Cartoon Tunes

Hard rock sounds of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors emerged as musical touchstones in the late 1960s.  A decade later, disco ruled, largely because of the phenomenon of the movie Saturday Night Fever and its soundtrack anchored by the Bee Gees.  In between, bubble gum music thrived in the early to mid-1970s, particularly on Saturday morning cartoons.

Whether used as literary devices to complement the story line or merchandising tools to promote record sales, songs added a dimension the cartoons, providing another example of the inevitable connection between music and television.

Kid Power may be described as Peanuts meeting the Rainbow Coalition.  The era’s messages of peace, friendship, love, and harmony filled the series.  Based on Morrie Turner’s Wee Pals comic strip, Kid Power revolved around a melting pot of kids in a group called Rainbow Club.  Different races, nationalities, and backgrounds did not stop the kids from joining forces to accomplish their goals.  Music giant Mike Curb had the title of Music Consultant.  Each episode had a song that illustrated the story’s lesson.  Kid Power aired on ABC during the 1972-73 television season with 17 episodes; ABC broadcast reruns during the following season.

The Partridge Family went off prime time in 1974 after four seasons.  The show revolved around the travails of an All-American family that happened to be a famous singing group.  In the fall of 1974, Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. showed a futuristic view of America’s favorite singing family.  Except for Shirley Jones and David Cassidy, the cast voiced their cartoon counterparts.

The Brady Kids capitalized on the popularity of The Brady Bunch, a prime time series that ran on ABC from 1969 to 1974.  Music was a natural fit for the cartoon because the six child actors on The Brady Bunch toured in concert, released albums, and performed on the prime time show.  Unlike Partridge Family, 2200 A.D., however, the broadcast history for The Brady Kids coincided with its prime time source.  The Brady Kids totaled 22 episodes; it ran during the 1972-73 television season.

The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show depicted Bedrock’s favorite boy and girl as teenagers.  Sally Struthers, famous in the 1970s because of her role of Gloria Bunker Stivic on All in the Family, voiced Pebbles.  Jay North voiced Bamm-Bamm; the actor was a former child actor, known for his title role in the sitcom Dennis the Menace.  Moonrock, Penny, and Wiggy joined their friends Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm to form a rock and roll group during the Stone Age.  Plots in The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show focused on outrageous ideas conceived by Pebbles, who rivaled Lucy Ricardo for creative though unlikely visions; Pebbles and Lucy share enthusiasm, optimism, and inspiration.  Their respective plans, though, often went awry, aside, and down the tubes.

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids showed stories that were universal to growing up.  Bill Cosby used his childhood for comedy fodder in his stand-up comedy routines.  It also provided the groundwork for this animated version of Fat Albert, Weird Harold, and the rest of the gang familiar to audiences from Cosby’s story telling; Cosby and his brother, Russell, appeared in cartoon form.  Each episode contained a lesson with Bill Cosby addressing the viewers throughout the show; the kids sang a song corresponding with the lesson.

Rankin-Bass produced The Osmonds and The Jackson 5ive during the heyday of two family singing groups at the pinnacle of success; the Jackson Fiveenjoyed tremendous popularity with four Number 1 hits in 1970:  I Want You Back, The Love You Save, ABC, and I’ll Be There.  The Osmond brothers got their big break on The Andy Williams Show.  Big smiles, harmonious sounds, and innocence provided their appeal.

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan featured a cartoon version of famous detective Charlie Chan with his ten children, whom he led in solving crimes.  The older Chans formed a rock and roll band called, appropriately, The Chan Clan.

Archie and the gang from Riverdale anchored several cartoon shows with music as a cornerstone; examples include The Archie Show, The U.S. of Archie, and Archie’s Funhouse.  Additionally, Josie and Pussycats, an Archie property, debuted in the 1971-72 television season. It returned for its second season with a new title and a new setting: Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

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