It may take different strokes to move the world, but it took one Canadian entertainer to turn the theme for an ‘80s sitcom into a song that sticks with us. Alan Thicke, the actor, comedian, talk show host, author and Canadian Walk of Famer, is also a successful songwriter for television, and a SOCAN member. The Diff’rent Strokes theme is one of his most enduring compositions.

How did you start in the world of composing for TV?  That’s not what you went to L.A. to do, right?
No, I was a lousy bar band guitar player and singer in Toronto, and was always interested in music. When I got my first producing assignment in the U.S., after a couple of years of writing variety shows down there, it was for a game show. They knew a little bit about my musical background and they assigned me to come up with a theme song. They wanted something different so I suggested maybe rock ‘n’ roll, something contemporary. And to take it beyond that, we said why not write a lyric for it? So I did. I wrote and recorded and sang the theme song to The Wizard of Odds. By today’s standards it would be pretty lame, but back then it was progressive for a daytime game show.

“The fact that every quarter for 35 years I get SOCAN statements outlining where this has been used and played is very flattering.”

The theme for Diff’rent Strokes is credited to yourself, your then-wife Gloria Loring and executive Al Burton. How did you work together?
Al would quite frankly admit that his role in the creation of the song was to assign it to me. [laughs] Gloria was very busy as a performer and touring a lot. When I told her I had this assignment she and her guitar player pitched a few ideas, and I think there was a line we used. I don’t want to discredit her in any way, we shared a lot of things. But I think she would agree that I wrote the song. All the lyrics are mine and most of the music. Then I went into the studio with David Foster – who played keyboards on a lot of my sessions back then – and produced it, with David and the boys. Brenda Russell is also on there singing backing vocals. It was a fine beginning to a relationship with Norman Lear Productions that lead to Facts of Life and about 45 themes over the years.

This was a golden age for writing theme songs with lyrics. Why do you think that’s fallen out of fashion?
Networks don’t want to wait 30 seconds to start the next show to hook you. It’s a practical matter.

What kind of stories have you heard over the years about this song, about what it meant to the viewers?
As I understand it, college kids get together to play beer pong and bet each other who can remember the most of their parents’ [era] show lyrics. [laughs] The fact that every quarter for 35 years I get SOCAN statements outlining where this has been used and played is very flattering. Between Diff’rent Strokes and Facts of Life, the lyrics have popped up in shows from Dave Chapelle to SNL to Two Broke Girls. When I hear the lines used in a sketch, I turn to my 16-year-old, elbow him, “Hey, that’s my song!”

You’ve talked about the scene in L.A. in the ‘70s of Canadians helping each other, and about how you later helped the next generation of Canadians there. What’s your advice for young film and TV composers?
Well, I would say don’t aim to make music for television, just make music. Television will find you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Formed nearly 30 years ago, the Scottish Cultural Centre, in Vancouver, is home to the United Scottish Cultural Society and convention centre. With dozens of events held annually, it’s no wonder they attribute their success mostly to word-of-mouth referrals.

Their success can also be credited to the medley of music that’s performed and heard at the many, varied events held in the Centre; from weddings and family gatherings to concerts and other special affairs. The Caledonian Room, the largest at the Centre, houses a full stage with an unhampered surround-sound system, where background music has put an extra step in the Gaelic and Highland dance performances. The Centre also strongly recognizes Vancouver’s music community by hiring local talent for their many live performances. “By drawing on local talent, we’re fostering the development of further talent,” says General Manager Darryl Carracher.

The Centre is one of 30,000 brick-and-mortar licensees to proudly display SOCAN’s badge of honour. “The Licensed to Play sticker states loud and clear that the Scottish Cultural Centre is in full compliance with the mandate to support Canadian musicians and music creators, and does what everyone knows is right,” says Carracher.

“We encourage our partners in business, SOCAN’s music licensees, to proudly display the Licensed to Play sticker; to tell the rest of Canada that music is making a difference in your business,” says Jennifer Brown, Vice President of Licensing at SOCAN.

SOCAN licenses more than 125,000 businesses in Canada – businesses that recognize the contribution music is making to their overall success.

“Music is essential,” says Carracher. “Whether it’s played in the background during a relaxing fundraising dinner or a wedding reception, or it’s the main attraction of an exhilarating, high-energy rock concert, music contributes in a substantive and undeniably meaningful way – even on a subconscious level – to the tone of nearly every event at the Scottish Cultural Centre.”

To learn more and become Licensed to Play, click here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Unbound by the rules of traditional hip-hop music, Dead Obies came to life in 2011 with the self-appointed mission of adding a “post-rap” feel to their own punk/electro/soul musical mixture. The band’s first year of collective learning and experimentation produced Collation Vol. 1, a pleasantly chaotic basement recording. “One of the hard drives blew up, and we lost all our works-in-progress,” Yes Mccan, one of the band’s five MCs, recalls. “The MP3s of some of our previous sessions were all we had left. So we decided to get them out there and see what people thought. We got good reviews and sold some albums without any marketing. We just posted that material on Facebook and Bandcamp, and people started sharing. We hadn’t given any serious thought to our songwriting up to that point, but we now got thinking about what we had to say, and started planning a conceptual album that would show people where we were coming from.”

The clan (also including RCA, Snail Kid, 20some, O.G. BEAR and VNCE) met at a cottage and conceptualized what was to become Montréal $ud, the sextet’s November 2013 official debut album. This ambitious, daring and stylistically on-trend opus strings together a slew of inventive and solid beats, and contains no less than 17 tracks depicting life in Montreal’s South Shore neighbourhood with as much authenticity as intelligence.

“We were after a cinema/movie feel to engage psychologically with the listener,” says Mccan. I see it sort of like a novel. We were actually thinking of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The more you dig into the Montreal South Shore, the deeper you bury yourself… Our original idea was even more narrative in style. We had been planning on doing something similar to what Kendrick Lamar had done on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City; that is, travel to a place where the geography and the environment are at the heart of the story and play on its main character. We revised our itinerary to loosen things up a little. We wanted a self-standing work as opposed to what was being done in the rap world at the time. And when the album came out, it was exactly in sync with what was being done in that style.”

“We wanted to create an album that people could listen to on their way to work, that would help them get through the day.”

While the 24-year-old MC agrees that the sextet’s outlook involves no preferred themes, the songs of their debut album clearly share a particular vibe. “It’s an empowering album,” Mccan suggests. “It happens all the time in the rap music world. We wanted to create an album that people could listen to on their way to work, something that would help them get through the day. That’s what was behind this album.”

Dead Obies members, whose ages range from 22 to 26, are all informed and committed lovers of music in the broadest sense of the word. This shows in the way they seamlessly move from French to English to Franglais to Creole (“just a modern Quebec reality,” Mccan points out) on Montréal $ud, and in their democratic approach to the writing of catchy songs. “VNCE looks after the music side. He’ll sometimes come in with a fully composed or nearly completed tune for the band to work on. On other occasions, we’ll start from scratch, but music always comes first, and the lyrics only come in to support the story that’s already inside the music. Putting words on the musical feel of a piece is our biggest challenge. We get together and talk it over. Someone writes a verse down, and we all listen to it. Other band members follow suit, and we’ll try to zero in on a central theme. Everyone shares his own snippets and we all try to build something on that idea.”

Still moonlighters, all Dead-O band members dream of being in a position to quit their day jobs at some point. “We’re probably not going to be able to raise our families from record sales,” Mccan explains, “but I think there’s a way of getting into the loop. We’re looking for ways to make this work. We’d like to build our own studio and provide professional services, which would be a good way of making our revenues more regular. You know, I never identified with the pop music that’s being played on radio, but at the same time, I feel that if those nondescript artists can make a living and fill a need, maybe I too deserve to earn my living in this business!”

Besides planning their dream home studio, the Dead Obies crew is now working with a production company on a show that can be staged as part of large-scale events, starting with the Montréal en lumières Festival. “We’ve always tried to put up the best possible show on a shoestring, but now we can afford to do things in a bigger way. Montréal $ud was recorded the same way Collation Vol. 1 was – we did the voice tracks in a closet and the beats in a basement. We want to take things further and take our music on the road. Nothing’s been confirmed yet, but we’re planning a European tour. We’re going to keep busy, that’s for sure. VNCE already has 20 beats ready. We’re producing a lot of stuff, and it gets our record company worried sometimes! We want to improve our craft so we can offer an even finer product.” Things are definitely looking up for the Dead Obies.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *