As the bittersweet ending to Bojack Horseman looms over Netflix, we reminisce over all our favorite relatable characters and jam to the theme song. The extraordinary animated comedy aired as a Netflix original series in 2014 with mixed reviews. By 2016, fans fell in love with the incredibly rounded and unique characters and the show won Critics’ Choice award for best-animated series. The show’s funky opening credits are arguably one of the least skipped opening credits on Netflix.

However, many viewers aren’t aware of the magic behind the sax-laden music. Patrick Carney, the drummer of The Black Keys, produced the theme song with his uncle, Ralph Carney. Unfortunately, Ralph passed away at the age of 61 on December 17, 2017. While Ralph Carney is not as well known as his nephew, the musician has worked with popular bands since the 1970s. We will be going into more depth on the drummer and his uncle as well as their collaboration on the music and how it came to be the Bojack Horseman theme song.

Who Is Ralph Carney?

The man was a multifaceted musician, both a singer and a composer that worked with many instruments. Though he primarily used different types of saxophones and clarinets he also experimented with obscure instruments. Ralph was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, just like his nephew Patrick.

He began his music career in the 1970s as one of the founding members of the experimental rock band Tin Huey. Not long after, in the early 1980s, Ralph began working with Tom Waits until Ralph’s unexpected death. Waits has described the musician as being “guided by some other source of information.” Some of his greatest contributions were to Waits’ albums “Rain Dogs” and “Mule Variations.” He also performed on records of spoken-word poetry by William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Additionally, you can find musicians on albums by Elvis Costello, St. Vincent, and The B-52’s.

A Mentor

The Black Keys fans would be interested to know that the band’s discography would look very different without Ralph’s influence. The co-founder of the band, Patrick Carney, said he got into music because of his uncle. The first time he saw Ralph play was on Letterman with Tom Waits in 1988. After that, Patrick began sending his uncle cassette tapes of his music as a teenager.

The Black Keys album Attack & Release 2008. Dan Auerbach (Left) and Patrick Carney (Right)
The Black Keys | Attack & Release (2008)

Ralph collaborated with The Black Keys on their album “Attack & Release” in 2008. He also joined them on stage during their tour for that album. Patrick continued sending Ralph his recordings and over the years they slowly evolved from cassette tapes to emailed files.

The Bojack Horseman Theme Song

The collaboration between Ralph and Patrick Carney was never intended to create the Bojack Horseman theme song. When Patrick began setting up a studio in his Nashville home, he sent Ralph a recording testing out the new system. Once the two had finished working on the piece, it lay dormant until 2014.

Long-Distance Collaboration

According to a podcast interview on Song Exploder, the recording started with a click track on a very old Roland Jupiter-4 keyboard processed by an arpeggiator. At the start of the song, you can hear the distorted arpeggio the best. Patrick then added drums and some distorted rhythm response guitar to the recording before emailing it to Ralph.

Opening Credits (S05 E01) showing a tribute to Ralph Carney's death on Bojack's TV.
Bojack Horseman | Netflix

Inspired by the bare-bones piece, Ralph picked up his tenor sax and started adding to the recording. He also edited the recording, doubling and tripling Patrick’s riffs and morphing them, or “beefing them up,” into trumpet sounds. Finally, Ralph added a bass trombone and a baritone saxophone. After Ralph sent back the recording, Patrick isolated and faded out the baritone sax for the end of the song.

The Search For A Theme Song

The show’s executive producer, Noel Bright, felt lucky bagging his dream team, Will Arnett and Aaron Paul, for the show. Seeing that the production doesn’t always go so smoothly, Bright decided to ride the wave and contact his favorite band for the theme song, The Black Keys. Patrick sent back his collaboration with Ralph, finding it to be a perfect fit for the show. Bright enthusiastically agreed. Although he did admit in the Song Exploder interview, the piece wasn’t exactly what they were looking for considering the saxophone and upbeat, jazzy feel. However, the dream-like quality of the piece captured the tone of the funny, thoughtful, and occasionally dark side of the show.

“Man Of A Thousand Instruments”

Although there are many contributions by Ralph Carney in popular culture, this funky, rough, and exciting piece will live on forever through the critically acclaimed series. Next time you binge-watch Bojack, don’t skip the opening credits, you’ll be in for a treat.