Welcome Back (John Sebastian song)

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"Welcome Back"
Welcome Back - John Sebastian.jpg
German cover
Single by John Sebastian
from the album Welcome Back
B-side"Warm Baby"
ReleasedMarch 1976
GenreFolk rock, blues rock
Songwriter(s)John Sebastian
Producer(s)Steve Barri, John Sebastian
John Sebastian singles chronology
"She's A Lady"
"Welcome Back"

"Welcome Back" is a popular record that was the theme song of the 1970s American television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.[1] Written and recorded by former Lovin' Spoonful frontman John Sebastian, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in May 1976 after only five weeks on the chart, and also topped the adult contemporary chart[2] (the show itself had become an instant ratings success upon its premiere the previous fall). It also reached No. 93 on the country chart.


TV producer Alan Sachs wanted a Lovin' Spoonful-like theme song for a new ABC sitcom entitled Kotter. Sachs's agent, Dave Bendett, also represented Sebastian and arranged for a meeting between the two.[citation needed]

Initially, Sebastian had considerable difficulty with the lyrics since including the title character's name didn't lend itself to a sufficient number of obvious rhymes. Instead, Sebastian decided to focus the lyrics on the idea of the series' premise of Kotter returning to the very place he grew up, and having dreamt of leaving, to do something positive.[citation needed]

The producers liked the resulting song so much that they changed the name of the series to Welcome Back, Kotter. Co-produced by Steve Barri and Sebastian, the song eventually sold over one million copies.[citation needed]

The song originally had one verse, meant for the TV series. Because of the popularity of the show, Sebastian, in the single version, added a second verse to the song, as well as an instrumental section featuring a harmonica solo, before he resumed finishing up the verse, as well as the repeated chorus and coda to finish the song. The single version was eventually used during the closing credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.[citation needed] Some final-season episodes play the entire song, minus the instrumental section, during the closing credits.

In 1996, MTV used the song in a promo to "welcome back" David Lee Roth to Van Halen.[3]

In 2020, the song was used in a TV commercial for Applebee's to welcome patrons back to the restaurant after it had been forced to close for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chart performance[edit]

Other versions[edit]

  • Northern California experimental band Mr. Bungle covered the song on January 13, 1992, in back-to-back English and Spanish versions, at The Berkeley Square in Berkeley, California.
  • Canadian country music artist Chris Cummings covered the song in 2009 and released his version as a single. The version was later included on his 2010 album Give Me Tonight.
  • The song was sampled by rapper Lupe Fiasco for his song "Welcome Back Chilly", rapper Mase for his song "Welcome Back", hip hop group Onyx in their song "Slam Harder", and by rapper AZ for his song "Once Again".[citation needed]
  • Swedish dream pop group jj recorded a version of the song in 2009. This version of the song is used in the trailer for the second season of MTV's Scream.[14]
  • The song is often used by Atlanta Braves organist Matthew Kaminski for former Braves players when they are at bat for their current team.
  • The artist Rumer recorded it for her 2012 album Boys Don't Cry.
  • On May 1, 2020, Count Bass D released a cover of the song on his Bandcamp site, commenting, "This take is a nod to the light at the end of this Coronavirus tunnel. It's a peaceful piano rendition aimed to help with the stress of these times."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Judy, Stephen (1976). "Editor's Page: Welcome Back". The English Journal. 65 (6): 7–8. ISSN 0013-8274. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 217.
  3. ^ ""Welcome Back Dave" promo". YouTube. MTV. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  4. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 267. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  5. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  6. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  7. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  8. ^ a b "Lyrics: Welcome Back by John Sebastian". Top40db.net. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1976/Top 100 Songs of 1976". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  12. ^ Top 50 Adult Contemporary Hits of 1976
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ ""Welcome Back" ("Welcome Back, Kotter" theme song)". Pitchfork. 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  15. ^ "Welcome Back - Count Bass D". Bandcamp. 2020-05-01. Retrieved 2020-05-05.

External links[edit]