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  • Writer's pictureThe Gimp

7 Cultural Icons Who Shaped My Childhood

I grew up in the 80s and 90s, but a few of my heroes were in their heyday decades before.

  1. George Carlin. The man who taught me to question everything. And if I didn't like it, I knew where I could stick it. Unless, of course, I was a new guy and had no idea where to stick it.

2. Ed The Sock. The Sock Puppet whose phallic appearance I first saw on Muchmusic back when they still had a music video countdown. He was the host of Fromage, an annual roast of the cheesiest music videos of the year, which aired typically on New Years Eve.

3. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was assassinated soon after this video was filmed, but he left a lasting legacy that is so great, both sides of the political spectrum today want to claim it for their own, even though one of those sides fought him tooth and nail when he was alive. He wasn't a perfect man, but he's living proof that you can be fallible and human and still stand for the right things.

4. Don "Grapes" Cherry. Former minor league hockey player turned NHL coach turned sports commentator, TV Personality and national treasure. I disagreed with him more often than not politically as I got older and some of his Archie Bucker-ish ramblings were definitely out of a much simpler and less informed time, but there was something about his honesty, sincerity, passion and abrasiveness that I always admired, especially as a kid.

5. Norman Lear, creator of All In the Family and The Jeffersons. I didn't know his name until about 15 years ago, but I knew his 2 flagship TV shows well. The man who brought people together through laughter by confronting serious issues head on. Some of the jokes might seem shocking to the 2022 mindset, but context is everything.

6. Mel Brooks. The creator of Blazing Saddles, The Producers (1968 and 2005 versions), Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, like Norman Lear, created timeless classics by satirizing people's prejudices. Films and TV shows today are truly lacking in cultural significance.

7. Elvis Presley. He died 4 solid years before I was born, but his life taught me that there can be misconceptions about everyone and that if white guys are into music originally created by black people, that's not necessarily cultural appropriation, but cultural appreciation. The guy grew up in some of the poorest (mostly black) neighbourhoods in Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. The stories told by his black back up singers, The Sweet Inspirations, including Whitney Houston's own mother, speak volumes about where he stood on racial issues. Against his own manager's wishes, he fought to close his 1968 Comeback Special with If I Can Dream, a tribute to his heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Senator Bobby Kennedy, both assassinated within months of each other. Elvis was broken when he found out the news.

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