“Lisa, get away from that jazzman.”
From those immortal words of Marge, “The Simpsons” has always reflected a deep appreciation of popular music, from show tunes to the blues. And for decades, composer Alf “Secret Weapon” Clausen was responsible for most of the show’s interior music. (The famous theme, of course, is by Danny Elfman.)
Clausen was just canned in a cost-cutting move, Variety reported Wednesday, meaning that when the record-breaking series returns Oct. 1, a composer to be named will handle the scoring.
Thankfully, following a backlash as Hollywood talents voiced their support for Clausen, “Simpsons” producers announced Thursday that he would continue to have a role with the show. “Neither Al’s work nor the music of the Simpsons is treated as anything but seriously by us,” the producers said in a statement Thursday.
At this transition, though, it’s worth pausing to recognize that long before Seth MacFarlane brought his crooning sendups to Fox with “Family Guy,” the Emmy-winning Clausen and his live orchestra were providing cheeky power ballads when not parodying Broadway musicals or theatrically aping lines from such films as “Planet of the Apes.”
Here are a dozen of Clausen’s best “Simpsons” songs:
Emmy-nominated “Vote for a Winner” (from “The President Wore Pearls”): From the great opening joke by lyricist Dana Gould — “J’accuse, Monsieur Cusperberg!” — Yeardley Smith’s Lisa really delivers in this “Evita” parody.
“Union Strike Folk Song (Parts 1 and 2)” (from “Last Exit to Springfield”): “They have the plant/But we have the power.” Lisa may be best known for her jazz, but she channels the best protest folkies of yore — and shows off some sweet six-string chops.
“Dr. Zaius/Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z” (from “A Fish Called Selma”): With Troy McClure as the production’s Charlton Heston, this music nods to both the Broadway musical “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” and Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” with break dancing thrown in for humorous measure.
“See My Vest” (from “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds”): “Like my loafers? Former gophers!” The gleeful villainy of Monty Burns plays brilliantly in this dark spoof of “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s 1991 film “Beauty and the Beast.”
“The Monorail Song” (from “Marge vs. the Monorail”): Showrunner Al Jean and a young Conan O’Brien helped pen this brilliant “Music Man” sendup.
Emmy-winning “We Put the Spring in Springfield” (from “Bart After Dark”): The kind of big production number — co-written by “Futurama” creative force Ken Keeler — that surely inspired MacFarlane years before his own animated show.
Emmy-nominated “Always My Dad” (from “A Star Is Torn”): Lisa Simpson wrote this talent-show tune at the last minute, but clearly Clausen and Carolyn Omine put some real time into crafting it.
Emmy-winning “You’re Checkin’ In” from the musical “Kickin’ It” (from “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”): “I should put you away where you can’t kill or maim us, but this is L.A., and you’re rich and famous!” This finger-snapping tune offers some of the sharpest lyrics in a musical journey through the Betty Ford Center.
Emmy-nominated “Señor Burns” (from “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part 2)”): When you can land the real Latin jazz legend Tito Puente, you go to town musically with it. “Adios viejo!”
Emmy-nominated “Ode to Branson” (from “The Old Man and the Key”): Fun fact: This star-studded revue tune lost the Emmy to then-upstart Fox stablemate “Family Guy.”
“Canyonero” (from “The Last Temptation of Krust”): Some of the show’s very best skewering of Madison Avenue as the ’90s SUV craze took hold.
“The Amendment Song” (from “The Day the Violence Died”): A “Schoolhouse Rock” parody so on point that the “Simpsons” producers even got original warbler Jack Sheldon to sing this spoof.