Finding relevance today in a 1978 television theme song

Do you ever get a television theme song in your head? Y’know, earworm type deal? Yet you go further, looking at the lyrics, and suddenly they take a new weight to them or just seem fitting for the moment in time that you (or life around you) are in?  That’s my morning…

If you’re a young adult, you likely have never heard of this TV series or may know it only scantly from pop culture history and reference. If you’re in your 30’s and 40’s, you’ll remember things for at least the theme song… if not Gary Coleman’s catchphrase, Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout?

What I’m talkin’ ’bout is Diff’rent Strokes, which premiered in 1978 and aired until the mid-1980. It followed a racial mixing trend that was also prominent on The Jeffersons. Both shows followed the same element of African-Americans moving up the economic social sphere with The Jeffersons (which began airing in 1975) finally getting their piece of the pie and movin’ on up to Manhattan’s East Side, while Diff’rent Strokes featured Arnold and Willis Jackson (Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges) adopted by well-to-do Phillip Drummond.

I don’t remember a ton of series details for either series, though I do know rocker Lenny Kravitz had family ties — no pun intended – to The Jeffersons). I was a child who was exposed to the show’s late airing (it ended in 1986) as well as its re-airing in syndication.

The one thing easily remembered is a catchy tune, and the bluegrass-tinged performance of the Diff’rent Strokes theme is what has led to this writing.

Alan Thicke was known for playing father figure Jason Seaver on Growing Pains in the 1980’s but he’s also had his hands in prominence for decades — in TV themes, in NHL teams, and elsewhere — and the Diff’rent Strokes theme was one of them.  The fact it’s been covered in recent years should show you how much the series engraved itself on pop culture during the late 70’s and early 80’s. And yet, thinking about the lyrics, it’s highly relevant right now. Society in the Americas can use these words.

With stressing of the key verses (that aren’t show related):

Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum
What might be right for you, may not be right for some
A man is born, he’s a man of means
Then along come two, they got nothing but their jeans

But they got, Diff’rent Strokes
It takes, Diff’rent Strokes
It takes, Diff’rent Strokes to move the world

Everybody’s got a special kind of story
Everybody finds a way to shine
It don’t matter that you got not a lot
So what
They’ll have theirs, and you’ll have yours, and I’ll have mine
And together we’ll be fine….

Because it takes, Diff’rent Strokes to move the world
Yes it does
It takes, Diff’rent Strokes to move the world

It’s true that the world doesn’t move to the beat of just one drum. There are differences in direction and belief. These contrasts can bring society forward, but they have to mix together to achieve it and not be forced.

With the social divisionism being promoted by the Dotard in Covfefe and his administration and supporters in politics and society, it’s also vital to remember that everybody (black, white, Asian, Arabic; rich, poor, middle-class, retired, student, child, adult; Christian, Muslim, Hebrew, etc) has a special kind of story on a personal level. And while there are differences, so what? They’ll have their personality and beliefs, you’ll have yours, I’ll have mine. It’s when someone tries to force their specific way — “the beat of just one drum” — onto others, that’s when things start going downhill and contrast turns to conflict.

We move forward by mixing together. Things don’t progress, improve or innovate when we stagnate in one isolated frame of mind. When cultures mix, elements will rise when they click with others (how the hell do you think rock’n’roll happened?).

Society is built on the many and our lives are dependent on that mixed culture: Be it through music or movies, food, clothing styles… Every individual in the world is a different person, and it’s the individuality that bears the greatest weight. To make a fuss (or worse) about visible or ethnic differences keeps conflict alive and a degree of hostility out there. Needlessly. People are people are people. It’s when we look past this stuff and move on with our lives that we’re best off in this world.