The sad passing of Meadowlark Lemon prompts this post, of course.
Meadowlark has easily got to be my first black hero, as I’m sure he was for millions of others of kids, and it was largely by virtue of the Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning cartoon show based on the legendary comedy basketball team The Harlem Globetrotters, of whom he was the star at the time. The show ran two years, from September 1970 through September 1972. It followed the trend of making Saturday morning cartoons out of EVERYBODY (The Three Stooges and the Beatles are other examples) and ran at the same time as some of my other favorite cartoons, such as Scooby Doo and Josie and the Pussycats, and other favorite live actions shows such as Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, Hot Dog, H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville. Those were heady times. We also loved to watch the ACTUAL Harlem Globetrotters on TV, accompanied of course by their theme song, a whistled version of my grandmother’s favorite song “Sweet Georgia Brown”.
The stars of the cartoon were Meadowlark and Curly Neal, their bus driver Granny and their dog Dribbles. Little did I know at the time that Meadowlark was voiced not by the actual Meadowlark, but legendary character actor Scatman Crothers. Another famous voice on the show was none other than the great Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, who played Bobby Joe Mason. At any rate, the show was groundbreaking for having an all-black cast, even if they were cartoons. And it was definitely my first introduction to the neighborhood Harlem, strange as that may be. (In time I learned that that historic neighborhood has much more going for it than comedy basketball).
I also had a coloring book based on this show — I must have liked it a lot. And I distinctly remember trying to do all the tricks the guys did on the show, such as this one:
To this day, I’m bored by any and all sports that don’t put comedy front and center, which is, like, all of them.
Rest in Peace, Meadowlark. That sure is a good name for an angel.