If you are of a certain age, then George Jefferson was often a visitor in your home. Not physically, but on your TV when the character beautifully played by Sherman Hemsley in the Norman Lear comic series All in the Family and the spin-off The Jeffersons aired. Sadly, at the age of 74, Sherman Hemsley has “moved on up;” it has been confirmed that he died at his home in El Paso, Texas.
The show The Jeffersons was groundbreaking for its time…
as it was the first time an affluent African American couple was featured on a prime time show. The show was a smash success, airing from 1975 to 1985. At the time it was the longest running comedy series on TV. One of the main reasons for the show’s success? Sherman Hemsley. His comic timing, perfect delivery, and great chemistry with his co-star Isabel Sanford (who played Louise aka Weezie) all contributed to viewers’ love of the show. Entertainment Weekly said, “George’s pride, his radar for any trace of racial exploitation, his ease at dismissing someone who’d offended or condescended to him as ‘honky’ — these were all elements that could easily have put off mass America. Instead, because of Hemsley’s skill, charm, and energy, they became the elements that endeared the character to the country.”
Hemsley began his career on the stage and was starring in Purlie on Broadway when he got the call from Norman Lear to take on the role of Jefferson in All in the Family.
An interesting side note about Sherman Hemsley? He loved music, especially prog rock like Yes, Gentle Giant and Nektar. He even collaborated with Yes’s Jon Anderson when they attempted to create a funk-rock opera about the “spiritual qualities of the number 7″ but it never happened.
May he rest in peace and let’s hope he indeed “moves on up.”
Image via Magnet Magazine (and they have a crazy story about Hemsley that runs along with the photo!)