Sherwood, Betty and Rob

Amish Paradise, a parody of Coolio’s Gangsta Paradise, which in turn was a remake of Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise.

The great thing about Sherwood Schwartz, who died earlier this month, is not just that he created two popular TV shows. He also wrote or co-wrote their iconic themes.

I never, not once, did I see The Brady Bunch, during its initial run. But I knew exactly what it was about, just by watching the theme. It was the story about two widowed people, each with three kids, each the same gender as the parent, who, along with the housekeeper, became a blended family.

The theme to Gilligan’s Island, a show I admit to watching in my callow youth, also let us know the entire plot, though it changed somewhat from the first season to subsequent ones.

The show was name-checked several times by Weird Al Yankovic and others. From Al’s Couch Potato, “…And there’s “Gilligan” and “SpongeBob”, plus there’s “MacGyver”…” Stop Draggin’ My Car Around, a takeoff of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, also namechecks the show.

But Isle Thing, a parody of Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, is all about “watchin’ that Gilligan’s Isle thing”. And Amish Paradise, a parody of Coolio’s Gangsta Paradise, which in turn was a remake of Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise, appropriates a whole section of the closing theme:
No phone, no lights, no motor cars,
not a single luxury.
Like Robinson Crusoe,
it’s primitive as can be.

In live shows and on radio shows, Weird Al has been known to do other Gilligan takeoffs.

Others have taken different music and attached it to the theme, none more notably than Little Roger and the Goosebumps merging the lyrics to the music of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin to create Stairway to Gilligan’s Island.

I always thought that Betty Ford, the former dancer Betty Bloomer, was cool. She dealt with her private difficulties, from her breast cancer surgery to her pain medication addiction, in a very public way, helping countless people, women, and men. Not to mention her forthright comments about equal rights, sexuality, and abortion, not always in lockstep with her husband, even when he was President.

The long-time lead singer for The Grass Roots named Rob Grill died this month. Reportedly he was listening to a recording of Let’s Live for Today when he passed away.

Ken Levine on Amy Winehouse.


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