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TV Theme Songs: A Different World

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale" of a time when television shows began with awesome TV Theme Songs. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name" and sometimes you want to go back to when TV Theme songs were special. "Here's a story... of a lovely" time when TV Theme Songs served to identify, distinguish and set the stage for the television program that followed. "You take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have" what unfortunately has become a lost artform. "Believe it or not", sadly it seems no effort or pride is taken in the TV Theme Song ever since Seinfeld proved a short synth-bass riff could be used instead. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This regular feature may not "make all our dreams come true", but it will remember some of the best TV Theme Songs from years past (with a focus on the '80s decade). "Come aboard, we're expecting you."

This time we will cover the theme song for A Different World. "I know my parents love me, stand behind me come what may." A Different World was at first a spin-off of The Cosby Show that debuted in September of 1987 and ran six seasons and 144 episodes. The show originally centered on "Denise Huxtable" played by Lisa Bonet and the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college in Virginia. Her roommate that first season was played by Marisa Tomei. After Bonet's departure in the first season (as well as Tomei's), the series shifted focus more to Southern belle Whitley Gilbert-Wayne played by Jasmine Guy and math whiz Dwayne Wayne played Kadeem Hardison along with a stellar ensemble cast.

Part of that cast was Dawnn Lewis, who played Denise's roommate "Jaleesa Vinson" that first season and remained on the show as a central character for the entire run. Lewis actually co-wrote the A Different World theme song along with Bill Cosby and composer Stu Gardner. Cosby and Gardner had co-wrote the instrumental theme song for the hugely popular The Cosby Show. Inspired by A Different World's original title "Stepping Up to Step Out," the lyrics reflect the transition of leaving the comfort of childhood and stepping into the different world of young adulthood. Lewis was originally supposed to sing the song herself, too, but producers did not want to put too much emphasis on Lewis' character when Lisa Bonet was supposed to be the star. So they began considering other singers including Al Green, but after deciding they wanted a female voice they opted for Phoebe Snow to sing a bluesy rendition.

Along with the other changes for Season 2, Debbie Allen came onboard as executive producer and contacted her friend Aretha Franklin to record a new version of the theme song. This is the more widely recognized version of the opening theme and just seems like a perfect fit with her iconic voice. Whenever you can get a legendary superstar to sing a television theme song, you are likely to get something special. That is certainly the case in this instance. Here are the opening credits for A Different World featuring the theme song performed by Aretha Franklin...

That version sung by Franklin was used for seasons 2-5, but for some reason they decided to change it up for season 6 which would also end up being the show's final season. For this season, the show's theme song was performed by Boyz II Men along with Terrence Forsythe. Here are the opening credits for season 6 of A Different World featuring the theme song performed by Boyz II Men and Terrence Forsythe...

I have always been a huge fan of Boyz II Men and they did a fine job with their rendition, but it's the Aretha Franklin version that will always stand out for me. "It's a different world than where you come from."

Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!

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