TBT: “Free to Be…You and Me”… Then and Now with Jason Didner and Suzi Shelton

FTBYAM Cover 1400x1400

Recently, Jason Didner (of Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam) and Suzi Shelton teamed up to record a cover of the song “Free to Be…You And Me,” which is the title track for an album of the same name. Produced by Marc Bazerman from Baze and His Silly Friends, the sound of this version is very similar to the original with the modern-day addition of the saxophone played by Alyssa Menes. Listening to Didner and Shelton bring this track back to life, I found myself hearing a song from my youth with a more mature ear. I was inspired to dig deeper and upon listening to the full album, I felt a great appreciation for just how revolutionary it was for its time.

42 years ago, the album Free to Be…You and Me was created by actress Marlo Thomas and released into the world based on the notion that children, regardless of gender, should be free to feel and express their feelings, and grow up to be whomever they think they ought to be. It was, in many ways, a benchmark in support of a more gender neutral society. The album was so popular that it’s concept was expanded into a book and later a TV special. Many of the songs on the album touched upon progressive topics for their time (1972), i.e a girl could choose to be a doctor, and a boy could hone his paternal instincts by playing with a (baby) doll. The latter, found in the song “William Wants a Doll” was especially profound. I have never heard or seen anything encouraging boys to play with dolls. It seems so natural to encourage this based on the long-term benefit it could have on them later in life. A provocative assertion, maybe, but quite astounding when I think about it now as a parent. As a whole, the entire album really opened my eyes to how much progress we have made and yet how much more there is to go.

Didner felt the same way about the song when he revisited it recently and shared his thoughts: “Today, 42 years after the song’s original debut, it holds new meaning, celebrating the fact that women have become astronauts and CEO’s, and men have become stay-at-home dads and nurses since then. On a personal level, I celebrate the upbringing I had where I learned that I get to define my manhood on my own terms and that I don’t have to fear anyone’s judgment for painting my daughter’s nails and being a nurturing daddy.”

Didner continues, “When I reconnected with this song, I felt the pull to learn the song and sing it acoustically. The inspiration came quickly that I should record the song with the band and bring on a special guest singer — one whose voice radiates warmth and happiness (ed note: SO TRUE!) — I reached out to Suzi Shelton to sing this as a duet with me. It was only natural to also connect with Suzi’s producer Marc “Baze” Bazerman, a friend of mine from NJ’s kindie scene.

You can hear the original Free to Be…You and Me here through the Spotify widget below followed by the updated single.

You can hear and purchase (name your price!) the “Free to Be…You and Me” single by Jason Didner and Suzi Shelton through the Soundcloud widget below:

Do you remember this song? Has this song influenced you in any way throughout your upbringing or even now as a parent?

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