Thank God: There Is Now a Parody of "Free to Be You and Me"
If you're over the age of 30, you probably have at least a few songs from Free to Be You and Me engraved in your memory. Conceived by '60s-era TV actress Marlo Thomas and produced as a project of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the 1972 album jumped on the progressive feminism wave via catchy tunes for kids. Songs like "William's Doll" and "It's Alright to Cry" challenged male/female stereotypes and encouraged the expansion of gender roles. Big deal stars of the era including Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, Carol Channing, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross contributed to the recording.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the album, a bunch of funny people including comedians Fred Stoller and Eddie Pepitone, actress Lizzy Caplan, Fred Willard, Daily Show correspondents Samantha Bee and Wyatt Cenac, and Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go's recorded a parody album called It's Okay to Do Stuff, which is subtitled: "Songs that Didn't Make it On Free to Be You and Me."
The album presents familiar-sounding ditties with messages that are just slightly...off. For example, former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page offers "Be Yourself...Unless," while Collin Hanks and Kimmy Gatewood explain how "Divorce Makes a Family Twice as Big."
It's Okay to Do Stuff was conceived and written by Rob Kutner, a former writer at The Daily Show and current writer for Conan O'Brien, along with Joel and Stephen Levinson. Kutner talked to us about the album.
How did this thing come together?
I saw this year was Free to Be's 40th anniversary and suddenly had visions of a bizarro-world version where the songs were equally upbeat but somehow "not quite right." I pitched the idea to my frequent collaborators, Joel and Stephen Levinson -- these insanely talented brothers, like the Wachowskis but with more testosterone -- who banged it out with me over about three weeks of frenzied glee.
Did you listen to Free to Be You and Me as kids?
All three of just about wore out our parents' .78 record of it. It got into our nervous systems practically. Our own spin on it was the only cure.
What were its lasting impressions?
I still think of it when tempted to cry, which is about 67 times a day.