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Welcome Back Kotter

The year was 1975 and a member of a popular 1960s rock group The Lovin’ Spoonful was asked to write a theme song for a new ABC TV show. At this time the show only had the title “Kotter”. For those of you who remember or for whom this name sounds familiar, then yes, it eventually became a most popular show and was called “Welcome Back Kotter”. The show was about a schoolteacher who returns to his former Brooklyn neighborhood to teach remedial students at his old high school. It also launched the career of a now-famous movie star – John Travolta. If you remember at this time he was a young man with long hair and I can tell you if I had gone to high school with such a guy I would have fallen head over heels in love with him. In the TV show, his character was called Vinnie.

Meanwhile, John Sebastian was having a tough time coming up with a theme song because nothing that could rhyme with Kotter seemed just right. Finally, he came up with a song about someone finding his true calling in life and the song was “Welcome Back” and by 1976 it had become a number one pop single and the TV show was officially called “Welcome Back Kotter”. The show brought with it lots of humorous catchphrases that the characters used such as Arnold Horshack’s “Oooh, oooh, oooh”, Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington’s “Hi there”, Vinnie Barbarino’s “What? What?” and Gabe Kotter’s “Up your nose with a rubber hose”.

It made Brooklyn very real and very desirable. I lived in a part of Brooklyn called Bay Ridge and this show made me wish I could stroll on over to this high school and meet them all if only it wasn’t just a show. All of the students in Kotter’s class were known as the “Sweathogs”. 

It was based on a real high school in Brooklyn, New Utrecht High School and Mr. Kotter lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.


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