#199 – Leave It To Beaver Theme Song
– The television sitcom Leave It To Beaver portrayed the television image of Middle America in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Everything was perfect. The family unit included a nice house, a mom and a dad, and two kids. Dad supported the family; mom took care of the family and any problems the kids were in could be solved by the family within a half hour episode.
Were things really that simple? Maybe on television, but not in real life.
The 1960’s, as many of us remember the decade, was simmering in the background. The show was broadcast into our living rooms each week in glorious black and white beginning October 4, 1957 until signing off on June 20, 1963. Elvis was still pre-army when viewers first met the Cleaver family and when the final episode aired we were only five months away from JFK’s fateful trip to Dallas.
In May 1963 Bob Dylan released his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, with songs about civil rights and nuclear war. In August Dr. Martin Luther King declared “I have a dream” in Washington D.C. and went on to be named Time Magazine’s Man Of The Year. And The Beatles were gearing up for a televised surprise attack on our senses that came on February 9, 1964.
Along with many other factors including The Space Race, The Cold War and The Vietnam War, our generation was in for a change. A BIG change. The sitcoms – and many are considered classic and still very entertaining – were far from being reality shows for the era.
Leave It To Beaver was one of the moving picture postcards of The American Dream delivered into our living rooms every week. As referred to above, it was broadcast in black and white. But when you think about it, there really was no “black and white” on television during these years. Except for African Americans appearing as guest stars or supporting players, the first black leading character on a network series didn’t happen until 1965 when Bill Cosby starred in I Spy with Robert Culp.
As a member of the younger edge of baby boomers (I was five years younger than Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver), Leave It To Beaver was one of my weekly looks at the outside world. But it really didn’t seem that much different from where I was growing up in northern Ohio. School, friends, girls (not always the same as “friends”), dealing with teenagers and respecting adult authority were about as deep as things got. I was fortunate that my parents were always more open than some of the others. My mother was from Detroit and they both enjoyed taking me on weekend excursions to other big cities such as Cleveland, New York and Chicago.
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In all honesty, that’s where I’d see minorities. But the cities to me were exotic places with energy, excitement and adventures on every block and didn’t seem to exclude anyone because of color, sex or religion. As a young visitor in those days before the race-related riots of the 1960’s, I was never exposed to any inner city problems. Like the Cleavers and their social circle in Leave It To Beaver, it was life in a protected bubble. But these youthful real world experiences in big cities helped me form the opinion there were no reasons why we all couldn’t – or shouldn’t – live together.
So when I write about the dramatic changes that still make the 1960’s the most talked about and studied decade of the Twentieth Century, The American Dream and The American Reality on how the 60’s played out serve as bookends. Start with Leave It To Beaver and end with the film Woodstock and you’ll understand why Boomers are so passionate about this decade of change.
For the first generation to be accused of having television as an adult authority figure, sitcoms were our windows to the outside world. And just like race, sex and religion, what we learned from television went a long way in defining how we look at the world – and how the world looks at us.
One of my favorite (and funniest) personal examples happened more than twenty years after Leave It To Beaver faded off into rerun land. I was living in New York City and breaking into the comedy biz. Before ending up with my career “behind the scenes,” I did stand-up comedy. But once again in all honesty, I lacked the necessary edge that in my opinion makes seasoned NYC comedians the funniest. After one particular bleak performance on stage at a famous comedy club, a couple of my black comedian friends (while laughing) told me I was too “white bread” to be truly funny. I was too Ricky Nelson from Ozzie and Harriett, which is another television postcard of 1950’s and 60’s American Dream.
And you know what? I laughed with them because it was true. There was no way around the stereotyping. But looking back, even my friends didn’t get it right. I was more Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver in the 60’s than the cool Ricky Nelson from the 50’s.
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The Leave It To Beaver Theme Song (actual title; The Toy Parade) is a classic example of the catchy tunes that lured viewers to their television sets and can still set off nostalgic memories for the boomer generation. I’ll even go out on a limb and say most of us can hum it all the way through (there are lyrics, but never heard on the show) just like we can sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. This particular TV tune waxed nostalgic in my waking mind on May 9th. Since it doesn’t fit the classic rock requirements to be on my digital playlist, I can’t remember the last time I heard it and The Toy Parade falls onto the subliminal side of the Dream Song List.
One comic element of Leave It To Beaver that has stayed real for me through the decades is the supporting character Eddie Haskell. If I were to ever list my all-time favorite television characters, he would have to be in the Top 10. Played by Ken Osmond who later left showbiz to become a police officer, Eddie Haskell embodies the heart, soul and devious mind of every wise guy kid who ever stirred up any type of trouble and tried to schmooze his way out of it by being overly polite and agreeable toward whatever adult authority was coming down on him.
My dad, who had a wonderful sense of humor and could make me laugh until I cried, would compare my friends and me to Eddie Haskell whenever we tried to talk our way out of whatever predicament we had gotten ourselves into. And I also used it to describe my son to anyone that might remember the legendary TV name.
Since he was born in 1995, I’m sure Paul has no idea who Eddie Haskell is. But when someone from my generation gushed over how nice and polite he was while growing up, I reminded them of this iconic television character. They knew immediately what I was talking about. Kids can still be typical kids before the BIG changes of adulthood and no different than we were growing up in the 60’s. And similar to when we started asserting our independence while moving into our teenage years, there were many times at home when I felt I was talking to Eddie Haskell in all his American Dream wise guy glory.
The only glitch in the process was that I had grown out of my Eddie Haskell phase. I’ve reverted back to being The Beaver.
The theme song arrangement changed during the years, with the final season using a “swing” style. Below is the opening sequence to Leave It To Beaver from season four, which is the one that scored on this list.
If you’re a dedicated fan, you can purchase the complete Leave It To Beaver series on DVD from Amazon.com. Also separate seasons and episodes are available through the link.
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