Ernest Eugene Barnes, Jr. (July 15, 1938 – April 27, 2009) was a pro football player and painter, well known for his unique style of elongation and movement. He was also a professional football player, actor and author. His famous Sugar Shack Painting was the insipration for the Uptown Saturday Night Album Cover.
Barnes created the painting The Sugar Shack in the 1970s. It gained international exposure when it was used on the Good Times television series and on the 1976 Marvin Gaye album I Want You.
According to Barnes, he created the original version of The Sugar Shack after reflecting upon his childhood, during which he was not “able to go to a dance. “In a 2008 interview, Barnes said, “The Sugar Shack is a recall of a childhood experience. It was the first time my innocence met with the sins of dance. The painting transmits rhythm so the experience is re-created in the person viewing it. To show that African-Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension.”The Sugar Shack has been known to art critics for embodying the style of art composition known as “Black Romantic,” which, according to Natalie Hopkinson of The Washington Post, is the “visual-art equivalent of the Chitlin’ circuit.”
After Marvin Gaye asked him for permission to use the painting as an album cover, Barnes then augmented the painting by adding references that allude to Gaye’s album, including banners hanging from the ceiling to promote the album’s singles.
During the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever anniversary television special on March 25, 1983, tribute was paid to The Sugar Shack with a dance interpretation of the painting.
Barnes’ work appears on the following album covers:
The Sugar Shack on Marvin Gaye’s 1976 I Want You
The Disco on self-titled 1978 Faith, Hope & Charity
Donald Byrd and 125th Street, NYC on self-titled 1979 album
Late Night DJ on Curtis Mayfield’s 1980 Something to Believe In
The Maestro on The Crusaders’ 1984 Ghetto Blaster
Head Over Heels on The Crusaders’ 1986 The Good and Bad Times
In Rapture on B.B. King’s 2000 Making Love is Good For You