The Composer of the NFL on CBS Theme Music Died of Unknown Causes in 2010

No televised sports package would be complete without memorable theme music. CBS Sports has used the same theme music for its NFL telecasts since the fall of 2003 – a bombastic package seared into the minds of any football fan. Barring some sort of unannounced change, this theme music will play over its seventh Super Bowl telecast this Sunday.

The anthem of Sunday afternoons on CBS

An NFL on CBS camera guy
A CBS camera man films the game between the Chicago Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars | Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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Officially, the theme is known as “Posthumus Zone”, after the group who composed it – E.S. Posthumus. The theme made its debut in the first week of the 2003 NFL season.

At the moment, you can purchase a one-minute version of the theme music on iTunes. However, this likely represents a tiny fraction of the amount of music that has actually been recorded for CBS. Theme music packages typically contain dozens to hundreds of versions, or “cuts”.

Given its status as a cult hit among football fans, the song has been remixed in several different ways. In 2005, E.S. Posthumus itself released a remix entitled Rise to Glory, with lyrics from DJ Quik and Bizarre. For Super Bowl XLIV – the third to air on CBS since it adopted the theme music – the group collaborated with Jay-Z to produce a special mashup of Posthumus Zone and Run This Town.

Who were E.S. Posthumus?

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E.S. Posthumus formed in 2000, a two-man collaboration between brothers Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. The E.S. in their name stands for “Experimental Sounds,” while “Posthumus” is mangled Latin for “after death”. This is a clue to the band’s sound – a new-age sound meant to evoke music from the past.

Aside from their collaboration with CBS Sports, the group released three commercial albums. The first, Unearthed, released exclusively through online retailer CDBaby in 2001 to critical and commercial success. Tracks from Unearthed saw wide use in Hollywood movie trailers for years afterward, including the trailer for the first Spider-Man film in 2001.

E.S. Posthumus meets a tragic end

Just four months after their collaboration with Jay-Z for Super Bowl XLIV, the name of the musical group would take on a horrifying new meaning.

E.S. Posthumus disbanded in 2010 for entirely understandable reasons. In July 2010, Helmut Vonlichten posted this message to the group’s official Facebook page.

This has been an amazing year for ES Posthumus. Not only did we release our best selling album “Makara”, but we opened the Super Bowl with Jay Z. However, with the sweetness of life often there follows the bitterness of mortality….. my brother, Franz, passed away in May. It was entirely unexpected.

Franz was an extraordinary talent…. among other things, I will miss his creative ear and incomparable musical palette. Most of all, however, I will miss his wit and humor…. a consummate storyteller who found a punch line in even the most mundane scenarios.

Helmut Vonlichten, July 2010

To this day, it is still unknown how Franz Vonlichten passed away. His legacy still lives on in the music which will no doubt be heard by tens of millions of people this Sunday on CBS. Since then, Helmut Vonlichten has formed a new group called Les Friction, which is still active.