Alan Thicke, the Canadian actor, TV host, and theme song composer known for playing the patriarch of the Seaver family on the ’80s sitcom Growing Pains, died Tuesday at age 69. His publicist confirmed his death to EW.
According to TMZ, which first reported the news, Thicke suffered a heart attack while playing hockey with his son and was taken to a Los Angeles area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Thicke made his mark as one of television’s quintessential father figures on Growing Pains, which ran from 1985 to 1992 on ABC. He portrayed Jason Seaver, a good-natured psychiatrist and loving dad, starring alongside Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller, and Ashley Johnson. A young Leonardo DiCaprio joined the cast as an abandoned teen taken in by the Seavers in the show’s seventh and final season.
Looking back on Growing Pains and his small-screen alter ego in 2011, Thicke told EW, “We were a good wish-fulfillment show. It was a functional, loving, amusing, somewhat relateable family that we all wish we could have been a part of.”
He added, “I’m often flattered when people ask me for parenting advice, to which I usually say, ‘It’s easier being a good parent when you have 11 writers following you around, telling you what to say.’”
A native of Ontario, Thicke began his show business career as a writer, producer, and TV personality in the 1970s and early ’80s, with credits including the parody talk show Fernwood 2 Night, the game show First Impressions, and the (actual) talk shows The Alan Thicke Show and Thicke of the Night.
In addition to his work in front of and behind the camera, Thicke was an accomplished songwriter who created the theme music for several popular television programs, including Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, and Wheel of Fortune. One of his three sons, the recording artist Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”), has followed in his musical footsteps.
Thicke was married three times: to Gloria Loring, with whom he had sons Brennan and Robin; to Gina Marie Tolleson, with whom he had son Carter; and to Tanya Callau, whom he wed in 2005.
Thicke penned two books about parenting, 1999’s How Men Have Babies and 2006’s How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You, and his more recent television credits included How I Met Your Mother, Scream Queens, This Is Us, Fuller House, and the Pop mockumentary series Unusually Thicke.
Brad Schwartz, the president of Pop TV, where the reality series Unusually Thicke aired for two seasons starting in 2014, remembered Thicke as “a tremendous talent” in a statement Tuesday. “He was also for all who knew him, an amazing father and a true gentleman. We had the privilege to work with America’s Favorite Dad and his loss is one that is deeply felt.”