by James Hill
March 15, 2017
This is “The Breakdown” where we look at some of the biggest moments in our lives (and by “our lives,” we mean stuff that was happening on TV) and get at the heart of what makes these scenes and characters so unforgettable with five thoughts.
Today, we’re paying respects to Joni Sledge (who we lost last weekend) with a look at the time Sister Sledge performed on “The Jeffersons.” Take a look and meet us after the video.
1. This episode is fascinating because it gives you a glimpse into how people in 1984 saw race and rap music. What does it say that George Jefferson, the angriest Black man on TV at the time, was embarrassed by rap — not embracing it as a legit cultural expression of inner-city angst?
2. In 1984, there was no better visual shorthand for white racism than a country western bar. From “Breakin'” to “48 Hours,” these bars were seen as the ultimate showdown between cultures where men in cowboy hats sneered and threatened violence toward any Black person dumb enough to enter.
3. We can’t go much further without recognizing that even when out of their element — rapping instead of singing — Sister Sledge was AWESOME! With their color-coordinated dresses and big 80’s curls, seeing them made us miss the 80s like nobody’s business!
4. For all the youngins watching this clip, the song they are rapping is an ACTUAL SONG by Run-D.M.C. It was called “It’s Like That” and was released just a few months before this episode aired. So props to “The Jeffersons” staff for being so hip to the hop (see what we did there?).
5. Considering this was pre-The Roots, we want to big up the anonymous house band for making organic hip-hop music on stage with live instruments.
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