Live From Cabrini-Green – The Music of Good Times by Ron Worthy
Live From Cabrini Green
Introduction by Ron Worthy
Anyone who grew up in the 70’s (like me) or even watch re-runs of Good Times knows that the show made an indelible mark on our perception of the Black Family. Originally introduced as a loose spinoff of popular show, Maude, Good Times introduced the World to a long list of actors who would go on to become household names. Being lead (at least initially) by the bigger than life John Amos as “James Evans” and Esther Rolle as “Florida Evans”, the show also contributed some of the best art (big thanks to Ernie Barnes) and music as a backdrop to the comedy and drama that attracted millions of viewers for years. What young boy wasn’t mesmerized by Thelma’s (BernNadette Stanis) or Wilona’s (Ja’net DuBois) curves or Penny’s (Janet Jackson) adorable smile? And Michael (Ralph Carter), with his pro-Blackness, and J.J. (Jimmie Walker) and his goofiness had us rolling each week. And although the cast went through some significant changes over its five year tenure, the soul of the show remained.
We are eternally grateful to this show, its producers and its cast for the impact they made on me as a young man and even now. Enjoy this look back at the music of Good Times and appreciate the assistance of DJ Soul Sister from New Orleans, Louisiana:
Good Times Theme Song
According to Wikipedia.com, the gospel-inspired theme song was composed by Dave Grusin and was sung by Motown artists James Gilstrap and Blinky Williams. Quincy Jones sang the original demo for the song.
Any time you need a payment!
Any time you need a friend!
Any time you’re out from under!
Not gettin’ hassled, not getting hustled!
Keeping your head above water!
Making a way when you can!
Easy Credit rip-offs!
Scratchin’ and Survivin’
Hangin’ in a chow line!
Ain’t we lucky we got ’em?
And while these next two cuts were not featured on the show, they are two solid tracks by the singers of the theme song. Respect due.
James Gilstrap – Move Me
Blinky Williams “I Wouldn’t Change The Man He Is” written by Ashford & Simpson
Season 2 – Episode #34 My Girl Henrietta
Thelma takes Henrietta to her room for some girl talk. Henrietta grooves her pregnant body to the sounds of Pick Up the Pieces, by Average White Band.
Season 3 – Episode #51 Cleatus
The music the family is listening to as their brand new record player blows a fuse, causing their lights to go out, eventually helping them to nab Cleatus, is Once You Get Started, by Rufus and Chaka Khan.
Season 3 – Episode #61 The Rent Party
The Evans’ neighbor, Wanda, is in danger of being evicted for failure to pay back rent. The Evans family holds a party and charges admission. Michael sings When You’re Young And in Love by Ralph Carter. In addition, Wilona, Thelma and Florida teamed up to perform their rendition of The Supremes’ classic Where Did Our Love Go. This would also be the last appearance of James Evans, John Amos’ character.
Season 4 – Episode #70 Florida’s Night Out
Wilona takes Florida on a much needed night out on the town. They go to a club where they spot Bookman, and Florida dances the night away with a bald gentleman to the sounds of Hey Girl, Come and Get It by Van McCoy.
Season 3 – Episode #53 A Place to Die” episode. McCoy’s popular hit The Hustle was also sang and danced by the cast as they celebrated New Year’s Eve with a dying elderly man on the coach.
Season 4 – Episode #62 The Big Move (Part 1)
The background music playing at the New Year’s Eve party as the family reads the telegram informing them of James’ death is Movin by Brass Construction. DAMN DAMN DAMN!
Season 4 – Episode #67 J.J’s New Career
In this episode JJ is unknowingly working for drug dealers. JJ, his two “employers,” and some female friends are chilling in their posh apartment to the sounds of Get the Funk Out My Face by The Brothers Johnson, though we only hear the very end of the song.
Season 5 – Episode #91 Thelma Moves Out
Thelma’s food-loving football player roomate, The Bear, dances around the apartment listening to Won’t You Come Dance With Me by The Commodores on his transistor radio.
Season 5 – Episode #109 That’s Entertainment, Evans Style
During the talent show, there was a ton of music with one of the highlights being when Thelma performs some modern dance moves to Native New Yorker by Odyssey. In addition to several Jazz standards sung by Johnny Brown (custodian “Bookman”), Janet Jackson also performs as “Penny” with the “Michael” character.
Season 6 – Episode #112 Florida’s Homecoming (Part 3)
The wedding song Michael sings is Stevie Wonder’s You and I, re-made later in 1979 by O’Brien. Who can forget this tear jerker?
Season 6 – Episode #123 The Snowstorm
Florida and the school bus kids all dance and sing Jimmy Bo Horne‘s song called Dance Across the Floor in order to keep warm.
Season 6 – Episode #129 A Matter of Mothers
The music playing at the wild party that was planned by Penny’s biological mother in order to set Willona up was Shake Your Body Down to the Ground by The Jacksons.
Other Good Times Odds and Ends:
Ja’net DuBois wrote and sang the theme song for The Jeffersons, Movin’ On Up. She was also a cast member of the Moesha, which at one point, also featured singer Morris Day of The Time.
The artist who did J.J.’s paintings (Ernie Barnes) also did the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album I Want You.
If we missed anything, please let us know below in the comments!
Check out all of these great songs in our Spotify playlist:
Buy The Good Times Complete TV Series DVD Set:
Ron Worthy is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of soulhead.com. A passionate audiophile who has been a DJ for over 25 years, Ron studied classical music and plays 4 instruments. He loves discussing all things Prince, Hip-Hop, and Funk. When he is able, he shoots a mean game of pool, digs comedy, loves eating fried fish sandwiches, making crab cakes and drinking micro-brews from all over the World. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and cat. Check out some of his work for soulhead.