"The autumn wind is a pirate."
The autumn wind is a pirate/ Blustering in from sea/ With a rollicking song, he sweeps along/ Swaggering boisterously
His face is weather beaten/ He wears a hooded sash/ With a silver hat about his head/ And a bristling black mustache.
"He growls as he storms the country"
He growls as he storms the country/ A villain big and bold/ And the trees all shake and quiver and quake/ As he robs them of their gold.
The autumn wind is a Raider/ Pillaging just for fun/ He’ll knock you ‘round and upside down/ And laugh when he’s conquered and won
That’s a pretty good poem considering the subject matter, the Oakland Raiders. The copy was written by Steve Sabol but Sam Spence was the composer for NFL Films who set it to a rollicking, full-orchestral score. Along with “The Voice of God”, narrator John Facenda, they helped to create the early mythology which has carried the National Football League for several decades. That mythology is starting to crack, but the music of Spence evokes a heroism worthy of a pop culture Homer, or if not Homer than at least Tolkien.
Pop culture heroism might be the best description of Spence’s music. In addition to the fanfares and timpani there was an element which might be described as “groovy”. It was the 1960’s after all. Make no mistake, Spence wrote some terrible music as well, but pieces such as Classic Battle, Pony Soldiers, Round up, and The Raiders are easy classics.
In 1998 The Glory and the Power, a very evangelical sounding title, was released on CD and fans of the NFL rejoiced. The CD is currently unavailable except via Ebay or Amazon in a used format. The price is about $50 for the used CD.
NFL Films saw the success of that first recording and there are now six volumes of music. Most of the music is on services such as Spotify and Apple Music but the original video is not on YouTube.
There have only been a few symphonic concerts of the Spence’s NFL music. However, with the rise in orchestras presenting movies perhaps the some organizations will take a look at the weekend between the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl as a prime opportunity to reach a diverse group of football fans.