There’s nothing more instantly recognizable arthur than its titular yellow-shirted, bespectacled aardvark, but the lyrics and music to the theme song for the PBS KIDS series might come in second.
A “simple message” that millennials and Gen Z can practically sing along to in their sleep, the song encourages listeners to turn both inward (“listen to your heart, listen to the beat”) and outward. (“listen to the beat of the street”) in order to connect with those around you, work together and make things better.
“It spoke to both Marc and me because it really captured the essence of what we were hoping to do with the song – about believing in yourself and being open to all the people you you encounter every day when you walk down the street,” Greenwald explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
According to executive producer Carol Greenwald, the journey to cement this musical message in pop culture history began when she and creator Marc Brown issued a pitch request to composers and lyricists, along with Judy Henderson and Jerry De Villiers. Jr. delivering the winning pitch.
Brown says the writing was ultimately “a community effort” and that he wanted to get away from the theme of another popular children’s show at the time: Barney and his friends.
“As a parent, I wasn’t crazy about the theme song,” Brown said. “Me and Carol Greenwald wanted a theme song that celebrates kids in a way that’s fair. All of those things that are in the theme song reflected our goals at the time, what we wanted to do with the show.
Once the lyrics were set, Greenwald says they moved around to figure out the music, both of them listening to “a lot of stuff trying to find the right sound.” The EP says they were ultimately inspired by a song Ziggy Marley had created for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s “For Our Children” family concert.
“Ziggy did a lot of music for it and there was this song that we thought ‘Oh this is so much fun and it has a really awesome feel and wouldn’t it be awesome to have Ziggy Marley?'” recalls -she.
It excited her, she said, because the reggae artist offered children the opportunity to be exposed to music they may not have known. “Some kids really know it but some don’t, like how some kids know classical and some might learn from seeing Yo-Yo Ma or some don’t know about jazz and might learn from seeing Josh Redman.” (Both made appearances during at Arthur’s 25 year run.)
With Marley’s past experience in children’s music, the duo agreed he was a good musical fit, so Greenwald called his manager. Brown remembers trying to woo Marley, “their first choice,” as a sure endeavor. “Poor guy, I mean, we kept bombarding him with requests,” Brown recalled with a laugh.
“[Marley’s manager] was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that sounds like fun.’ Of course no one has ever heard of arthur at this point, except through the books. But the Marleys didn’t,” Greenwald said of his phone call.
Once Marley agreed, there was one condition: they had to go to Jamaica to record it. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s a sacrifice but we’re willing to do it,'” Greenwald laughs.
She then jumped on a plane with arthurof music producer Jeff Zhan and traveled to the Bob Marley Museum, where they would spend a day—24 hours less than the planned two-day plan—to record the song.
“It was an amazing experience because we worked with the whole Marley family,” Greenwald said. “Bob was obviously gone, but a lot of his kids sang the background vocals. Rita Marley walked into the control room while we were there and I’m like fangirling. She said, ‘Oh yeah, I like the sound of that.” The engineer was Bob Marley’s engineer who always worked with him.
“Ziggy came in, he did his job, and the rest of the kids came in — they were very young through to teenagers,” she continued. “It was just a fabulous day.”
The same song, which in its original recording is nearly two minutes long, plays during both the title sequence and the end credits, was used for all 25 seasons of Arthur, and has since been officially (for the series) and unofficially (by fans) remixed several times.
“Believe in Yourself” has become so iconic that it has its own The Late Show with Stephen Colbert film in 2017, courtesy of original performer Marley, along with Jon Batiste and Chance the Rapper.
“I have to tell you, there’s nothing more wonderful than walking into an elementary school and having the whole school singing that theme song. It’s simply the best,” Brown said. THR.
But the song didn’t just influence its young (and older) viewers. arthurThe creator of says his powerful message to believe in yourself – and an encounter with Fred Rodgers – even helped him name his book, Believe in Yourself: What We Learned from Arthur.
Released January 25 to celebrate America’s longest-running children’s show, the book features over 60 never-before-seen artwork along with fun moments and heartfelt messages from the Elmwood City gang.
“When I had the idea to use the theme song as the title, I remembered a day with Fred Rogers in my studio,” he said. “While the team was preparing everything, he had the opportunity to pull me aside and we had a chat. The first thing he said to me was ‘Marc, tell me about your grandmother Thora’ , and it was like he touched my soul. Because she was a real important person in my childhood. It was not the best childhood, but I got through it and I had very good people out there like her.
After Brown explained how his grandmother, who saved all of his art and invested $5 a week in his college education, influenced his life, Rodgers offered a personal response that resonates with Brown to this day.
“Fred said to me, ‘Oh, Marc, she looks a lot like my grandfather McFeely. He was that person in my childhood who believed in me,'” Brown recalled. gave shivers. He said, “Marc, every child needs just one person in their life to believe in them and be successful in the world.”