Co-writer of ‘Move Closer to Your World’ theme dies

Walter Liss, who co-wrote the lyrics for the iconic “Move Closer to Your World” news theme song used perhaps most famously used by WPVI in Philadelphia since 1972, has died.

Liss worked as a promotions manager at the ABC-owned station before moving to fellow network-owned station WABC in New York where he would help develop “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and take it national. He also was president of ABC-owned stations for 10 years. 

“Move Closer to Your World” was created along with Al Ham at Mayoham Music for WPVI, also known as 6ABC.

It was intended as an “anthem” to local news and its role in the community — illustrating through its lyrics how TV could, at least figuratively, bring the world closer to viewers.

It’s worth noting that Liss isn’t always credited for his work on “MCTYW,” but WPVI, the station that originated the theme, marked his death on-air on May 17, 2022, and credited him with co-writing the lyrics.

“MCTYW” is notable as perhaps the most prominent local news music package that has lyrics, though WPVI typically only runs that version at the end of newscasts or days when it runs full credits. The original lyrics were recorded by the Hillside Singers.

In addition to its lyrics, the song is known for the dramatic build-up to its “da-da-da-da-dum” signature that, at least in some versions, also includes several other variations of those notes, while the portion with the lyrics has a gentler sound.

There have been numerous updates to the theme over the years, some of which were only heard on other stations. There are also arrangements of it from 615 Music that are used in promos at both WPVI and other stations off and on. 

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The song also branched into the fictional world of “Lizzie Maguire” where the production music version, which was never intended as a main theme, can be heard on the fictional NewsChannel 7 broadcasts seen and heard in the series. “The Tonight Show” band The Roots also played a version of it when Danny DeVito, star of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” was a guest in 2016.

WPVI rolled out a new version of the song, with great fanfare, in 1996, even going to the extent of hiring the London Philharmonic Orchestra to perform it. The theme lasted five days after overwhelming negative viewer reactions. 

Although the music has been used by numerous stations over the years it’s no longer in use outside Philadelphia except for one other Pennsylvania station, WNEP in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

WKBW in Buffalo, New York, used a version of the song from 1989 to 1995 when it branded as “NewsChannel 7” (not to be confused with the fictional “Lizzie Maguire” one) but dropped it altogether in 2014.

WNEP uses the so-called “dance version” that has similarities to “MCTYW” song, officially known as the “WPXI News Theme,” that the Pittsburgh station used from 1991 to 1998 after using “MCTYW” for the year prior. However, the two versions are technically considered different packages and “WPXI” was composed by Cliff Schwarz.

This version does not officially have lyrics. There is a vamp available meant to be played under anchor voiceover teases lyrics, but the beat or melody doesn’t match the words of “MCTYW.”

Today, WNEP continues to use the WPXI theme, making it the only other station in the country to actively use a variation of “MCTYW.”

It was one of the few Tegna-owned stations not to drop its normal theme music in favor of more European-style musical beds.

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