On This Day: ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ Theme Song Goes No. 1 in 1976

by Keeli Parkey

In addition to driving television ratings for networks, successful television shows have also created very popular theme songs. This was the case with the popular 1970s show “Welcome Back Kotter.”

In fact, the show’s theme song rose to be the No. 1 pop song in the United States 45 years ago today (May 8, 2021). The year was 1976, and according to IMDb.com, the hit sitcom had been on the air on ABC since September 1975.

And, according to a tweet by @SilverAgeTV, the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme song was at the top of the pop charts for one week. “45 years ago today in 1976, the theme song to the ABC sitcom #WelcomeBackKotter begins a week-long stint as the #1 pop song in the U.S.,” the tweet said.

You can check out the tweet – and the catchy “Welcome Back Kotter” theme song and opening credits below. In the opening credits, the school that is shown is New Utrecht High School. It was located in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood of Bensonhurst.

“Welcome Back Kotter” aired on ABC from 1975 until 1979. It starred Gabe Kaplan as a teacher who goes back to his high school in Brooklyn to teach. What he finds is a group of students who desperately need guidance in their lives. At the center of the action was the group of students known as the “Sweathogs.”

Playing the teacher was actor Gabe Kaplan. He also helped create the show. Also, Kaplan developed the from his stand-up comedy act he titled “Holes and Mello Roles.” In that routine, he talked about what it was like for him to attend high school as a remedial student.

The series also starred a very young John Travolta and it helped him make a name for himself in Hollywood.

Pop Singer Asked to Create Theme for ‘Welcome Back Kotter’

According to History.com, the man behind the catchy “Welcome Back Kotter” theme song was John Sebastian. He had been a member of the “Lovin’Spoonful” group during the 1960s. And, in 1975 he was asked to come up with a theme song for a show that was then titled, “Kotter.”

After working on the idea, Sebastian came up with the song “Welcome Back.” It was an homage to figuring out what you are meant to do with your life.

The song struck a chord – no pun intended – with the minds behind “Welcome Back Kotter.” So much so in fact, that it helped them develop the tone of the show.

“Welcome Back” was the only television show theme song John Sebastian ever created.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the only television show theme song to go to the top of the charts in 1976. The theme from “S.W.A.T.” had topped the charts a few weeks before.