Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
Solange Knowles - When I Get Home… Or To The NYC Ballet
Singer-songwriter and Grammy Award Winner Solange Knowles has built a blockbuster career in the R&B space by pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box. And not only that, she’s Queen Bey’s younger sister.
She’s continuing on her path as a trailblazer by becoming the first Black woman to compose a score for the New York City Ballet.
The Cranes In The Sky singer took to social media to share the news:
\u201c\ud83d\udda4very excited to announce i\u2019ve composed an original score for the New York City Ballet \ud83d\udda4 choreography by Gianna Reisen , score performed by the City Ballet Orchestra + soloist from my ensemble \ud83d\udda4 \n\nShows : October 1, 8, 11, 16 \nMay 2, 11, 13, 17, 18th at Lincoln Center\u201d— solange knowles (@solange knowles) 1660663407
Solange is no stranger to success or innovation, evident by her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, which garnered universal praise. Four tracks landed on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart. That same year her single Cranes in the Sky won a Grammy for best R&B performance.
Just imagine what this will mean for the millions of little Black girls and boys with dreams of dancing who will see what’s sure to be a spellbinding ballet.
Solange’s piece will be choreographed by Gianna Reisen, and will premiere on September 28th, at Lincoln Center as part of NYCB’s Fall Fashion Gala. Knowles went on to announce that the yet-to-betitled production will be fully staged on Oct. 1st, 8th, 11th, and 16th, as well as May 2nd, 11th, 13th, 17th, and 18th in 2023 at NYC’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
I know I’ll be on the lookout for whatever Black girl magic Solange has up her sleeves. No matter what the title will be, this set is sure to be one for the history books!