'Friends' theme song writer from Minnesota performs for cast

Minnesota man Phil Solem was part of a tribute this week for legendary TV director James Burrows.

- There's been a lot of buzz about the cast of the popular TV show “Friends” getting back together for a tribute to legendary TV director James Burrows last week. And a Minnesota musician who wrote the famous theme song was a part of that memorable moment.

"When I look back I almost can't believe it,” Phil Solem said.

Solem was born in Duluth, Minn. and started playing music in a glam rock band named "Android" when he was a teenager. He moved to Los Angeles in the mid 70's and met fellow musician Danny Wilde, but he eventually found his way back to Minneapolis. The two kept in touch, and by the late 80's they had formed their own duo, “The Rembrandts.”

But it wasn't until they were asked to help write the theme song for a new show about a group of friends living in New York City that “The Rembrandts” really took off.

"That was due to the fact that one of the producers of ‘Friends,’ Kevin Bright, was a fan of ours and they needed a song so he asked us if we could come up with something for the show,” Solem said.

At first, Solem and Wilde didn't put their names on the song that was only 42 seconds long. But after "Friends" became a top ten hit, their record company asked them to write a full-length version to include on their album.

“It was a shock at first. We wanted to remain anonymous because musicians of the day didn't do television music and get away with it. It was considered a sellout,” Solem said.

But "I'll be there for you" struck a chord on the radio, topping the hot 100 for eight straight weeks. The single sold millions of copies. But by the late 90's, it overshadowed everything else the duo tried to do.

"Suddenly everything had shifted. Audiences would be moms and daughters. They would be waiting for one song," Solem said.

So the band took a 3-year break and worked on solo projects before releasing a couple more albums in the early 2000's. But despite the popularity of their smash single, the public turned a deaf ear to their new music.

Now, 12 years after "Friends" went off the air, the cast re-united to honor James Burrows who directed several episodes during the first four seasons. “The Rembrandts” got an encore playing the theme song on stage for the cast last weekend.

"It was great. It was almost like no time had gone by. The last time we played for the cast was 2004 at their wrap party. We played at that. Kind of the same thing,” Solem said.

These days, Solem is rehearsing for another tribute show -- this time, for one of his idols David Bowie. But like a good friend, after all these years, he says the “Friends” theme song will always be there for them.

"At this point in our career, it’s pretty amazing that something can last that long. We'll see if it makes it to the big 25. Then we'll have a party.”


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