bill-swift - May 30, 2012
The ladies love Robin Thicke, the host of the new singing contest show Duets. He's a soul singer in spite of being both Canadian and as white as a Saskatchewan blizzard. Where in the name of Marvin Gaye did he get such a sexy musical talent? From his dad, TV's Alan Thicke! "Wait, a second there," You might be thinking, "You mean Jason Seaver from Growing Pains?" Yes, that's exactly who I mean. On first glance one of the 80's favorite TV dads may seem like an unlikely musical genius. Alan wrote largely in the under-appreciated medium of TV theme songs. This dying art form used to be one of the most popular musical formats. Songs like "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and "Welcome Back Kotter" were legitimate hits. In addition to the ones mentioned here, he also wrote the Wheel of Fortune, The Joker's Wild, and Silver Spoons theme songs. So, let's look at three of Alan's greatest musical masterpieces.
The first is the theme to the classic comedy series, Diff'rent Strokes. This series starred Conrad Baines as a rich White dude who adopts two Black kids from the hood, including dwarf superstar Gary Coleman. Like a lot of 80's TV themes, it talks less about the actual plot of the show than it does about achieving your dreams. The lyrics of the Diff'rent Strokes theme song speak about how the differences that separate us aren't as important as the stuff we have in common. A nice sentiment. Alas, Gary Coleman and his TV brother Todd Bridges would go on to have big drug and alcohol problems and his stepsister Dana Plato died of a drug overdose. I guess they didn't pay attention during the very special episode about drugs starring Nancy Reagan.
Next we examine the iconic feminist series, The Fact of Life. This show did more for women than Gloria Steinem and push-up bras combined. The series was actually a spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes as the Mrs. Garrett character used to be Conrad Baines sla...housekeeper. In The Facts of Life, she became the housemother to a diverse group of girls at an all-female boarding school. All of the major feminine archetypes were represented: the spunky Black girl, the spoiled rich White girl, the tom-boy lesbian, and the fat lesbian. Again, the theme song focuses on their dreams and discovering who they are on the inside. Alan Thicke's theme songs are as profound a guide to life as the sayings of the Buddha or a Dr. Phil episode.
Finally, we have the Growing Pains theme. This series starred Alan as the patriarch of the Seaver clan, a Long Island suburban family. Along with wife Maggie, (future Lifetime movie queen Joanna Kerns), they tried to raise their three precocious kids. The break-out star of the show was the oldest son Mike, played by Kirk Cameron, (before he became a crazy born-again Christian). This theme song stresses the importance of family and loved ones in the quest to achieve one's dreams. This demonstrates an evolution in Thicke's songwriting. The earlier theme songs stressed individual self-actualization where Growing Pains said that without loved ones, life was meaningless. Plus the show had a character named Boner.
Article By Jack Tomas
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