Saturday, August 9, 2008

Herbie Hancock & Children’s Television in the early 70’s

1971. That’s when I was 6. Sesame Street had just gone on air about a year or so before on PBS. It was hip, it was original, it treated its young viewership like an audience, not as consumers (like today). It was diverse too, without clobbering you over the head with tokenism (like today).

The opening theme was scored by Belgian jazz great Toots Thielemans. Sesame Street featured guests like Herbie Hancock showing kids around his studio, and the recording process, John Cassavetes (!!!), Mohammed Ali, Jose Feliciano, Carol Burnett, Peter Fonda, Jose Ferrer, -- the list goes on. Quality stuff for us kids. Heck, I'd watch that now, sure beats bloggin!

If they aired this today, it would be slammed as pro drug and subversive, I see it as a young person's introduction to surrealism and the number 2:

Fat Albert, Cosby’s masterpiece rocked, its theme was penned by Herbie Hancock (him again), it started in 1969. Cosby presented us with ethical dilemmas, and touched on issues like race, social class, drugs, violence, all in a manner perfectly appropriate for kids, this is Cosby after all.

So daring when you think the Watts riots, the Dr. King & Bobby Kennedy assassinations, the Manson murders, Kent State, and Altamont were so recent, and the war in Vietnam was still raging.

As an aside, if your into jazz, check out Herbie Hancock’s “Fat Albert Rotunda”. Think about it, a soundtrack to a Saturday morning cartoon as a seminal jazz classic.

I was a bit too old for the Electric Company, but looking at old videos, this was another great show with an all-star cast, like a young Morgan Freeman. None of these shows talked down to the audience. More importantly, these shows made you think without it being a chore. We were spoiled, I feel sorry for kids today, as the saying goes, “suffer the little children”.

Finally, as for more commercial TV in the early 70’s; don’t get me started on the original Warner Brother’s Cartoons. They were the Dutch Masters of cartoonists; hold overs from the 50’s & 60’s. The music was my Carl Stalling. It was violent, but c’mon. When the coyote goes over a cliff, or when Moe hit Curly in the head with a hammer, we 6 years olds knew it was just TV, it wasn’t real. We sure have been dumbed down since then.

So kick back, relax, and have a nice hot cup of lighten up.