Diff’rent Strokes – Theme Song

Race relations in America were lightly addressed from 1978-1985, in this TV sitcom. Two African American orphans are adopted by a rich Park Avenue, widower/single Dad, who is white. An early episode has a social worker not believing that a white man should be raising African Americans.

Can popular culture, even through the “boob tube,” lead and shape public opinion? Another question could be this: is a comedy show that is meant to entertain, the right or best forum for such issues to be addressed.

Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier

From 1980, New Waver Adam Ant wears a Jimi Hendrix jacket, and sings about feeling like an American Indian under his skin. Is this campy or offensive?

One point made is that beneath the white skin is a “wild nobility,” a freedom and danger that stuffed-up Caucasians suppress. But as well, Adam sings of cultural imperialism: from “centuries of taming,” Native Americans may have lost their roots, too.

The tribal drum rhythms, though, may be more African. Whatever, call it world music, then!

Also by this band: Goody Two Shoes

Archie Bunker – Those Were The Days

This song is actually written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, who are known for Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie.” Of course, it’s performed by actors Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, and is the theme song from the 1970s television sitcom, “All In The Family.”

All In The Family” was set in the context of social changes in the 1970s, such as related to women’s liberation (feminism) and racial equality.

They lyrics express views similar to the ideology of conservatism, which dovetail with the views of the main character, Archie Bunker. Archie resisted the 1970s changes!

That’s because conservatism maintains reverence for the way things were, feeling that modern times change too fast, with untested, unproven ideas and reforms.

Specifically to the times, Archie felt that younger people had become dependent on government to bring them up and support them (“didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled their weight…” But in the past, people took care of themselves with initiative and elbow grease.

And the line, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great”? That’s a reference to a Buick automobile.

Beach Boys – Roll Plymouth Rock

“Smile” is the legendary Beach Boys album that consumed Brian Wilson in its development. This pastiche has the surfer boys harmonizing about American Indians losing their land and identity. A “ribbon of concrete” eroded a culture and history of an entire people.

Sort of that’s what this is about. Who knows! The reach could be broader than native Americans, because the song, sometimes or formerly known as Do You Like Worms, also puts into melody a Hawaiian thanksgiving prayer.

Lou Reed – Good Evening Mr. Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi oficer that later came to be the head of the United Nations. Lou Reed sings about putting controversial people in ironic positions of power, when you consider that the United Nations champions equal treatment of all.

He sings about the “common ground.” This usually means finding what ideas people share to unite them. Reed seems to mean this as giving other groups their fair shake, respect and acknowledging their past sacrifices and hardships.

Examples in the bouncy rocker are double standards for Reed: that some seek common ground with other groups in society, but not Jews? It is to him a reflexive anti-Semitism that is given a free pass. Reed feels this is hypocrisy from some people, like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Champions of racial equality in America can better appreciate what Jewish people have endured.

Elton John – Just Like Belgium

This is a 1981 song from Sir Elton, from a mediocre album, The Fox. You probably haven’t heard the song or even know about this record. That’s okay.

Belgium is a small country, about 30,000 square kilometres. Yet it has a federal structure, meaning multiple levels of government.

A typical rationale for federalism is that more than one level of government in a single state works for large countries: it’s more effective to govern with a national level taking care of issues and matters that impact all citizens… and subregional (provinces, states, landers and other names) taking care of more regional matters.

But why federalism for tiny Belgium, then?

Belgium is federal for another reason: ethnic and linguistic diversity. Their setup has regional and linguistic governmental divisions as part of federalism. Belgium has a Dutch-speaking Flemish population, and a French-speaking Walloon population. Plus, German speaking folks.

Another rationale for federalism beyond territorial size is that having more than one level of government in a single country can facilitate ethnic, linguistic and other diversities to be respected, maintained and enhanced.

Elton wasn’t singing about all this, but how many would?