Music

5 surprising facts about Jeopardy!'s iconic theme song

With Alex Trebek's final episode airing on Jan. 8, we wanted to know more about the show's unforgettable music.

With Alex Trebek's final episode airing on Jan. 8, we wanted to know more about the show's unforgettable music

Alex Trebek discusses the Man V. Machine Jeopardy competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on Jan. 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, NY. (Ben Hider/Getty Images)

You've probably hummed it with a dorky expression on your face as you waited for somebody to answer a question.

The iconic theme song for Jeopardy!, the TV game show hosted by Canada's Alex Trebek from 1984 until his death in 2020, has become a pop culture signifier for "time's running out."

With Trebek's final (pre-taped) episode airing on Friday, Jan. 8, we thought we'd take a moment to learn more about Jeopardy!'s iconic theme song. Below, five surprising facts.

1. The music was composed by Merv Griffin

We sometimes forget that Griffin was an accomplished musician before becoming the media mogul responsible for creating both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! While Canada's Alan Thicke composed the music for the former game show, it was Griffin himself who wrote the theme song for the latter.

2. The song is actually called 'Think'

During its 50-year history, Jeopardy! has featured a few different songs for its opening theme, but the familiar music played during the show's Final Jeopardy segment has remained the same. While the music plays, contestants are under pressure not only to answer a final clue (in the form of a question!) but also decide how much of their winnings to wager. Griffin aptly titled the song "Think."

Merv Griffin was honoured for lifetime achievement at the 32nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on May 20, 2005 in New York City. (Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

3. It originated as a lullaby

The music was not originally written for Jeopardy! In fact, Griffin wrote the 30-second jingle in 1963 to help his five-year-old son Tony fall asleep. He called it "A Time for Tony" and he told the New York Times that he wrote it in less than a minute.

4. The music earned Griffin a fortune

More than 8,000 episodes of Jeopardy! have aired, with daily reruns on multiple networks and a worldwide following thanks to regional adaptations of the show in several countries. Each time that theme song is played, Griffin's estate gets royalties. (He died in 2007.) "That little 30 seconds has made me a fortune, millions," he told the New York Times in 2005. "Probably close to $70-80 million." Since then, that figure is estimated to have surpassed $100 million.

5. It has won awards

"Think" was named best game show theme song at the 2009 Game Show Awards. In 2003, Griffin won the Broadcast Music Inc. President's Award on the strength of the Jeopardy! theme song.

Enjoy this electric piano cover of "Think."

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