When I saw the news that TV’s favorite Batman Adam West had passed today, I was sadder than I thought I would be. The 1960s television version of Batman is often ridiculed for its cartoonish action, ham-handed moralizing, and general silliness. People of my generation grew up on this version, but we were indoctrinated into the Dark Knight school of Batman characterization in the 80s and 90s; our then-teenaged psyches found more to love in the troubled, vengeful version that is so ubiquitous today than we did in the brightly-colored uprightness of our childhoods. But Adam West’s portrayal of Batman as a decent man who fought crime because it was the right thing to do became a pop culture touchstone, and made West an icon.
Adam West did a lot of other acting besides Batman, but that character is what he will be most remembered for. One of the things I loved is how he embraced it and how he in turn used it as a base for much of his recent work. West did voice acting for a number of cartoons, and he used the same cadences and phrasings he did as Batman. It made him easily recognizable and, I think, brought a lot of warm feelings to those who remembered that voice from Saturdays in front of the TV.
So I bid a fond farewell to West with the Batman theme, a tune almost as iconic as his portrayal of the Caped Crusader. Composed by jazzman Neal Hefti, the catchy “na na na na na na na na” riff runs throughout and is really what makes it such an effective ear worm. (Seriously. Try to get it out of your head. I dare you.) Because this version of Batman relied so heavily on the comic book version of the character that was popular at the time, this is exactly the kind of music you’d expect to hear if a comic book could play music when you opened it. With its jazzy and surf undertones, it was perfect.
So long, Mr. West. Thank you for bringing so much happiness to so many people.