“I’ll Be There for You,” better known as the Friends theme song, is a renowned earworm. The music, the lyrics, and those famous handclaps get stuck on the brain long after the pop song ends.
The song’s earliest demo versions were written in 1994 by Michael Skloff (Music MFA 15) and later completed by Skloff, lyricist Allee Willis, and Friends producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman. When The Rembrandts sang the opening line, “So no one told you life was going to be this way …,” no one knew that the catchy tune would become part of popular TV history.
Fast-forward 25 years, and Skloff, who’s also a CalArts trustee, revisted the song recently for a community event. He played an unplugged version, slowing down the music to let the lyrics take center stage. The song took on whole other meaning in the face of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests for social justice.
“Friends” composer Michael Skloff came to the realization amid quarantine, as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the U.S., and created a new version of the classic theme song “I’ll Be There for You.” What started as a taped performance for NewGround — a community-building organization promoting dialogue between Jews and Muslims — during a public iftar on Facebook Live, turned into much more. He shared the video publicly on Facebook and Instagram on May 28, and following positive reception, plans on performing it live on a still-to-be-determined social media platform soon. The idea is to hold 30-minute concerts with original material and covers as a fundraising effort. He will match donations dollar for dollar, and distribute them to charities helping those affected financially by the pandemic and causes that help racial healing.
Skloff’s newer arrangement is a melancholic, introspective take — one that fits the topsy-turvy 2020 perfectly.