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.”
The universal struggle to build trusting relationships is best reflected in music.
Here are 10 of the most memorable songs about trust (or a lack thereof).
1. "Trust in Me" by Etta James
Etta James' 1937 classic "Trust in Me" is about more than just having faith in your partner, it's a plea for trust. James captures the strife of a relationship in which one partner seems to be more invested and trustful.
2. "The Times They Are A Changin'" by Bob Dylan
Between the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, the '60s were clearly a time of social unrest and mistrust. Bob Dylan's song is a call for change and an affirmation that change is possible.
3. "A Matter of Trust" by Billy Joel
Once you get past the butterflies, there's the challenge of keeping the relationship alive. Billy Joel sings about what it takes to make a relationship last: Trust in each other.
4. "That’s What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warwick
"That's What Friends Are For" was out three years before Dionne Warwick recorded this version featuring Gladys Knight, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. Their version became a hit: a worthy success for four friends singing about dependable companionship.
5. "Let Me Leave" by Marc Broussard
Sometimes trusting someone is a bad idea, especially when they haven't given you a good reason. If you're fortunate enough to get a heads up like Marc Broussard's "Let Me Leave," then you'd better take it.
6. "Lean On" by Major Lazer & DJ Snake Ft. MO
Named the 2015 song of the year, with more than 540 million streaming listens, "Lean On" is a mashup of EDM and indie vocals from music collective Major Lazer, DJ Snake and Swedish singer MO. Arguably the song of the summer, "Lean On" makes the point that all we need is someone to lean on.
7. "Fortress" by Coleman Hell
Toronto-based artist Coleman Hell recently split from his duo for a solo music career. "Fortress" features the same folktronica and EDM elements as the rest of his EP. With its catchy, upbeat sound, it's easy to forget the song is about how hard it is to get someone to trust you enough to let you in.
8. "Take Care" by Drake ft. Rihanna
Whenever trust is broken, there's always someone else to pick up the pieces. Drake's 2012 hit "Take Care" explores the aftermath of trying to take care of someone whose heart has been broken. The song approaches trust from all angles: giving it, gaining it and losing it.
9. "Trust Nobody" by D4
Backstabbing, faking, lying—there's a point where the only person you can trust is yourself. D4, the New Zealand rock band from the late '90s, figures that getting what you need might be a one-man effort.
10. "Trust" by Justin Bieber
Talk about a redemption tour. Justin Bieber's entire album Purpose is centered around the pop star's journey to redemption and regaining the trust he lost. "Trust" is about a couple renewing lost trust, but it really could be about any relationship.