'The Americans' Showrunners Pick the Series' 8 Best Musical Moments

Pari Dukovic/FX
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings and Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings in The Americans

For the last six years, FX’s The Americans has explored American-Russian relations during the early 1980s, the height of the Cold War. Two Soviet spies, Philip and Elizabeth (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), have been doing their dirty work on American soil and blending in effortlessly with American culture. Big hair. Happy Meals. Trans Ams. And of course, the era’s soundtrack.

“I think authenticity is a key word,” says the show’s creator Joe Weisberg. “That’s always a guide for us, with the character’s emotions, and also with the music choices.”

Over the years, Weisberg says the music was often an extremely tricky part to get down, where they’d be in the editing room for hours deliberating over what was the best choice for a scene. “We often had to look at 15, 20 different choices for every cue that we picked,” he says. “Rarely, right out of the gate you’d find the right song.”

With tonight’s final episode, The Americans is now in the TV history books. Here, Weisberg and co-executive producer Joel Fields pick the show’s eight most memorable music moments and give the stories behind the choices.

Season 1, “Pilot”
Fleetwood Mac, “Tusk”

Gavin O’Connor directed the pilot and he was saying, “I hear ‘Tusk.’” I didn’t know that song. He hadn’t shot a frame of it, and he heard that song! He visualized and shot that sequence with the song in his head! He did the opposite of how we chose everything else. That’s one of the songs people talk about all the time. - Joe Weisberg

Season 1, Episode 10 “Only You”
Roberta Flack, “To Love Somebody”

That [was in the] incredibly emotional sequence of Elizabeth and her soul mate Gregory choosing to die -- whether to be taken in or taken away from his country. It was powerful and important. It was [director] Adam [Arkin] who knew that version of it. He put it over that sequence on his first director’s cut - we knew that wasn’t going to change. - Joel Fields

Season 4, Episode 13 “Persona Non Grata”
Leonard Cohen, “Who By Fire”

We were always looking for places to put Leonard Cohen. We found this one. The lyrics of that song have the same darkness and tonality of the show. - Joel Fields

That was the case of a montage that it took a lot of effort, a lot of time, before we found that one. But as soon as we laid that song down over that sequence, we knew that was the one. - Joe Weisberg

Season 5, Episode 1 “Amber Waves”
"America the Beautiful" - Nathan Barr & Chamber Choir of the Guessin Musical College

[Score composer] Nate Barr and the entire team somehow came together and created that. We wanted it to sound like the Russian army chorus. My grandfather had this Red Army LP he used to play. He loved it. He escaped from Poland as a kid, but he loved that Red Army album. We had this idea for that sound. The first time we heard that, we were out of our minds. That was a great moment. - Joel Fields

Season 5, Episode 3 “The Midges”
Alabama, “Old Flame”

One of their best songs ever. It’s one of those melodies you can’t get out of your head. When they’re in that hotel room and just dancing - by season 5, we had done so many sex scenes between [Elizabeth and Philip]. We were looking for something to reveal that romantic tension between them. Essentially to have them dancing to what Philip loves. -Joe Weisberg

Season 5, Episode 6 “Crossbreed”
Peter Gabriel, “Lay Your Hands on Me”

Peter Gabriel has really been a part of the show since the first season. One of our personal, emotional highlights of this experience is we use these songs from these great artists. Songs we’ve listened to in our youth. But we don’t really work or know [the artists]. But after the first season, we sent a letter to Peter Gabriel, thanking him. But wouldn’t you know? He wrote back. And that was a really touching thing. This one connected so many story elements for the show - it brought Paige together with her parents’ secret life in that moment. This was the score for her being baptized as a Soviet. - Joel Fields

Season 6, Episode 1 “Dead Hand”
Mel McDaniel, “Louisiana Saturday Night”

These scenes of Philip line dancing always get to me. They bring me all the way back to the pilot when he danced in his cowboy boots in the mall. After all these years, he’s still trying to have some fun and live a little more in this very American way. "Louisiana Saturday Night” is a great song and features one of the greatest rhymes in the history of music: “You get down the fiddle, you get down the bow, kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.” That’s right, Mel McDaniel rhymed bow and floor. And if you listen to the song, they rhyme perfectly." - Joe Weisberg

Season 6, Episode 10 “START”
Dire Straits, “Brother In Arms”

We listened to countless songs before we tried this one; the sequence was so delicate it seemed impossible to find the right piece. But the moment we saw it laid against this track, we knew it was magic. I loved that album when it came out and listened to it over and over. Being a Dire Straits fan, a highlight was the fact that Mark Knopfler not only personally approved of our use of the song in The Americans finale but he and Dire Straits keyboard player Guy Fletcher also offered to help us smooth out our song edit using the band's original recorded elements that we didn't have access to. These music tweaks ultimately made the song's use in the sequence even more perfect. - Joel Fields