RAMBLIN' ROUND: Andrew Gold and 'The Golden Girls'

Arthur Winailan | Courtesy photoAndrew Gold plays a Fender Stratocaster live during a concert in Amsterdam. His many credits include writing and recording the original hit of “Thank You For Being A Friend” — later recorded by Cynthia Fee as the theme for the long-running TV series”The Golden Girls.” 

There are not a lot of songs about Thanksgiving — but there are bountiful songs about saying “thank you” or “thanks” to someone. So, in the spirit of the season, here’s a look at one of the best songs about saying thanks to someone: “Thank You For Being A Friend.”

The song’s lyrics, like the title says, offer a heartfelt “thank you” to a close companion while describing a friendship that obviously has some miles on it: “Thank you for being a friend, traveled down a road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.” 

Andrew Gold originally wrote and recorded this song for his 1978 album, “All This and Heaven Too.” Although Gold’s single version climbed to No. 25 on the Billboard charts that year, the song became associated with a different type of gold seven years later — which resulted in Gold’s version of the song not being the one most people remember today.

In 1985, singer Cynthia Fee recorded her version of “Thank You for Being A Friend” to be used in an new NBC sitcom called “The Golden Girls.” The series starred Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty and Oklahoma’s own Rue McClanahan as four older women, with Getty and Arthur playing a mother and daughter, along with their friends, White and McClanahan.

Portraying Dorothy, Rose, Sophia and Blanche, the ensemble cast wove a special kind of television magic with their portrayals of the four ladies sharing a home in Miami, Florida.

The show became a huge hit, ranking in the top 10 most-watched programs for six of the seven seasons in which it was originally telecast. It also garnered two Emmy Awards for the program for Outstanding Comedy Series along with three Golden Globes for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy.

In addition to the program’s Emmys, all four of the lead actresses in the series won individual Emmys for the portrayals of their characters in “The Golden Girls” — a rarity in the television industry. 

While Gold had no doubt been happy to see his original recording of “Thank You For Being A Friend” hit the charts back in 1978, the real gold poured in after Fee recorded the song for the television series — with her recording used to open every one of the 180 half-hour episodes of “The Golden Girls.” Also, an instrumental version of the song played over the closing credits of each episode.

However, things were just beginning. Although “The Golden Girls” originally aired for seven seasons, it’s continued to be shown in syndication ever since, with the two versions of “Thank You For Being A Friend” played every time it’s telecast, resulting in a residual bonanza for the writer. It’s one of the most popular shows in syndication today, especially with many members  of the younger generation. You can even find Golden Girls T-shirts alongside those of Marvel superheroes.

Andrew Gold had plenty of friends in the music business. In addition to his solo career, he also was known as both a session and concert musician for others. He arranged and played multiple instruments on some of Linda Ronstadt’s biggest hits, including her version of the Everly  Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” and her sole number one single “You’re No Good.”

He also toured with the Eagles and worked with artists such as Steven Bishop, Karla Boniff and 10cc.

Still,”Thank You For Being A Friend” is what he is most remembered for these days. In addition to its ubiquitous presence as part of “The Golden Girls,”it’s popped up on everything from a Super Bowl advertisement to an episode of “The Simpsons.”

The Golden Girls” only plays the song’s first two verses when it’s used to open each episode. Ironically, the lyrics in one of the song’s later verses vividly illustrates the sort of situation the friends would likely someday face themselves: “And when we both get older, with walking canes and hair of gray, have no fear, even though it’s hardly here, I will stand real close and say, thank you for being a friend.”

I don’t know if Andrew Gold ever contacted Cynthia Fee and thanked her for recording his song in a version that seems destined to endure in perpetuity — but I sure would have. One of the song’s verses even states “If it’s a car you lack, I’d surely buy you a Cadillac.” Gold no doubt could have bought trailer-loads of Cadillacs with the money generated by “The Golden Girls” using Fee’s recording of his song as its opening and closing themes.

Thank you for being a friend, indeed!

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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