NFL Films composer Sam Spence dies at 88

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On the eve of Super Bowl 50, the NFL has lost one of the men that helped tell the stories of the league’s history.

According to David Barron of the Houston Chronicle, NFL Films composer Sam Spence died Saturday at the age of 88 in Lewisville, Texas.

If you watched any work by NFL Films over the years, you’ve likely heard some of Spence’s music. “The Equalizer” has been the ringtone on my cell phone for as long as I’ve owned a mobile phone. “The Magnificent Eleven,” “The Over The Hill Gang,” and “The Ramblin’ Man from Gramblin'” are just a few more of his notable pieces written for NFL Films.

Steve and Ed Sabol brought NFL Films to life with their vision and knack for storytelling. John Facenda provided the narration and Spence’s scores tied the whole production together. The end result was revolutionary films that helped the NFL grow into the dominant force in American sports.

26 responses to “NFL Films composer Sam Spence dies at 88

  1. Very sad news. It’s impossible to separate the NFL from his music. His compositions, combined with the voice of John Facenda and the tremendous work of the Sabols, really helped make the NFL what it is today. RIP.

  2. It’s sad that NFL Film’s influence is waning. That last paragraph says it all; it was a great force propelling the NFL’s growth and a great memory for a lot of us.

    It’s too bad that we only hear this music a few times a season in brief retrospectives, and it’s treated like tongue-in-cheek kitsch from too-cool broadcasters.

    Listen, in comparison, to the cringeworthy theme music from the last two seasons of Thursday night football to realize what a genius Spence was.


  3. Rip Sam…and this article is incomplete without mentioning the goat Harry Kalas who’s voice helped put NFL films on the map…cmon Curtis do better

  4. A trip to the pro foootball hall of game when I was 10 gave me the opportunity to purchase 4 volumes of “music from nfl films” by Sam spence. 35 years later (and after convirting them to cd), I still listen to that music. As a browns fan in western ny, I didn’t get to see much of my team (pre satellite, directv). So, it was “inside the nfl” and “nfl game of the week” that would give me highlights. Spense’s music, Harry kalas’ narration (often overlooked when compared to facenda) and the sabols’ imagination helped form my love of pro football.

  5. RIP, Sam.

    Sometimes your music was set around the game, sometimes, it seemed the game was set around your music.

  6. I gained a new appreciation for the music when you could go into the madden settings and switch out all the modern music for his songs. The guy is a legend and his music will be used on films for decades.

    Prayers with the family.

  7. The photography is legendary, as is the narration (especially by “the voice of God”, John Facenda). The music of Sam Spence, however, made NFL films and their work come to life. Rest in Peace.

  8. The Music in the old NFL films shows just see mood perfectly, then you had Facenda Narrating on top of it, and it just stuck with you forever.

    Sam Spence’s contribution to our Football culture was very real, and he will be missed!

  9. Bought the NFL Music about 5 years ago. It is amazing even without the great narration of John facenda or Harry Kalas it still us fantastic. Thank you Mr. Spence. RIP!!!

  10. Anyone who appreciates the music of Mr. Spence and all the NFL Films composers, the Autumn Thunder 10-disc CD collection is an absolute must.

    Sam Spence’s music, John Facenda’s voice, and the Sabols’ photography – that’s what made NFL Films the best.

    RIP Sam… a tip of the conductor’s baton to you.

  11. The soundtrack to my childhood watching NFL. RIP Mr. Spence, hope the Super Bowl honors you in some way.

  12. RIP. This guy is a legend. He’s like the John Williams of football.

    The music of the NFL Films is arguably as legendary as Facenda’s voice or how those games were filmed themselves.

  13. Always loved the music in the classic NFL Films.. and the photography, and voicing, and scripts… I love NFL Films!!

    Did not know so much of the music was from a guy named Sam Spence. RIP

  14. Whenever you hear “NFL Films Presents” … you know you are in for a treat. Hard to believe that we could go from that high bar to some of the garbage on TV now. I do enjoy some of the broadcasters (Aikman, Costas, MNF), but some of the “entertainment” is just ridiculous. Skip Bayless, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin -to name a few- just make me turn the channel. I know I am comparing apples to oranges, but man what a difference. I guess it just makes you appreciate NFL Films even more.

  15. A great loss, his music was fantastic and fit the aura and mystique of NFL Football so well, one of the cherished soundtracks of my childhood as I started following the NFL in 1973.

    I’d love to see the NFL re-introduce the music of Sam Spence on their highlight videos and productions moving forward, it’s far superior to the faceless scores used today.

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