Question: In the 1970s-'80s, on CBS or NBC, words from the poem "High Flight" were used in the nightly sign-off. Can you tell me the name of the music that played with it?
Answer: The mention of "High Flight" probably resonated with night owls and insomniacs around the country who remember when TV stations would actually go off the air for a bit in the wee hours, leaving behind static or a test pattern. Before the stations signed off, they would run something ceremonial like an image of a waving flag and the sound of "The Star-Spangled Banner." And another sign- off standard was a reading, with musical accompaniment, of John Gillespie Magee Jr.'s poem "High Flight."
You might know phrases from the poem like "slipped the surly bonds of Earth," which were used in then-President Ronald Reagan's tribute to the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 following its explosion. The poem itself is much older. Magee was a U.S. citizen serving as a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot when he wrote the poem and sent it to his family in September 1941.
Then, in December, just days after Pearl Harbor, 19-year-old Magee died in a collision with another aircraft. As reporters covered Magee's death, the poem became more widely known,
Indeed, the website of the Library of Congress -- which has Magee's original manuscript -- says, "Within days of Magee's death, 'High Flight' had been reprinted in newspapers across the United States."
There have been audio recordings of the poem, among them one by Orson Welles; a 1957 movie inspired by it and a John Denver song adapted from it. Then, there are the short films made by the Air Force showing different planes in flight to the accompaniment of music and readings of the poem. Those films were sent to TV stations and used as their sign-offs from the 1960s to the '80s. In fact, a 2008 episode of "Mad Men" has a "High Flight" film playing on a TV set as Pete is in the middle of a late-night assignation.
It's possible that TV stations were using a "High Flight" piece as a sign-off.
You can see some of the films on YouTube.
Rich Heldenfels is a staff writer for the Akron Beacon Journal. Write him at email@example.com.,How I Met Your Mother
8 p.m. on CBS
Lily (Alyson Hannigan) counsels Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) on how to handle a dispute between his mother (guest star Frances Conroy) and Robin (Cobie Smulders). Wayne Brady also guest stars.
8 p.m. on NBC
The competition moves to its next phase -- the battle rounds -- in this new episode. Coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green get help from Ryan Tedder, Cher, Ed Sheeran and Miguel in preparing their contestants.
Mondays at Racine
9 p.m. on HBO
A tripleheader of films nominated for the best documentary short Oscar opens with this moving tale of a beauty salon on New York's Long Island. The two sisters who own the salon offer free services one Monday each month to women with cancer.
10 p.m. on CBS
As Brian and Ellen (Tate Donovan, Toni Collette) come up with an escape plan, Duncan's (Dylan McDermott) ailing wife, Nina (Francie Swift), tells him she wants to discontinue treatment.
10 p.m. on WQED
In 1964, Michael Apted filmed a diverse group of 7-year-old children for a documentary called "7 Up." He's revisited his subjects every seven years since then to see how their lives have turned out. In the eighth entry, "56 Up," they reflect on how being featured in the film series has affected their lives.
10 p.m. on History
The ancient Sumerians made huge advances in writing, agriculture, science, math, medicine and other pursuits -- advances they credited to giant winged gods they called the Anunnaki.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
Most Popular Stories
- Updates on Everglades' Stranded Pilot Whales
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Stolen Cobalt-60 Recovered in Mexico
- Wind Power and Wildlife Can Coexist
- Ford Mustang Still Packs Power
- NSA Tracks 5 Billion Cellphone Records a Day
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- Sarmiento to Handle Greeley Latin Ops
- First-time Jobless Claims Drop Below 300,000
- White House Pushes to Extend Unemployment Benefits