This is what the cover of the album looked like when I was a kid.

Possibly my favorite bit of media from my childhood is the album/movie/piano music book Free to Be… You and Me. We saw the movie in school, we listened to the album at home, and my mom played the songs on the piano.

When I had my own kids, I was sure to procure the book and CD and DVD (some I’d gotten before I even had kids), so that they could experience the same joy that I had. We played the music a lot in the car, so that’s probably their biggest association. I tried hard not to oversaturate their experience, because I didn’t want to ruin it for them. I guess I succeeded because they aren’t as into it as I am, probably because it was a smaller part of their childhood than it was mine. I think Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog was probably a bigger part of theirs, as were the science songs I wrote about recently.

The version of the book I bought just before I had kids.

But I love the wholesome messages included in the project. And there are so many famous people! Marlo Thomas was the amazing spearheader for the project, and I think about Harry Belafonte and Alan Alda and Carol Channing and Rosey Grier and Diana Ross and Mel Brooks and Tom Smothers and Dick Cavett… A veritable who’s who of 1970s entertainers.

I remember the first time I played the title track for my then-baby daughter and it brought tears to my eyes. I knew I wanted my kids to be able to be their full selves, and I spent their childhoods helping them figure out what that was, and defending them against the world and various people to make sure they felt as free as possible to be who they were.

And this is what it looks like now. It seems that the book also includes the CD and at least some sheet music, but I’m not sure about the movie.

In addition to the title track of the album and project, my favorites are:

  • “Parents Are People”
  • “Helping”
  • “Sisters and Brothers”
  • “Atalanta”
  • “Glad to Have a Friend Like You”

If you want your own copies, for yourself or your kids, you can get it on CD, DVD, and book form (and it looks like the book might contain the CD now?).

I highly recommend this for everyone.

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