Music

John Sebastian's 'Welcome Back, Kotter' Theme is Retro TV's Catchiest Song

Few opening tunes from classic TV shows are more likely to get stuck in your head than the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song. Former Lovin' Spoonful frontman John Sebastian wrote and recorded "Welcome Back," a No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.

Sebastian's lyrics introduce the ABC sitcom's simple premise: Gabe Kotter (played by Gabe Kaplan) returns to the Brooklyn high school he graduated from to teach a quirky mix of characters known as the Sweathogs. His students include Vinnie Barbarino, a rock 'n' roller played by John Travolta and known for the catchphrase "Up your nose with a rubber hose," plus Epstein, Horshack and other beloved characters.

The album Welcome Back was released by Reprise Records in 1976 and reissued by Rhino in 2008. It includes the beloved TV theme plus a country music-inspired deep cut titled "A Song a Day in Nashville" and a remake of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Didn't Wanna Have to Do It."

In recent years, "Welcome Back's" popped up everywhere from a sample in rapper Lupe Fiasco's "Welcome Back Chilly" to an Applebee's commercial themed around the restaurant chain opening back up during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

"Welcome Back" Lyrics

Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about

Well the names have all changed since you hung around
But those dreams have remained and they've turned around

Who'd have thought they'd lead ya
(Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Back here where we need ya
(Back here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot 'cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back

We always could spot a friend, welcome back
And I smile when I think how you must have been
And I know what a scene you were learning in
Was there something that made you come back again

And what could ever lead ya
(What could ever lead ya)
Back here where we need ya
(Back here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot 'cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back

And I know what a scene you were learning in
Was there something that made you come back again

And what could ever lead ya
(What could ever lead ya)
Back here where we need ya
(Back here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot 'cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back

Yeah we tease him a lot, welcome back, welcome back
Cause we got him on the spot, welcome back, welcome back

Yeah we tease him a lot 'cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back

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John Sebastian's 'Welcome Back, Kotter' Theme is Retro TV's Catchiest Song