I love this song for one reason and one reason alone: Bill Cosby. In 1985, when I wasn’t much older than scene-stealer Rudy Huxtable, this song was featured heavily in the season 2 Cosby Show episode “Happy Anniversary”.
In the episode, the Cosby kids perform the song for their grandparents on their 49th anniversary. The lip-synching Theo plays Ray Charles while the young Rudy takes on Margie Hendricks. On a show that always celebrated music, black culture and black history, this is one of those moments that has always stood out to me.
The Cosby Show remains one of the hallmarks of my youth. Some might think it sad that a television show had such impact, but I’m not going to let those people drag me down. The show’s cultural import is unquestionable; Bill Cosby quietly and confidently created a show that was so often colorblind, yet continually brought to its viewers—particularly this white one—a glimpse of a life they wouldn’t otherwise know.
Even more important than that, the show was funny. Hilarious, even. It remains not just my all-time favorite family comedy, but one of my favorite television shows ever. I sometimes feel lucky to have grown up in the ’80s to witness it in person. One of the greatest things about the show coming from the ’80s is that this was a show we all watched. If you were alive, and had the TV on, you saw the Cosby Show. It’s something we all could agree on, at a time when monoculture still reigned supreme.
Even though, nearly 30 years later, we’ve moved toward a fragmented entertainment landscape, I think if it were on today, the Cosby Show would be a huge hit. The reason it could break so many barriers and speak to so many people then was its universality, and that never goes away.
Back when this show was on the air, we obviously didn’t have the internet. We barely even had personal computers. And so, when “(Night Time Is) The Right Time” made me smile so wide all those years ago, I had to simply remember. Remember the words. Remember what it sounded like. One day, I’d find a way to know: “What is that song?”
Nevermind that I could’ve just asked my parents, who were youngsters themselves when Ray Charles released this Nappy Brown cover in 1958. I held on to that memory for years. I could play the song back and forth in my head, always picturing those Cosby kids and the riotous mugging of Bill himself, still one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen.