First off, shout out and rest in piece to a great Canadian and one of my first crushes ever, the Bearlicious (Otterlicious?) Alan Thicke. Yes, lawd.
So, here are some interesting facts for folks who may only know Alan as Jason Seaver on Growing Pains or as Robin’s dad. He apparently was Philippe Wynne from The Spinners’ manager for a while in the ‘70s. He deserved sainthood for dealing with Kirk Cameron’s kind of crazy for three decades. He was an unabashed lover of soul music (so clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree), and he wrote some of the greatest theme songs in the history of television, including the one from “Diff’rent Strokes”. He co-wrote this particular theme song with Al Burton (who?) and Gloria Loring. Loring not only became a beloved actress (most notably on Days Of Our Lives) and singer (her song “Friends & Lovers” was a #2 hit in 1986), but she was also Mrs. Thicke for quite some time (she’s Robin’s mom).
Diff’rent Stokes was a cultural juggernaut beyond the sad fate that befell many of the child actors on the show. The show has actually held up fairly well over the years. There were some great guest stars (Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Janet Jackson had a recurring role as Charlene back when she was rocking Dorothy Hamill hair, and it pressed down on just about every sitcom trope of the ‘80s, from the numerous “very special” episodes (remember Bicycle Man?) to the shoehorning in of a cute kid as the resident cute kid got older (Danny Cooksey as Sam, Mr. Drummond’s stepchild). It aired on two different networks (NBC, then ABC). They even did the actor swap out in later seasons (Mary Ann Mobley and Dixie Carter played the same role), Gary Coleman was one of the first-if not the first-Black child I saw in the media that I wanted to identify with.
And before I get carried away and turn this blog into Five Star Showz, let me give everlasting props to this kick-ass theme song. Sure, this particular song choice is way more nostalgia/memories-based than it is quality-based, but I’ll take a song that makes me feel great over a song that’s technically perfect seven days out of the week and twice on Sunday.