful theme was decidedly low key.
'Love Is All Around' — A Touching Song In Any Musical Genre
What is your favorite version of the song? Sound off in the comments section below.