Richard Pryor’s Place

On December 1 in 1940, the great comedian and actor Richard Pryor was born in Peoria, Illinois.  His early years were rough, with him growing up in a brothel and his mother abandoning him when he was ten.  But he gave us great joy and laughter throughout his life.

Most people remember Pryor’s great standup work and his work in popular movies like Silver Streak (1976).  But did you know he had a short-lived TV show for children?

In 1984, Pryor’s Place ran for a short time on CBS.  The show featured work by puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft and a theme song by Ray Parker, Jr. (who had a big hit with “Ghostbusters” that year).   But the show was soon cancelled after its debut.

Check out an episode of Pryor’s Place.

What is your favorite appearance by Richard Pryor? Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo via YouTube.

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    “MTV Unplugged” Begins

    The first episode of MTV Unplugged made its television debut on Sunday, November 26, 1989. The series would eventually feature many classic episodes and recordings, such as four years later with the November 18, 1993 show featuring Nirvana.

    But back in 1989, the show had not established a reputation so the performers on the first episode were not superstars. The show featured Squeeze, Syd Straw, Elliot Easton (of the Cars), and Jules Shear.

    Below Shear, Straw, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, and Elliot Easton come together to cover The Monkees during that first show. Check out “I’m a Believer” from the very first episode of MTV Unplugged.

    Many credit Paul McCartney with helping make MTV Unplugged a popular show that would attract major artists. During the second season, after his appearance, he released a recording of the show, Unplugged – The Official Bootleg, which went on to be quite successful.

    MTV Unplugged aired regularly between 1989 and 1999. The show appeared less frequently during most of the next decade usually called MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.

    Since 2009, MTV has occasionally run the show as a special, sometimes in online-only versions. But for those of us who were around during the decade that was the show’s heyday, it was an important cultural touchstone of that time.

    What is your favorite episode of MTV Unplugged? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    I Think I Love You David Cassidy

    I was a bit surprised at how I was affected by the recent news of David Cassidy’s failing health and then the news of his death.  Like many people, it had been decades since I had really followed his career.  But his voice and music were a big part of the reason I came to love music.

    As a kid, one of my favorite television shows was The Partridge Family, which ran from September 1970 to March 1974.  Each episode featured pop music, that even if not actually featuring the whole “family,” did feature David Cassidy and Shirley Jones.

    Their hit “I Think I Love You” became one of my favorite songs after I bought the 45 rpm single.  Yeah, it was pop music and even David Cassidy would for a time try to distance himself from the music of The Partridge Family.  But it was a wonderful introduction to popular music for this kid.

    I remember him on the teen magazines and the girls who liked him for his looks as well as his voice.  But at that time, I had yet to discover the younger version of Elvis or to delve into Dylan or discover Springsteen.  David Cassidy was my first rock star.

    Whenever I hear music from Cassidy it always makes me smile to this day.  And what’s not to love about that?  Rest in peace.

    What is your favorite memory of David Cassidy? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    “All You Need Is Love” Worldwide Broadcast

    On June 25, 1967, the first live, world-wide satellite program was broadcast to an estimated 350 million people around the world. The “Our World” global broadcast ran for a little more than two hours and featured representatives from around the world.  Fourteen countries provided material (after the Soviet Union and six other Eastern Bloc countries pulled out apparently in response to Western nations’ response to the Six Day War).

    “All You Need is Love”

    The Beatles, the biggest music act of the time, represented Great Britain and the BBC.  The band performed “All You Need Is Love” with a little help from some friends.

    The song was written specifically for the “Our World” broadcast.  After the Beatles signed the contract in May for the show, John Lennon wrote “All You Need Is Love” for the broadcast.  Then, the band recorded a rhythm track and some backing vocals. The song was especially powerful considering the Vietnam War was a major issue at the time.

    The Beatles performance of “All You Need Is Love” from Studio Two at Abbey Road Studio included The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash, and Marianne Faithfull singing along in the audience. According to The Beatles Bible website, Lennon recorded additional vocals after the broadcast.

    The entire Beatles performance of “All You Need is Love’ is not currently available on YouTube, but you may check out a portion of the Beatles segment below.

    The original broadcast appeared in black and white, but the above video is from 1995’s The Beatles Anthology special, which colorized parts of this segment, using color photographs taken at the event.

    Playing for Change

    The “Our World” performance is not the only time “All You Need Is Love” went around the world. Although not done with the technological marvel of a live broadcast, Playing for Change put together kids from around the world singing the song about love and harmony.

    Check out the Playing for Change version of “All You Need is Love.”

    What is your favorite part of “All You Need Is Love”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    P. Jay Sidney: The Heroic Actor Who Fought to Integrate Early TV

    P. Jay Sidney, who was born as Sidney Parhm Jr. on April 8, 1916 in Virginia, was a groundbreaking actor who fought to help integrate television starting in the 1950s. He often was relegated to small walk-on parts such as doormen and waiters.  But the African-American actor also played some substantial parts as he struggled to both make a living and to fight against the racism of the times.

    Sidney’s Acting Career

    Sidney started out with a career on stage and on radio.  But then he began making a living in TV starting in 1951.  He garnered some substantial roles such as that of Private Palmer on The Phil Silvers Show.

    Sidney continued to take what roles he could get.  He appeared in more than one-hundred and seventy shows. He also did voice-over work and took roles in advertisements, such as Waxin Jackson in Ajax commercials.

    Sidney’s Battle Against Discrimination

    Sidney’s activism was fueled by the discrimination he saw in the limited roles given to African-American actors. He marched. And he advocated for a boycott against Lever Brothers for only using black talent for commercials aimed at African-Americans. He testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962. He picketed. And he spoke out when he saw discrimination and encouraged others to do the same.

    A December 7, 2015 article in The New Yorker, “American Untouchable,” by Emily Nussbaum discusses some of the toll that the discrimination took on Sidney.  His story is also recounted in Donald Bogle’s book, Primetime Blues. As in the case of baseball player Jackie Robinson, one may see that standing up to racism is not easy.

    But as in the case of Robinson, we need to remember P. Jay Sidney.  He was a dignified man who did a job while also standing up for something greater.

    Below, Sidney plays a small role as a doctor in a 1961 episode of Route 66, “Goodnight Sweet Blues.” In this opening clip of the episode, you may see Sidney at around the 3:16 mark, as a family doctor getting some assistance from a white cardiologist.

    Sidney never got to see equal representation of African-American actors on TV or in Hollywood.  But he helped us take an early step toward that destination. Moses never made it to the Promised Land, and Sidney’s final role in a movie was playing a bellman in A Kiss Before Dying (1991).

    Yet, other actors, like Ossie Davis recognized that they were able to get jobs because of Sidney’s activism. Sidney passed away on September 30, 1996, and while an increase in television channels has created more opportunities for non-white actors, Sidney’s legacy can be seen in critiques like the recent Oscar So White campaign in Hollywood.

    Sidney’s battle, which is a battle for all of us, continues.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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