Zack Of All Trades (how Luther Vandross taught 80s kids about careers)


From about 1974 all the way up through the early 1990’s, back when they still showed cartoons on Saturday mornings, the ABC television network ran a series of animated public service announcements in between commercial breaks that mainly told viewers about health and nutrition. Collectively known as The ABC Bod Squadthese short cartoons are familiar to a lot of us today: Yuck Mouth, The Munchies, Beans and Rice, Exercise Your Choppers and Don’t Drown Your Food to name a few. Among these PSA’s were also the Schoolhouse Rock shorts and that annoying-voiced yellow dude with the long legs, top hat and bowtie Time for Timer.

I used to hear these PSA’s and think “OK, I guess I’ll try that out sometime.” – I mean I already had decent eating habits thanks to mom and the New York City public schools system (shout-out to the lunch lady). However, it wasn’t until I heard this particular PSA one Saturday morning that sh*t got real for young Classick:

Don’t pout, check it out! Zack’s gonna show you what work’s about…

ZackofallTradeslogo

Zack proceeded to sing a tune to a generic Jack and Jill about getting a job, making choices and careers.

Waitaminute? Work? Who the hell is Zack? Why does he sound like the guy who sings “Give Me The Reason“? And why is he making something that seems as boring to a 12-year-old as planning out your future career aspirations look so… fun?

Dear Luther, Thank you! Signed, Classick
Dear Luther, Thank you! Signed, Classick

The late, great R&B and pop legend Luther Vandross was the voice behind Zack Of All Trades, a cartoon crooner who looked a lot like Elvin from The Cosby Show with a bigger afro and wore your typical cartoon mascot sweater with a big “Z” on it.

zack_ofall_trades2 Elvin

Recorded in 1986, Vandross provided only three spots as Zack, all of them catchy, memorable and lasting to this day.

What you like to do today can help you find a job that pays. Plan it!

The messages in these ads were simple yet powerful– if you want to live a good life and feel fulfilled, find a career doing something you love and spend time planning your goals and then spend the energy to achieve them. Yes, corny as hell, but I look back on the paths taken by myself and others in my generation and I know for me there are things I could have done better, however I am happy and better from having heard this message in between cartoons.. from the “idiot box” of all places!

GetaJob

Not everyone has a job these days and in tough times like these it’s hard for many to say that they’re doing what they love, but the simple motivation of Zack doesn’t discriminate, isn’t sullied by any hidden agendas, and in some cases gets right to the point.

No need to panic, no need to get scared. You can make the future by being prepared!

For anyone reading this who is working doing what they love today, you can thank Zack! For anyone reading this who is looking to find work or a career they enjoy doing, hang in there and keep your head up. Zack’s got your back!

Just make sure Mrs. Huxtable doesn’t get wind of his antiquated views on women…!

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