Ernie Barnes: Ain’t We Lucky We Had Him

Apr 28, 2009  •  Post A Comment

I had never heard of Ernie Barnes until today. A former football star turned artist, Barnes died Monday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to wire service reports.
Ernie Barnes' Painting 'Sugar Shack'
While Barnes was unfamiliar to me, one of his creations is instantly recognizable to fans of classic TV. It turns out Barnes painted “Sugar Shack,” a scene of African-American dancing and liberation that appeared in the closing credits for Norman Lear’s series “Good Times.”
Today, most opening credits sequences have been shrunk to a few seconds, and they usually consist of video montages. And closing credits sequences? They’re largely extinct, replaced by network promotions.
The Lear era of sitcoms, however, was marked by truly memorable themes and credit sequences, “Good Times” being one of his best.
You can see the “Sugar Shack” scene here.
I can’t find the “Good Times” credits with Barnes’ painting online. But here’s one version notable for something else: Note who plays “The Young Man.”


  1. Question on Ernie Barnes:
    Besides the great painting shown here, did he supply the other paintings that were supposed to have been painted by JJ on the show?

  2. Yes, Ernie supplied all of JJ’s paintings on “Good Times”. He was also the official Olympic Painter…for the LA Olympics in ’84. I have collected several pieces of his works, unfortunately I never purchased an original, but all my posters are signed, including Sugar Shack. I finally did get to meet Ernie in NYC when he had a showing on 57thSt in Nov. 1990. He was discoverd by Sunny Werblin when he owned the NY Jets. He grew up in Durham, NC. Yes…he will be missed.

  3. I had no idea that he had passed. I hadn’t read it anywhere. Thanks for the news.
    The “Norman Lear” era of sitcoms was the pinnacle of the genre in its ability to bring difficult and controversial topics to national attention without compromising the humor. It wasn’t about gags, it was about character — which is how the humor was still able to be maintained. In recent years, we saw traces of this in “Roseanne” and the criminally underrated “Titus”.
    Thanks be to God for DVDs and syndication because we will never see such a height again. It was special people who came together at a special time. Ernie Barnes was part of that.
    This iconic painting best encapsulated what “Good Times” was about — even as the series sadly became more and more about JJ).

  4. I haven’t seen it mentioned but “The Sugar Shack” was also used for the cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album “I Want You”.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It’s nice to know people care. 🙂

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