kids encyclopedia robot

Free to Be... You and Me facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Free to Be… You and Me
Free to Be... You and Me (album cover).jpg
Cast recording by
Various artists
Released November 1972
Recorded May - July 1972
Studio Media Sound Studios, New York (Music) CBS Studios New York (Vocal Overdubs / Spoken word)
Label Bell Records (original issue)
Arista Records (reissue)
Producer Carole Hart, Stephen J. Lawrence, Bruce Hart

Free to Be… You and Me is a children's entertainment project, conceived, created and executive-produced by actress and author Marlo Thomas. Produced in collaboration with the Ms. Foundation for Women, it was a record album and illustrated book first released in November 1972 featuring songs and stories sung or told by celebrities of the day (credited as "Marlo Thomas and Friends") including Alan Alda, Rosey Grier, Cicely Tyson, Carol Channing, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Shirley Jones, Jack Cassidy, and Diana Ross. An ABC television special, also created by Thomas, using poetry, songs, and sketches, followed two years later in March 1974. The basic concept was to encourage post-1960s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one's identity. A major thematic message is that anyone—whether a boy or a girl—can achieve anything.


The original idea to create the album began with Marlo Thomas, who wanted to teach her then-young niece Dionne about life, in particular that it is acceptable to refute or reject the gender stereotypes expressed in children's books of the period. In an Emmy Legends interview Thomas explains:

I told my sister Terre "it would take Dionne 30 years to get over it (stories featuring traditional gender roles) the same as it took all of us. We need to find her some different books to read" and she said "You go and find 'em." Well there weren't any. And not only weren't there any, I was in the bookstore one day looking around and found this one (picture book - I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl! by Whitney Darrow Jr.) that showed a pilot on one page and a stewardess on a facing page (with a caption) that said "Boys are pilots, girls are stewardesses." Well I nearly had a heart attack right there in the bookstore. So I said "I'll make a record for Dionne. I'll ask everybody to donate their talents and it'll be fun."

Produced by Carole Hart, with music produced by Stephen J. Lawrence and Bruce Hart, with stories and poems directed by Alan Alda, the title has never been out of print.

Proceeds went to the Ms. Foundation for Women. The album was originally released on Bell Records in 1972 and since 1975 has been available on Arista Records cassettes and CDs.

Well-known songs include "It's All Right to Cry," sung by football hero Rosey Grier; the title track by the New Seekers; "Helping," a Shel Silverstein poem performed by Tom Smothers; "Sisters and Brothers" by the Voices of East Harlem; and "When We Grow Up" performed by Diana Ross on the album and by Roberta Flack and a teenage Michael Jackson on the special.

Other sketches, some of them animated in the television special, include "Atalanta," co-narrated by Thomas and Alda, a retelling of the ancient Greek legend of Atalanta; "Boy Meets Girl" with Thomas and Mel Brooks providing the voices for puppets, designed, performed and manipulated by Wayland Flowers, resembling human babies, who use cultural gender stereotypes to try to discover which is a boy and which a girl; "William's Doll", based on Charlotte Zolotow's picture book about a boy whose family resists his requests for a doll until his grandmother explains that William wishes to practice being a good father; and "Dudley Pippin" with Robert Morse and Billy De Wolfe, based on stories by Phil Ressner.

A number of pieces from the record did not make the special, most for lack of time, although "Housework" was left off due to the somewhat condescending tone it lent to its description of domestic workers.

Thomas says in the Emmy Legends 40th anniversary interview:

In among all the praise we got for the project as a whole, we kept getting all these letters and phone calls talking about the track sounding as if it wasn't normal to be fond of cooking and cleaning and caretaking etc. So we left that off the special for that reason.

The children pictured on the original LP jacket were schoolmates of Abigail, Robin, and David Pogrebin, children of Letty Cottin Pogrebin, then editor of Ms. Most of the children attended Corlears School.

"Marlo Thomas and Friends" followed Free to Be... You and Me with a 1988 sequel, Free to Be... a Family, the first primetime variety show created and produced in both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Television special

The television special, produced by Marlo Thomas and Free to Be Productions, in association with Teru Murakami-Fred Wolf Films, Inc. and cosponsored by the Ms. Foundation, first aired March 11, 1974, on ABC. It earned an 18.6 rating/27 share and went on to win an Emmy. Sixteen-mm prints of the special were also struck, and some schoolchildren from the 1970s and 1980s remember seeing the television special, or the filmstrip based on the special, in their school during that period.

The special appeared occasionally on HBO in the 1980s. It was released on VHS and Betamax videotapes through Vestron Video subsidiary Children's Video Library in 1983. It was also seen on the cable channel TV Land, yet has not been aired on any network since.

A Region 1 DVD of the television special was released in November 2001, and in 2010, a newly remastered version was released featuring a number of new extras including a deleted scene showcasing Dustin Hoffman.

TV cast

Track listing (New York Cast album)

Some material here is left out of the TV special and vice versa while other material appears only in the accompanying hardcover book.

Act One

  1. "Free To Be... You And Me" – Music by Stephen J. Lawrence, Lyrics by Bruce Hart, Performed by The New Seekers
  2. "Boy Meets Girl" – Written by Carl Reiner and Peter Stone, Performed by Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas
  3. "When We Grow Up" – Music by Stephen J. Lawrence, Lyrics by Shelly Miller, Performed by Roberta Flack and Michael Jackson on the special and Diana Ross on the Original Cast CD.
  4. "Don't Dress Your Cat In An Apron" – Written by Dan Greenburg, Performed by Billy De Wolfe

Act Two

  1. "Parents Are People" – Music and Lyrics by Carol Hall, Performed by Harry Belafonte and Marlo Thomas
  2. "Housework" – Written by Sheldon Harnick, Performed by Carol Channing
  3. "Helping" – Written by Shel Silverstein, Performed by Tom Smothers
  4. "Ladies First" – Performed by Marlo Thomas (based on a Shel Silverstein poem about a girl whose insistence on always getting to "go first" simply because she is a girl ends up making her the chosen meal of hungry tigers)
  5. "Dudley Pippin And The Principal" – Written by Phil Ressner, Performed by Billy De Wolfe, Bobby Morse, and Marlo Thomas

Act Three

  1. "It's All Right to Cry" – Music and Lyrics by Carol Hall, Performed by Rosey Grier
  2. "Sisters and Brothers" – Music by Stephen J. Lawrence, Lyrics by Bruce Hart, Performed by The Voices of East Harlem
  3. "William's Doll" – Music by Mary Rodgers, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Performed by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas (based on the children's book of the same name, about a boy whose family is perplexed by his desire for a doll to care for)
  4. "My Dog is a Plumber" – Written by Dan Greenburg, Performed by Dick Cavett

Act Four

  1. "Atalanta" – Written by Betty Miles, Performed by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas
  2. "Grandma" – Written by Carole Hart, Performed by Diana Sands
  3. "Girl Land" – Music by Mary Rodgers, Lyrics by Bruce Hart, Performed by Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones
  4. "Dudley Pippin And His No-Friend" – Written by Phil Ressner, Performed by Bobby Morse and Marlo Thomas
  5. "Glad To Have A Friend Like You" – Music and Lyrics by Carol Hall, Performed by Marlo Thomas


  1. "Free To Be... You And Me" – Reprise

Bonus tracks

Different performances from those included in the film – and not included on the original LP or CD

  1. "Let's Hear It For Babies" – Words and music by Edward Kleban – Performed by Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks
  2. “The Sun And The Moon” – Words by Elaine Laron, music by Stephen J. Lawrence – Performed by Dionne Warwick
  3. "Circle of Friends" – Music by Stephen J. Lawrence, lyrics by Bruce Hart – Performed by Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and cast

40th anniversary

In March 2014, The Paley Center for Media hosted an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of Free to Be, co-moderated by Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem, which included many of the participants in the original project.


To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original project, a book called When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made was published.

  • Mickenberg, Julia L., and Lynne Vallone. The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. . .
    • Paris, Leslie. "Happily Ever After: Free to Be ... You and Me, Second-Wave Feminism, and 1970s American Children’s Culture". pp. 519–538.
  • Rotskoff, Lori, and Laura L. Lovett. When We Were Free to Be... Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. . .
  • Thomas, Marlo. Free to Be—a Family. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987. . .
kids search engine
Free to Be... You and Me Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.