‘Good Times’ Artist Ernie Barnes Has Passed On – He Was 70

Ernie Barnes (1938-2009)
Ernie Barnes (1938-2009)

Since we all know that J.J. Evans is just a character on the hit 70’s sitcom “Good Times”, we have to know that the artwork his character was known for had to be drawn by a real person.

That person is former football player Ernie Barnes, who started his professional football career with the Baltimore Colts and also played for the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos between 1959 and 1965.

Once he retired, he became a prominent artist.  He was responsible for some of the most phenomenal imagery of African American culture, yet his art was not solely of the African American experience, making him one of the best American artists that ever lived.

His most well known piece, “Sugar Shack” was shown at the closing of each episode of Good Times, but also served as the album cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 hit “I Want You” album.  If you look closely, you’ll see a banner in the drawing publicizing Marvin Gayes’ “I Want You” song.  Eddie Murphy purchased “Sugar Shack,” for $75,000 from the Marvin Gaye estate, but one of his biggest collectors is Kanye West.

Barnes' "Sugar Shack" cover for Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" album
Barnes' "Sugar Shack" cover for Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" album
Kanye West, Ernie barnes and John Legend
Kanye West, Ernie barnes and John Legend

In 1984, he was named the Official Artist of the Summer Games.  Barnes was commissioned by the Los Angeles Olympic Committee to create five paintings for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad.  His other notable sports commissions include “A Dream Unfolds” for the National Basketball Association to commemorate its 50th anniversary; “Fastbreak” for Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and paintings for the owners of the New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Boston Patriots football teams.  One of his teammates on the Baltimore Colts — Jerry Richardson, now owner of the Carolina Panthers — commissioned Barnes to create a large painting, “Victory in Overtime,” which is on permanent display at the football stadium in Charlotte.

Barnes was 70 and is survived by his wife, Bernie; brother James of Durham; sons Michael and Sean; and daughters Deidre, Erin and Paige.  Read more about this extraordinary man HERE. Also check out information from the artist’s long time assistant at EURweb.com.

12 thoughts on “‘Good Times’ Artist Ernie Barnes Has Passed On – He Was 70”

  1. Wow -RIP brother Ernie, he was my favorite artist. I have 3 of his prints, can’t afford the originals. Now his artwork is going to become very valuable!

  2. He made a cameo in Bingo Long and the Traveling AllStars with BD Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor

  3. “widely recognized as the foremost African American artist”

    Romare Bearden? Jacob Lawrence? Archibald Motley?

    Mr. Barnes was very talented, but the foremost? Someone needs to get out in the art world a little more.

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