Maniac – Michael Sembello | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1 for 2 weeks); 1983

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

If you’ve ever felt a bit unnerved while listening to Maniac, there’s a reason. One evening Michael Sembello and co-writer Dennis Matosky settled in for a little relaxation with the cult-flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. After the ending credits, the two decided that, rather then write another Sembello-style ballad like the ones for George Benson or Art Garfunkel, they’d pen an ode to a mass murderer. Soon after, producer Phil Ramone called Sembello looking for some songs for a new movie. Michael asked his wife, Cruz, to copy some tunes onto cassette, and sent it to Paramount. The very next day Paramount gave a thumb’s up to the “maniac” song, which – unbeknownst to Cruz was on the end of the tape. Michael changed some words to fit the dance scene, but the hook and the beat stayed the same. Maniac earned its writers a #1 hit and a Grammy.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Phil Ramone
  • Michael Sembello

Lyrics Written by:

  • Dennis Matkosky
  • Michael Sembello


  • “Maniac” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984
  • “Maniac” won the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special in 1984
  • “Maniac” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1984
  • “Maniac” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1984