Free to Be…You and Me: A one-of-a-kind, star-studded message to kids (1973)

Free To Be... You And Me from Marlo Thomas and Friends

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Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free…

Children’s lib album toddles to popularity

By Marilyn Goldstein, Newsday

In between Elton John wailing “Crocodile Rock” and a 30-second spot selling, “Come and get em now, now, now. Used cars in creampuff condition,” the voice of Rosey Grier breaks out over the airways.

The brawny former New York Giants star defensive lineman sings gently… about how okay it is for boys to cry.

Other times, there are the voices of Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks. She plays a newborn baby. He plays a newborn baby. They’re both trying to figure out who’s the boy and who’s the girl. Brooks decides he must be the girl, because Miss Thomas wants to be a fireman when she grows up, while Brooks wants to be a cocktail waitress.

When the nurse comes along to change the diapers, they discover baby Brooks was wrong after all.

Free To Be You And Me - Marlo Thomas and kids

Or it may be that distinctive Carol Channing timbre, warning that housework is no fun for anyone and therefore should be shared by Mommy and Daddy, and telling the ugly truth that the only ones who smile when doing housework are the women on TV commercials — who are getting paid to smile.

These unusual numbers, which disc jockeys are beginning to air, are cuts from what is probably the first children’s liberation record album. The album, called “Free To Be… You And Me,” released eight weeks ago by Bell Records, has sold more than 60,000 copies, according to Gloria Sondheim of Bell.

She considers the acceptance outstanding for so unusual an album, though it’s no David Cassidy smash.

Free To Be You And Me blue

The brainchild of Marlo Thomas

The songs, stories and poems present what the people involved with the record like to call “a humanistic approach to what it’s like to be a boy or girl.”

The central force behind “Free To Be… You And Me” is actress Marlo Thomas.

MORE: Marlo Thomas shines in TV’s ‘That Girl’ (1967)

Depending on who is telling the story, Miss Thomas decided to make the album (1) after reading a bedtime story to her niece which began: Boys invent things and girls use the things boys invent, or (2) after being asked to record an ordinary children’s album just after having read a consciousness-raising piece by Letty Pogrebin in Ms magazine about sexism in children’s stories.

Whatever the impetus, Miss Thomas contacted Pogrebin and Ms magazine with the idea of cutting a record of non-sexist stories for children and their parents. The women found producer Carol Hart, who agreed to work with them, and the three started searching for material to do and for entertainers to perform it.

With Miss Thomas spearheading the group, the fount of talent seemed endless because, as Pogrebin put it, “Marlo, of course, knows the whole world.”

Free to Be...You and Me A one-of-a-kind, star-studded message to kids (1974)

Those corralled to write the material include Mary Rodgers, Sheldon Harnick, Dan Greenburg, Carl Reiner and Shel Silverstein.

The performers include — along with Grier, Brooks, Miss Channing and Miss Thomas — Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, Robert Morse, Diana Ross, Diana Sands, Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, Billy De Wolf, Tom Smothers and Dick Cavett.

It’s rather heady company for anyone who has been involved in the women’s movement and is aware that hardly any big name — except for a Jane Fonda or Shelley Winters — has been willing to publicly associate with their cause.

Hey you guys! See how 'The Electric Company' TV show powered kids' minds back in the '70s

Focusing on four points of view

Miss Thomas sees the album as stressing four points of view:

She said, “It talks about males and females not playing roles (as in the Grier song which encourages little boys to cry) and in a revised myth (in which the princess and her boyfriend decide in this version — to travel and study before considering the possibility of marrying and living happily ever after); about males and females being friends (as in Morse’s retelling of a Dudley Pippin story in which he founds a non-friend club for boys and girls who have no friends); the celebration of self and that what I am is important (expressed in the title song, by the New Seekers), and the importance of parent example.

“In most children’s books, Mommies wear aprons — they don’t drive vans.” (In this album, Mommies drive vans and taxis, and are ranchers and poetry makers.)

The only thing Mommies can’t be, Miss Thomas sings in “Parents are People,” is fathers, and the only thing fathers can’t be, Belafonte sings back, is mothers.

“The real goal,” Miss Thomas said, “is for (the album) to break ground, so it’ll be shameful not to have this attitude.”

Free To Be You And Me album front cover

Opening credits for the original “Free To Be…You and Me” TV special

Aired nationally on March 11, 1974

YouTube video

Free to Be… You and Me lyrics

There’s a land that I see, where the children are free
And I say it ain’t far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we’ll live
In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me

I see a land bright and clear, and the time’s comin’ near
When we’ll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand
Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to my song
Come along, take my hand, sing a song
For a land where the river runs free
For a land through the green country
For a land to a shining sea
For a land where the horses run free
And you and me are free to be you and me

Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman
Take my hand, come with me where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we’ll run
To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
To a land to a shining sea
To a land where the horses run free
To a land where the children are free
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be you and me

Performed by The New Seekers; Written by Bruce Hart & Stephen Lawrence; © Free TO BE Foundation Inc

'I'd like to buy the world a Coke' TV commercial (1971)

Reviews: More and more friends for Marlo Thomas and Friends (1973)

“This album is a whole lot more than the best gift idea the industry’s ever come up with . . . a children’s concert LP which should change the course of things to come . . . in short, it’s a record of, for and by human liberation, for both children and their teachers and parents.” – CASHBOX

“A collection of charming songs for now.” – NEWSWEEK

Tree To Be . . . You And Me’ ” has obviously been put together with thought, integrity and skill. It’s diverting and I applaud its message . . . The creators deserve the gratitude of liberated parents. The children will be too busy enjoying themselves to say thank you to anyone.” – THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Marlo Thomas’ ‘Free To Be . . . You And Me’ is one of the most exciting albums of the year for adults and children alike.” – Jim Bacon/HERALD EXAMINER

“‘Free To Be . . . You And Me’ ” (it’s subtitled ‘Marlo Thomas And Friends’) is so charming and wonderful . . . it was made for children, but it’s equally delightful for grownups.” – Joyce Haber/ LOS ANGELES TIMES

“This revolutionary album of songs and stories is funny, tender, and remarkably soft-sell. While offering children a world-without-end of options, it is bound to charm grownups and broaden their views, too.” – NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

“Marlo Thomas’ ‘Free To Be . . .You And Me’ is a delight for parents and a must for children.” – Vernon Scott / UPI


Free To Be… You And Me album track listing

Boy Meets Girl – Mel Brooks & Marlo Thomas
When We Grow Up – Diana Ross
Don’t Dress Your Cat In An Apron – Billy De Wolfe
Parents Are People – Harry Belafonte & Marlo Thomas
Housework – Carol Channing
Helping – Tom Smothers
Ladies First – Marlo Thomas
Dudley Pippin And The Principal – Billy De Wolfe & Bob Morse & Marlo Thomas
It’s Alright To Cry – Rosy Grier
Sisters And Brothers – Sisters And Brothers
My Dog Is A Plumber – Dick Cavett
William’s Doll – Alan Alda & Marlo Thomas
Atalanta – Alan Alda & Marlo Thomas
Grandma – Diana Sands
Girl Land – Jack Cassidy & Shirley Jones
Dudley Pippin And His No-Friend – Bob Morse & Marlo Thomas
Glad To Have A Friend Like You – Marlo Thomas

Taking off with Zoom, a TV show for kids (1972-1978)

Free To Be… You And Me album back cover

Free To Be You And Me back cover

Marlo Thomas & friends – The happiest special in the world! (March 1974)

Free to Be You and Me - TV special - March 1974

M*A*S*H TV series: Meet the stars who made the war comedy/drama show a huge hit (1972-1983)

Free To Be You And Me 1972

William Wants A Doll (video)

YouTube video


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